So it has come to this. After ten years and seven novels the magical saga of Harry Potter has finally reached its conclusion. The countdowns are over, the hype begins to subside, and the biggest question surrounding J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (besides whether Severus Snape is indeed friend or foe) can be answered - was it a worthwhile journey?
In a word, yes. Over the course of 759 pages (in my edition), Rowling provides answers to all the series' major questions, and delivers a finale that is both wholly satisfying and gripping. As much as the last two entries of the saga (Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince) were heavy on exposition and setup, so is Deathly Hallows action-packed.
The sense of dread that Rowling gradually built up in the previous two books is unrelenting throughout this one. Despite the best intentions and interventions of Harry Potter's friends and protectors, Lord Voldemort's return to power means that there is no safe place for Harry and so he must cut ties with the only two homes he has ever known (number Four Privet Drive and Hogwarts).
Harry's final departure from the Dursley household sets the stage for the first of many brilliantly executed action scenes in Deathly Hallows. As if to underscore the peril that all who oppose Voldemort by helping Harry face, Rowling wastes no time in killing off some major characters. To be sure, the body count throughout this book is rather high.
Most of the story revolves around Harry's quest to locate a group of remaining Horcruxes (receptacles for pieces of Voldemort's soul) and vanquish the Dark Lord for good. Ron and Hermione join Harry and the trio make good on their vow not to return to Hogwarts for their seventh and final year. Along the way, the titular Deathly Hallows are introduced and become the focus of a simultaneous quest.
As their search continues, each of the three friends wrestles with doubt and with their isolation from family and friends. While this adventure resembles earlier ones on the surface, it is different in that the stakes are higher than ever and their success never seems assured.