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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows by J.K. Rowling

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I finished the final chapter of Harry Potter on Monday, but hestitated to post a review immediately. My feelings on the book that afternoon were not the same as my feelings that night, or the next morning. It was a big, bold, busy story that demanded some reflection.

[Spoiler alert – you've been warned]

Overall, this was the most mature of all the Harry Potter novels. Rowling has clearly taken advantage of his now older fanbase to raise the level of drama in her writing. While Harry himself may not be dead, the story saw the death of nearly a dozen recurring characters – and I think that's where most of my issues with the book lie.

With a few notable exceptions, all the deaths happen off-stage. We don't get to share their final moments. We simply hear from other characters that so-and-so died, or from the narrator that somebody else did not survive. Sure, it adds some instant shock value, but robs us of a valuable experience. There's no suspense, no tense moments of anticipation as we wonder whether the character will survive the scene.

The notable exceptions? Even they were a mixed bag. The early death of Hedwig, I felt, was very poorly handled. She simply falls to her death, trapped in her cage, and that's the end of it. Beyond a few early questions from the Weasley's, nobody even remarks upon the fact that Hedwig is gone. I fully expected her to reappear later in the book but, alas, it was not to be.

In contrast, the sacrifice of Dobby the house elf is handled beautifully. His timely appearance in Malfoy Manner is a welcome surprise, as is his last-minute rescue of Harry from Bellatrix. His death comes as a shock, and the depth of Harry's grief represents one of the high points of the book.

The final notable exception is the death of Fred. As the scene develops, you know a Weasley is going to die. The simple fact that the entire family has been reuinited suggests that something momentous is in the works. The suspense could have been dragged out a bit more, but the final image is powerful – all those mops of red hair surrounding the fallen family member. There is an instant of anxiety as you wonder who it might be, but the answer comes far too quickly.

Now, that's not to say I didn't like the book. On the contrary, I thought it was a fitting addition to the Harry Potter saga, and an (almost) fitting conclusion to the story. There were definitely some exciting moments to remember:

  • the wild broomstick escape from Privet drive, with Death Eaters and heroes swapping spells around a handful of Harry Potters
  • the goblin-assisted break-in and dragon-assisted escape from Gringott's
  • the epic battle of Hogwarts, complete with giants, spiders, ghosts, and spells

Also, there were some key plot developments that (in hindsight) may have seemed obvious or expected, but were truly wondrous to discover. I'm speaking here of the revelations concerning Dumbledore's childhood, and those concerning Snape's love for Harry's mother.

As for the end of the book, I would have been much happier, much more content to have stopped with the scene in Dumbledore's office. That wrapped everything up nicely, and provided some much-needed closure. The whole "19 years later" trick, with the new generation of Potters and Weasleys just seemed tacked on – an attempt to set up the potential for another series later on.

Overall, it was not the best of the seven books. The story lacked some of the humour and wonder that made the earlier volumes worth reading again and again, but that was to be expected, given the seriousness of the situation.

Having said that, I think Rowling did a masterful job of wrapping up all the key plot points, of providing closure on our favourite characters, and of ending the threat of Voldemort. I was truly afraid she'd opt for the Disneyfied ending, with Harry redeeming Voldemort, and everybody living happily ever after. Kudos to Rowling for making the hard choices.

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  • cheryl kinnaman

    hedwig did not dye by falling to her death she was hit by one of the death eaters spells and killed in her cage, harry had to leave her behide when they ditched the side car, if your going to comment on the book get it right

  • Lord T

    I agree with cheryl kinnaman, if you are going to review the book do it right. I am a fan since the books came out, from the very start, even before the thing went all crazy, I always love magic, and I belive that this book is the best of the series, everything was perfect and it made many tears fall upon the pages of my book, that show me that the book was great.

  • http://bloggingharrypotter.com/ Kate

    I understand what you’re saying about most of the deaths happening off stage, but it would have been hard for Rowling to do otherwise. The books are in 3rd person limited point of view. Therefore, in order for us to be “present” for all the deaths, Harry would have had to be present for them all as well. That’s not very realistic. It was a war. It’s unlikely that Harry would just happen to be there every time someone he knew died. Also, you missed one character whose death we were present for: Severus Snape. I thought that while brief, it was one of the most touching scenes in the book.

  • http://avenidacentral.blogspot.com Pedro Morgado
  • http://www.areyasimmons.com Areya

    I agree a lot with Kate. Harry couldn’t possibly be there for every single death. It’s a war situation, and war is everywhere, not just where Harry is.
    Also, I do not believe that the wonder of the previous books was lost in this one. It was just a different KIND of wonder. And anyway, of course this book is going to have less ‘mystery’ about it, because it’s the last one, and we learned almost everything about Harry’s situation and destiny in the previous books. With this book, it’s Harry carrying out what we already know has to happen. That said, there were still plenty of questions that created wonder, which were answered in this book. I thought that the epilogue lacked some real detail, but Jo said that that was deliberate, and that we would learn everything else in the future HP encyclopedia. I absolutely loved the ending. It kept me gripped until the end, and it was a fitting and satisfying ending. Kudos to Jo!

  • Jenny

    It was hard for me to get past the error in stating that Hedwig ‘simply falls to her death’.
    Not only is she hit with a curse and dies in her cage during the chaotic escape, but as the sidecar is falling out of the sky with the cage and remains of Hedwig still inside Harry casts a spell which causes the sidecar to explode before it hits bottom. This is just a part of the action during an intense escape sequence.
    It was dramatic, horrible and shocking.
    It would not be believable for more mention of her to occur. The people closest to him knew and they do not mention it frequently to spare him any more pain.
    Stiff upper lip and that sort of thing… quite understandable considering the circumstances.

  • http://4acreations.blogspot.com/ Bob Milne

    Okay, fair enough on the Hedwig issue – obviously poor wording on my part. The problem is, there was no closure, no certainty to Hedwig’s death. Maybe it came too early in the story, but I didn’t really think Hedwig was gone – the poor creature just seemed forgotten. I went back to reread that chapter (and the one the follows), and it still bothers me how Rowling handled it.

  • Mrs Mop

    It’s his pet! I have two cats and love them stupid but if the world as I knew it was collapsing; with my human companions dying about me I wouldn’t be worried about a pet! As a plot device Hedwig was cleverly used to show just how dangerous the situation was, without sacrificing a major character early on.

  • Trish

    I have to agree about the scene with Hedwig, it was poorly written in my opinion. Hedwig was the one constant with Harry from the beginning of his wizarding life, in & out of school and it’s obvious they had a very strong bond. It would have been nice to see Jo give her death more fitting, or at least expand more on the grief this caused in a later scene. It would have also showed Hedwig was more than just a “pet”. It seemed Harry’s closest companion received the smallest amount of attention upon death. I found it bizarre.

  • Rai-chan:>

    Book 7 was great although it didn’t brought me to tears as book 5 did. i have to agree that although its a good closure for the harry potter series, some of the earlier books were better.

  • emma watson

    i agree with you on some points. the death of hedwig was a bit sudden, and the deaths of lupin, tonks and colin creevy was not too explained. but personally, i think if the series had just ended with dumbledore’s office, then would have been to sudden. the readers would have wondered about the main character’s lives after the books. in fact, i think rowling should have made the epilogue longer.