Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by J. K. Rowling
Youth fantasy. 759 pp.
Now that my self-imposed two-week moratorium on a review of Hallows is at an end, I can actually get in and write my thoughts on the final tome in the series. I am certain there will be spoilers, especially considering that I'm not pleased with some of the methods of resolution, so if you still haven't finished the book, my recommendation is that you stop reading here.
In my previous post, I jotted down a short list of those things I did and did not like. Mostly I'm going to expand on those things here.
- The epilogue. The stupid, stupid, stupid epilogue. For starters, I think I should just point out a personal bias here, especially because I believe it will answer Theric's questions Why the hate for the epilogue? Would you have preferred none? Other? I hate epilogues in general. My authors always complained when I cut their epilogues. I don't believe you have to spell out for the reader how, in the end, everyone ends up happy and content and married to the right people and blah blah blah. I am very keen on the notion that if it doesn't pertain to the timeframe of the story you're telling, it shouldn't be in the book. So epilogues are out. I'm slightly more forgiving of prologues, but they must be ridiculously short and serve to establish the tone or setting of the story.
Hallow's epilogue was a particularly egregious and terrible one. So Ron and Hermione get married. Big deal. Like we didn't all know that was going to happen. The writing was rather lame. The characters were rather lame. Everything was rather lame. Now, most people I have talked with have also complained about the terribleness of the epilogue. Some have tried to come up with most interesting and twisted arguments to defend it. My particular favorite is from an acquaintance of mine and Absent's. Her theory is that Rowling intentionally wrote a lame epilogue so that everyone can see how lame Harry and his friends are once Voldie is defeated and thus everybody will understand why she's not writing any more Harry books and nobody will be tempted to pick up her characters and write their own stories about Harry. Creative theory, but I think that Rowling just wrote a sucky and lame epilogue.
(To be a positive person, I can point to two small, itty bitty minor elements that I liked about the epilogue. I liked the acknowledgement, albeit cold and stiff, between Harry and Draco. I also liked that Harry had named his son after Dumbledore and Snape.)
- The smoking wand that was thrown in for resolution at the end. Though technically on the wall . . . This, more than anything, was the greatest downfall of the book. I don't mind that Rowling essentially hinted at it throughout the book with all the reference to wand lore. That was rather brilliant. What bugs me is that at no point in time prior to his I-am-the-rightful-master-of-the-wand speech does Harry have the realization that Draco de-wanded Dumbledore and Harry de-wanded Draco and therefore the wand is obedient to him. You can claim that it's part of keeping the reader guessing without revealing too much all you want, but the story is told from Harry's perspective, so the reader is always aware of what he is thinking. This is a bit of information you can't simply withhold. You can withhold all the things Harry doesn't see or know all you want, but you can't withhold the most crucial key to the resolution. Bad Rowling. Bad Rowling's editor.
- The slooooooow beginning. (But I guess I had forgotten that you always have to wait until a third of the way into the book for it to actually get going.) Not much more to say here. At least there was slightly more action in the beginning than there have been in previous books.
- The exposition of Dumbledore's history. I don't remember why this is on the list. Likely I found it to be slow. And long. More about this particular aspect in the next bullet point and in the next list, though.
- The penulitmate chapter reveal. The not-quite-dead-yet scene was troubling to me. For starters, it interrupted a great action and movement sequence. It's just an awkward place to suddenly slam the brakes. Additionally, the scene really didn't contribute that much to the final resolution. Yes, it was nice to finally get Dumbledore sharing his past in a straightforward manner, but still. Now, had Harry actually figured out in this scene that he was master of the Elder Want, I might not have disliked it so. But that didn't happen. On the bright side, which will only lead to disappointment, I'm looking forward to the movie now to see if they actually start this scene with a naked Harry.
- The hat trick at the end. Considering all the talk throughout the books about the treatment of the "lower" magical beings, I was most upset that Neville was able to pull the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat. The sword was no longer in a wizard's possession; it was in a goblin's possession. Neville ought not to have had access to it.
- The stupidity of Harry. This last one is a realization I had as I went through the books again in preparation for Hallows. I don't really like Harry. Absent thinks I don't like him because he's ruled by too much emotion for my liking. And I'm sure that's part of it. But he just does stupid things. All. The. Time. During this reading of the series, I realized that what I like most is the world Rowling has created.
- The body count. And I must admit that I'm surprised at the two that actually upset me most. I throw out monster kudos to Rowling and her editor for killing off as many characters as they did. But I've always been a fan of that. One of the best books I worked on as an editor was one where the author had two main characters and killed one halfway through the book. Death brings about particularly strong emotions, and I think they're ones we don't need to shy away from because we're worried about how the audiene might respond. So I'm pleased that she knocked off as many as she did.
People have been wondering which deaths I found to be most significant. It certainly wasn't Fred. But, then, I've been calling that one of the Weasleys would have to die; that's to be expected in a family of that size. Nor was it Moody or Lupin or Tonks. The first death that really touched me was Dobby. He was always faithful. I am so pleased that Harry dug Dobby's grave by hand instead of with magic. I'm pleased that he recognized Dobby's value there. The second death that really touched me was Colin Creevey. Throughout the series, the main characters always focused on how obnoxious Colin was. And he was. But in the end. In the end, Colin snuck back to fight.
- The history of Dumbledore. I know that many people were annoyed with how much time was spent on Dumbledore's history. Many wonder about the point. I think the point is significant: We must understand why Dumbledore was insistent on giving everyone a second chance.
- The unforgiveable curses. In my opinion, this was the most brilliant element of this book. We start at the beginning with Lupin lecturing Harry about his expeliarmus fixation and how, while a unique and kind dueling technique, it is rather weak if he intends to defeat Voldie. Then we move on to Harry actually using the imperius curse. And then there's the cruciatus curse. Rowling had me believing that Harry would actually be able to use the killing curse on Voldie. But then he didn't. Brilliant.
- The battle at Hogwarts. Rowling writes a rather good action sequence. If only she wrote more of those. My favorite line, though, was from Professor Sprout at the bottom of 600:
And as she jogged out of sight, they could hear her muttering, "Tentacula. Devil's Snare. And Snargaluff pods . . . yes, I'd like to see the Death Eaters fighting those too."
- The courage of Neville Longbottom. I don't know if there's anything more to be said about this. It's unfortunate that Neville was a minor major character because he showed the most growth and development as a whole. He actually became the hero we're expected to believe Harry is.
- The insight of Luna Lovegood. I feel the same way about Luna as I do about Neville. Here is a character we can actually, truly love. If Rowling does write more Potterverse books, I hope they're about Neville and Luna.
- The truth about Snape. I find it interesting that one of the articles I've read indicates that Rowling never considered Snape to be any kind of hero. Because I think he was. A tragic hero, yes, but more of a hero than Harry. Harry never made any choice to sacrifice; it was just expected of him what he'd do. And I think that also has a great deal to do with why I'm not overly fond of him as a character. But Snape . . . Now there's a character who is tormented, who must wake up every day and make a willful decision about who he is and who he will be.