Cultural practice suggests that I should open this with a Spoiler Alert, or an assurance that there are no Spoilers, a Spoiler Lack of Alert if you will. Spoiler Alerts are a somewhat useful tool which, like so many things, we’ve managed to take to asinine extremes. I’m not interested in telling you so much about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that you won’t want to read it, but how do I know what you will find too much information? This is a review, not a play by play. Personally, I don’t read reviews of things I’m really anticipating, so if I were me, I wouldn’t read this. Well, I’d read it NOW, because I’ve finished the book, but if you’re still worrying about spoilers, what are you doing here? Go read the book already! Shoo!
It’s hard when you write about Harry Potter not to get swept away into the phenomenon of it, rather than the story. The phenomenon part is wacky. The 17 billion articles about it (of which the world does not need one more but is getting anyway) are wacky. Lead stories on the national news about a fantasy fiction novel are wacky. Treating plot points like secrets vital to national security is wacky. Setting up help lines to offer support and counseling to kids potentially devastated by the end of a book series is wacky.
I went to Florida last weekend, which meant lots of time spent on planes and in airports. Not surprisingly, Harry Potter was everywhere and, in particular, I noticed it being read by lots of men in the publishing industry's most coveted demographic: 18 to 30. Men aged 18 to 30 are like the Holy Grail to booksellers. The industry waffles between shrugging them off with "eh, they don't read" to desperate attempts to woo them. This is how we end up with such unfortunate marketing decisions as "Lad Lit", perhaps because the industry wasn't brave enough to dub it the obvious choice of "Dick Lit", a decision which only proves how out of it they are trying to reach this mysterious tribe. When publishers find a book that even young adult males will stand in line for, it's perhaps understandable that they would lose their heads and go, well, a little wacky.
It’s nice to discover then that the book itself is very fine. It is fine both in and of itself as an adventure, and it is a fine and noble end to the series. Rowling faced some real challenges with this book. She had to wrap up six books worth of details and unanswered questions, encase those answers in a plot that was new and fresh enough to stand on its own, and provide an ending which was both honest to what had come before and also a satisfactory reward to those who have stuck with the series for ten years. In short, she had to nail the dismount.