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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


****½
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. Contemporary fantasy/YA.







Book 7. The end. And really, kudos to Rowling for sticking with making it a finite series. Kudos, too, for writing something that captured the imagination of so many people of all ages. It's incredible how widespread the appeal of Harry Potter is. I'm in awe of her imagination and ability to strike such a nearly-universal chord.

I very much enjoyed this book--all the wrapping up of various threads, the explanations, tying things together--it was a satisfying conclusion, fitting to the rest of the series.

That said, though, I'm not one of those who thinks these are the Best Books Ever™. Sorry, but I'm not. I acknowledge and applaud their popularity and entertainment value, but they're not perfect.

Everybody knows the story already, yes? Basically, it's Harry Potter, boy wizard, vs. Voldemort, the evilest dark wizard ever. And this is the last book, the showdown. Everything else is secondary to that. Right, then.

The biggest problem I had with Deathly Hallows is the Great Swampy Middle. Harry and only one or two of his friends (see how cleverly I avoided spoilers, there?) spend almost the whole middle half of the book wandering around pretty much aimlessly. Oh, things happen, but it's mostly just by luck or happenstance, and they spend an inordinate amount of time bored and discouraged, and that emotion really gets passed on to the reader. Case in point: I'm currently reading it aloud with my sons at breakfast. We're smack in the middle. At the beginning of the book, they were quiet, hanging on every word. Now, they interrupt, go off on tangents talking about other things--in short, they're not involved in this part of the book. They're bored.

My second biggest problem was the deaths. Oh, come on. That's not a spoiler. Everybody knows there are deaths--people have been speculating for years about who it'll be. I'm fine with there being deaths--it is a war, after all, and people die--but it's the way Rowling writes them. It's very casual, a behind-closed-doors sort of thing, the way some authors treat sex scenes. Which is also okay, in theory, except that generally, even if they close the door, you know the gist of what's going on behind it. Not so, here. I'm all for leaving out the gory physical details, but not the emotional ones. They were so down-played that I didn't even believe them, and that also goes for the previous two deaths in the series--I fully expected the characters to pop up again, because she didn't make the deaths real. I'm not sure I've explained it completely--every time I discuss it, somebody ends up thinking I'm either wanting nobody to die, or I'm wanting blood and guts. I guess the main thing is I wanted them to be more believable, and I wanted them to mean something. Yes, yes, in real life death is often pointless. But this isn't that kind of book.

Then there were the Deathly Hallows. Yes, they explain a couple of things, and answer a question I hadn't even thought to ask, but they seemed to come out of nowhere, and we're still burdened with the Horcruxes that came out of nowhere in the last book, and they really seemed to clutter up the plot.

The "romance" with Ginny was another pointless cluttering. She's hardly in the book at all, except for the occasional wistful thought from Harry, and I'd have been happier without it.

And Dudley. There's a Big Deal with him at the beginning of the book, but that's it. Over. Finished. No follow-through. Reeaaaally annoying.

Don't get me started on the epilogue. It was reminiscent of romance series epilogues, listing all the couples from the various books, and the number and gender of their offspring and pets. And it's just as pointless.

But yeah, apart from all that--I did enjoy the book, and I'm glad I read it, and I really meant all those earlier kudos.

...more

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