My two cents on Harry Potter’s last big adventure
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has come and gone. Despite the fact that almost all my predictions about this book from a year ago did not come true, I don’t mind being wrong. At the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry left the world of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and crossed the threshold into adulthood. Of course, his school life is most of what we’ve known of his world so far. Deathly Hallows follows Harry’s life down that new path. Professor Dumbledore left him with a grown-up mission. Because of that, this last novel was much more like a classic quest, full of action. Almost from the very opening scene (Harry parting ways with the Dursleys), there’s also a sense of finality, as if even the characters realize that this is the end. That’s the pattern of this book. Characters (especially Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione) dealing with where their lives have brought them, and then fast-paced summer-movie-style scenes of explosive action. I think it’s a great combination (even if it’s kind of stop-and-go). Rowling really treats readers with a tour of the world she’s created through all these books. All the clues and stories about the characters come together (especially all the history of Lord Voldemort himself and the backstory of Dumbledore both played important roles). Big scenes at the Ministry of Magic, Gringott’s, Malfoy Manor, and of course Hogwart’s act as tent-poles to what is essentially one big climax to a seven-volume story. I won’t spoil the ending (yet), but judging by the legions of satisfied fans, Rowling does not disappoint (at least mostly).
That ends our spoiler-free discussion of Deathly Hallows. The rest of this post assumes that you have read every Rowling-written word of this saga. STOP READING if you haven’t. Hey, if you are a Potter fan, you’ve probably already finished the book anyway, so let’s get to the good stuff. Let’s get ourselves under our invisibility cloaks and really talk about this book. Muffliato!
The big ending
OK. First let me say that I am a die-hard Potter fan. I love the characters and world that Rowling has created. I have enjoyed each book several times and love the last one as well. There is not a day that I don’t wish Hagrid would come knocking down my door to tell me that I am actually a wizard. However, I must confess that I was a bit disappointed with the way Deathly Hallows ended. (Oww! OK, enough with the crucio already! I’m allowed to have my own opinions!) I wished that there was something more spectacular to kill Voldemort with than wand back-firing — again! I mean, first there was the way his and Harry’s wand had twin cores. The priori incantatum thing that was used in Order of the Phoenix was kind of like back-firing. Then there was the way Lockhart was defeated by wand backfire in Chamber of Secrets. Of course there was the back-firing when Voldemort tried to kill infant Harry the first time. To have Voldemort defeated by back-firing here seemed like more of the same (you’d think that after all these centuries they would have perfected wand technology to prevent such situations). Add to that all the complicated wand rules that played into it. Nothing bogs down an exciting finale like a discussion about who disarmed who and who owns whose wand.
What about the new wrinkle on Lily Potter’s protection charm and the way Harry was the secret horcrux? I get that it made for more drama when Harry had to decide to sacrifice himself (but hadn’t he already thought of that as a potential risk regardless of whether he was a horcrux or not?) This whole blood thing just made the protection charm more confusing (if Dumbledore knew Harry needed to die in order to defeat Voldemort, why bother sending him back to the Dursleys for magical protection? Just have Snape leak the information to Voldemort and he would not have harmed his own horcrux). Plus, the way Harry died-but-didn’t-die seems kind of like a cop-out. It’s not that I wanted Harry to die, but I think we could have done without Harry being the last horcrux, which means that we wouldn’t have needed a semi-lame reason for Harry to not-die.
The Deathly Hallows
Were they not the biggest red herring? Originally I thought that the horcruxes were going to turn out to be a red herring, that they would not be the key to Voldemort’s defeat, but why did Rowling introduce the idea of the Deathly Hallows if they weren’t going to be used to defeat Voldemort. Sure, the Elder Wand played a big part, but that was on its own. The Resurrection Stone was merely an excuse for another sentimental scene between Harry and his parents. And the cloak has been around the whole time. It got no more powerful or important because it was one of the hallows. How many of you think that Rowling was originally going to use the Deathly Hallows together to kill Voldemort but then changed her mind? Let’s hope that it wasn’t one of the editors who made her change that. (Also, don’t you love the way people can quest for centuries for legendary artifacts without success but the hero of the story always seems to stumble upon them rather easily?)
Redeeming the bad guys
Alas poor Snape! Not only do we pity him for his lifetime of unrequited love for Lily Potter, but he didn’t even get his due in this novel. Why was the namesake of the previous novel not given a much meatier presence in the final chapter? We should have seen him doing stuff to secretly help the good guys. We should have found out about his true worth and bravery while he was still alive. The biggest question of Half-Blood Prince was whether or not Snape was truly evil. We deserved to have a confrontation between Harry and Snape where they finally worked that out. I keep thinking, what if they never got to see the memories or if the pensieve had been destroyed? No one would have known the truth about Snape (though I suppose ghostly Dumbledore could have told not-dead Harry at King’s Cross station). He deserved some true redemption. If even Darth Vader deserved it, why not ol’ Severus?
Similarly, what about Draco? Sure, he got to live, but where was he in this book? He had been Harry’s schoolyard nemesis throughout the first six books, and he really seemed to be coming into his own by book 6. I’m sure I was not alone to wonder about his motives for joining the Death Eaters and doing all the bad things he did. Was he truly going to the dark side, or was it just out of fear for his family’s welfare, or maybe resentment of Harry and his friends, or a misguided lust for power? Too bad we will never really know. I was shocked that he played such a small role in this last book. I loved the way Rowling was able to show us how side-characters like Neville, Luna, and Ginny really grew up and even Percy Weasley got to come back to resolve some of his issues, but I wanted to hear from Draco. Even though his role in the whole Elder Wand ownership situation directly affected Voldemort’s fate, he himself was always on the sidelines. Clearly Rowling has an anti-Slytherin bias.
What I loved
I loved being on the run with the Trio. They grew so close through adversity that there was no question that their friendship was unbreakable. When Ron left Harry and Hermione, it was a page-by-page feeling of anxiety for me wondering when he was going to rejoin them. I loved the fast-paced action sequences. The plan to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic was totally Mission:Impossible and it was awesome. Of course I have the same opinion about every one of the action sequences, from the flight of many Harry Potters with the Order, to the Gringott’s break-in and break-out, to the climactic showdown at Hogwart’s. The excitement level in this book is like all the previous ones combined. As I’ve already mentioned, I loved the way the side-characters grew into their own. I wished we could have seen more of the Hogwart’s rebellion led by Neville, Luna and Ginny. I loved that they redeemed Kreacher (I always thought he was such an awful character before — like the embodiment of misery) and made Dobby a noble hero (I had always found him annoying).
I wish I’d loved the 19-year flash forward. I know that Rowling supposedly wrote that chapter long ago, but it didn’t really reveal anything new or surprising. It would have been nice if it teased at possibilities. Most of the stuff we saw was pretty predictable. However, I was surprised that Harry and Ginny had not adopted Teddy Lupin much earlier. After all, he was Harry’s godson and Harry himself knew how important it was for an orphan to have a home and parent figures. Why wait until he was 19 before having him move in?
OK. That’s enough of the whining. After all is said, Rowling is an incredibly gifted writer and I can’t wait to read Deathly Hallows again. Here’s hoping that lightning will strike again with whatever she produces next. Regardless, I’m happy that we have these seven wonderful novels (like little time-turners) to enjoy and relive again and again. So long, Harry!