Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Review by Diana
Illustrator: Mary GrandPré
Publisher: Scholastic Books
The final book of the Harry Potter saga has been released and consumed by many fans, eschewing sleep, social obligations, sanity, etc. in their quest to find out how J.K. Rowling has finished the final battle between good and evil in the Wizarding world.
In this magical world, Rowling has kept humans as humans: Harry is foolishly brave yet irritatingly clueless, Hermione knows many facts but she's also "narrow", and Ron is jealous, sensitive, loyal in turns. In other words, take three normal teens and put them in extraordinary situations and see how they wash.
Threads from the past six books are tied up some not as nicely as you'd like and we find that allegiances are not always as clear or as simple to choose as one might wish. Not everything is as it seems and even those who can be called liars and slime prove that lies are not absolute and slime can be rather helpful. If there is a "theme" to this series, that might be it.
Rowling has promised that many would die, and that no one was safe from the slaughter. In a way, she uses real death to underline the desire both Voldemore ant Harry have to conquer death, and their attitudes and differences to death make for important significances. Characters we'd grown to love get maimed or worse; children are not immune to curses and spells. However, she did admit that in the writing, one character got a reprieve, while others got off'd after all ... She does know how to keep the anticipation at a fever pitch.
We also get to revisit magical mishaps like splinching and their potentially awful consequences. We also discover limitations to magic, like the inability to produce food from thin air, or a finite distance from which apparation could occur. But most importantly, we discovered that there are misunderstood procedural things. Like Ollivander's first lesson to Harry, that a wand chooses a wizard, which is poorly understood by the wizarding world. Yet, it appear possible to use other wands, often with no problem, and it turns out there is a procedure required for this to happen.
The idea that objects are sentient is interesting, and who among us did not feel our prized possessions are real, living things? It has something to do with love, and the Deathly Hallows shows definitely what lengths for good or for evil we will go for love: of family, of others, even past death.
The day before the release, the New York Times published a review of the book, which I thought was positive, interesting, and telling but perhaps the editors there were not sensitive enough to the fandom's voracious amount of guessing and almost-gambling investments toward this book. Fansites screamed, "Beware of spoilers in the NYT!" even though in fact, there was nothing terrifically spoilerific about the review. As well, some people actually posted spoilers online and handed out flyers. X killed Y, A did to C, etc., that sort of thing.
Too, the shock of Dumbledore's death in Half-Blood Prince blinded many to the possible reasons for the headmaster's curious and uncharacteristic behavior when confronted with his own murder. When you think about it, it's obvious what was happening, and why things appeared the way they did. Remember what Mal Reynolds said in the show Firefly, "Every man has a statue was some sort of som'bitch." Secrets are what they are, and the discovery of them is supposed to be delicious ...
I still don't like how Rowling goes about explaining stuff in long, monologue-ish chapters. The "tell-all reveal" is practically a statement of, "I am controlling the experience, and here are the solutions to the puzzle at last, how many did you get right?" It happens several times in this book, but at least most of the threads are tied down now. It's prosaic, but as the wizarding world becomes more revealed to Harry with his age and education, and the evil progresses, I guess this is not a surprise; the books immediately previous were thus, too.
My favorite chapter had to do with Snape, even though perhaps it was the most prosaic of all. I won't give away the how and why, except that I also feel vindicated about my own feelings toward the man who was horrible to Harry. For him, it was the only way, and I respect him thoroughly for what he'd done, and for what he'd not done. (The Epilogue chapter was unnecessary, but it revealed the state of feelings toward Snape, which I found to be enormously satisfying.)
Though Rowling had made some statements about what would or wouldn't happen in the book, not all of these have come true within the workings of the book. She did allow us to see some characters again, and to get to know others better. Though some of these appeared to be asides, I did enjoy these stops along the main quest.
I liked Mary GrandPré's cover art; her American covers are more abstract and less literal than the UK covers. The latter are frankly illustrations of a children's book, and that is likely what sells better there. But to suggest that the Harry Potter series are merely children's books insults the writer and the readers. Certainly, most parents enjoy the books as much or more than their children do! This cover makes it appear the Harry is somewhere he hasn't been before, but reading the book will make it obvious that the reader has been here before. It's discovery oriented, like the story within the cover.
The fact that movies of the first five books have been released did interfere with my reading. When Hagrid was bellowing to the Centaurs, it was Robbie Coltrane's depiction doing the yelling. And though Michael Gambon does a fine job as Dumbledore, when Harry is remembering him, I keep seeing him as Richard Harris. And Ron Weasley is Rupert Grint, Fleur Delacour is Clemence Poesy, Snape will forever be Alan Rickman, etc. I wish it wasn't that way, because some scenes seemed to be screenplay notes!
It was said that Scholastic Publishing's stock plummeted after the publication, because the perception is that with this last book in the series, it had lost its greatest money-maker. They, more than the fans, would want to try to get more Harry Potter books written. But I'm glad they are honoring their contract with Rowling, and that whether or not she writes more is on her own terms.
By the way, a "hallow" means to "set apart as holy," and though the Deathly Hallows is more than that, telling you more would give away a lot. I will say, however, that the use of the "meanest of the hallows" and the logic required to understand its final uses was brilliant. I thoroughly respect Rowling's organization as a story teller.
The series is dead, and long live it all! All is well!
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