Harry Potter R******* (spoilers)

Do not read this post if you do not want spoilers about HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS! I am serious! NO JOKES.

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You have been warned. Proceed at your own risk. (Although I will put the worst spoilers in white text just for the sake of propriety.)

As I had planned, I purchased HPaTDH at midnight, and stayed up until 4 am reading it. I stopped at the point where Harry and Hermione wander alone, defeated at Godric’s Hollow, and Harry’s wand is snapped. It was a dark, bleak moment. Ron’s perfidy was as if Sam had suddenly deserted Frodo on the banks of the Ephel Duin. “Sorry, Mister Frodo. I’d rather marry Rosie, see you later.” Although he was bound to return and redeem himself, it was the kind of moment that showed how bold a writer JK Rowling really is. Her characters are flesh and blood; weak and then strong. Not all can stand up to the pressure.

The blanked out word in the title of this post was “Redemption.” I wrote earlier about the Christian themes of the Harry Potter books, and thankfully, Rowling stuck with the Tolkien model rather than the Lewis model: the faith in the Potter-verse is always implicit. There was no religion mentioned directly because the true one was just off screen.

While the promised “bloodbath” was delivered, with many heartbreaking and shocking deaths, (the ones in the first 20 pages let us know this is no kiddie picnic) every bad character was redeemed: Snape, of course (could anyone have ever doubted his true allegiance?), Kreacher, Dudley, the Malfoys, Pettigrew. All were saved by love of one kind or another– the Malfoys as wretched as they were, had real love — Narcissa and Lucious love Draco and thus are spared the final holocaust. If there was anything shocking about the book, it was that so many characters could be redeemed by the tiny shard of goodness within them.

For the rest, it was a fantasy apotheosis of answers and long simmering plot threads redeemed that satisfied on every level: everyone from McGonagall to Neville to Bane the Centaur has a role to play in the last battle. Rowling even answer my criticisms about her female characters by having them all achieve greater deeds than any would have suspected — even Mrs. Weasley turns out to be a hero of the finest order.

In particular, Harry’s long lonely journey with Hermione is one of the most touching adventures I have ever read: desperate and isolated. Some people have said that this part of the book is needlessly drawn out, but to me it was entirely necessary to see Harry stripped of almost everything, cut off from all news or succor, truly on his own. All great heroes must go to the mountain, or the underworld, and Harry Potter is no exception.

In the end most of the questions were answered in a way that seemed inevitable in hindsight. There were few shocks in the plot in the larger sense. The death of Snape and the chapter “The Prince’s Tale” — although much had been deduced by faithful readers — was still stunning and touching in its humanity and well it fit in with the overall mythology, especially the dying words “Look…at…me…”

My tiny gripe, if you can call it that, is the final chapter, the one written 10 years ago or such. It is simply inferior to the rest of the book — Rowling is a much better writer now than she was before. From a textual standpoint I can see why leaving in it works, but from an internal standpoint it rockets the characters to a previous middle-class existence — one that is the very antithesis of what the books have been about since then. On the one hand it’s as close to happy ever after as we might get. On the other, it seemed needlessly bourgeois.

While Potter won my heart over fully, Tolkien is still my favorite. Harry seems to have come through his ordeal unscathed, according to the epilogue. In Tolkien there’s more long term damage. I admit, I was a little disappointed that Harry seemed to have triumphed with no real loss or sacrifice. Then I realized that his crappy upbringing had been its own damage. Still, Tolkien’s appendices take you back in time and forward to show that not everyone retires to a comfortable fireplace after heroic journeying. Potter’s epilogue does no such thing.

Still, I feel that is a quibble. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is a wonderful book, one that speeds off into uncharted territory from the very first words, and takes the reader on a voyage of danger, heroism and noble struggle. Rowling has succeeded on every level.

And now, if only Alfonso Cuaron will direct the movie version!

Comments

  1. I read it all day yesterday (Arthur read it all day Saturday) and loved it. What a fabulous world she created!

  2. One of my biggest gripes with Rowling’s writing style is that she writes these plots that rush head-long into the future, barreling along at 90 mph and then, in the last chapter, she has Dumbledore sit down and explain everything that happened. Obviously, that didn’t happen with book 6 and I thought I was safe with this one as well. So much for that idea.

    Still, I did read it until 4 a.m. Monday, so there must have been something good going on there. The loss of Fred was the hardest for me to take, but at least he went out laughing.

  3. I enjoyed the book, but wow, that epilogue – it reminded me of For Better or For Worse, where in spite of everything epic that’s happened and all the people they’ve met, the main characters end married to their childhood sweethearts and happily domestic with kids. I was hoping for something a little less sappy and predictable.

  4. Having quit at book three (but lovin’ the movies), this review makes me want to read the rest. Or maybe just read the last one. The idea of Harry and Hermione off doing their thing is just too good. Hermione has always been my favorite character, but there is something about a boy-girl friendship or a brother and a sister that has always just gotten to me (see Ender’s Game). Hmmm… I bet I won’t think it’s drawn out either.

  5. “Harry seems to have come through his ordeal unscathed”

    I really disagree. Harry has been damaged by so much leading up to the final battle with Voldemort. He lost his parents, Sirius his Godfather, his owl Hedwig, Dobby, and so many others that sacrificed for his cause. All that has certainly damaged him. After 17 years of torture, I think Harry deserves a normal life with a family, don’t you? It’s fitting. He’s already suffered so much.

  6. “Harry seems to have come through his ordeal unscathed”

    I really disagree. Harry has been damaged by so much leading up to the final battle with Voldemort. He lost so many important people in his life and so many others that sacrificed for his cause. All that has certainly damaged him. After 17 years of torture, I think Harry deserves a normal life with a family, don’t you? It’s fitting. He’s already suffered so much.

  7. “BOLD”???? That’s the exact opposite of what I’d call Rowling’s writing. She tries to be bold by the “bloodbath,” but only of tertiary characters, almost all of whom are killed off page. I didn’t even register that Lupin and Tonks had been killed till he shows up with Harry’s parents. It’s the height of callous indifference to finish these characters stories in this manner.

    The books was laden with plotholes and backwards logic. It wasn’t Harry’s fancy wandwork that trips up Voldemort, it’s his convoluted explanation of who is the true heir of the Wand of Destiny/Deathstick/Elder Wand/Accessory Now In Stores!!

    It’s damn shame that the editors stopped doing their jobs years ago. This could have been a much better book had someone worked with Rowling to even it out. Instead she rounds out the series with a milqetoast, predictable saccarine ending. Wouldn’t Prof. Umbridge be delighted.

  8. I agree that the editors didn’t do a decent job with Deathly Hallows. There are so many continuity errors it made my teeth hurt from grinding them. (Here’s one that truly annoyed me: Ted Tonks is called a muggle in OOTP, but suddenly he’s a muggle-born wizard in DH?) And as for the epilogue — what happened to tying up the loose plot ends? Harry Potter never gets to learn what his parents did for a living — and we never get to learn what the students do after Voldemort’s defeat? I read several fanfics that I thought handled the same topics (harry as a horcrux, the dark lord taking over the ministry via imperius curse, a final battle at Hogwarts) better than DH did, and I’m frankly sorry I spent the money buying all three editions of this book.

  9. Holy yes, I couldn’t agree more! (Especially about Cuaron!)

  10. Well, I too lined up at midnight, and managed to get the book read by Sunday, thus avoiding spoilage.
    I loved the book, but did feel that it was overly long- after the blockbuster opening it crawled to a halt…
    But… I feel satisfied, and happy.
    Now the inevitable comparisons will begin, but as I missed Tolkien and Dickenson the first go round (too young), I am glad to have this literary eveny happen in my reading lifetime.
    Bravo1 to JK I say…
    m.

  11. I don’t want Cuaron to do the movie.

    Edgar Wright should do HP7. If only to get Simon Pegg in a role…

  12. I found some good HP fan footage from over the weekend…Wanted to share:

    http://www.maximonline.com/video/index.aspx?filekey=3054&src=tst25

  13. I swear, if they leave the Molly/Bellatrix scene out of the final movie I will never buy another WB product again.

    Oh and to MrsH, Tonks refers to her father as muggle-born in OotP, not as a muggle. Yes, I looked it up.

  14. “I’m frankly sorry I spent the money buying all three editions of this book.”

    Ha ha ha ha!

  15. Sphinx Magoo says:

    One plot hole I wish was taken up was how Neville ended up getting the sword of Gryffindor if the goblin had run off with it at Gringotts. It was such an excellent scene though as Neville comes up as the hero but part of me said “Wait! Where’d he get the sword?”

    The whole section with Dobby was extremely touching. I was really upset over that one. And the redemption of Kreacher felt real and welcome.

    I agree with Lisa Jonte on the Molly/Bellatrix scene. My daughter was starting to lose steam in reading the book until I hinted that Mrs. Weasley and Bellatrix were in a scene together; she asked if Mrs. Weasley gets killed, I wouldn’t tell her and that got her going again!

    Another scene that resonated with me was when Harry was speaking with Dumbledore at the end. It was nice to see that Dumbledore needed closure as much as Harry did.

  16. Randall Kirby says:

    He got the sword from the sorting hat, same as Harry. (It’s magic.)

  17. rolando says:

    sphinx,

    The sword of Gryffindor appears from the Sorting Hat to any heroic Gryffindor in need. Neville was wearing the hat, heroic, and in need.

  18. Devon White says:

    I’ll admit that, 200 pages in, I was wondering how this could be my least favorite book by far. I missed Hogwarts incredibly, and wanted nothing more than the trio to stop hopping all over the place and Do Something! But of course, continuing through the story, this *was* important; the mood of despair it set made the ending all the more triumphant. I also enjoyed the many subtle references to previous books, for instance; “For goodness sakes, Ron, are you a wizard or not?” as an allusion to Hermione forgetting how to cast fire in the first book: Nice.

    But, as several others have said already, the ending left some to be desired. The epilogue was overly sappy, and blandly written compared to the rest of the book. Also, I… just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I want the trio and all to live Happily Ever After, I wanted Harry and Ginny to have all those red-haired babies, etc. etc. But more important to me was how the wizarding world pulled itself back together directly afterwards. What do the trio do next? Does Harry end up taking his 7th year afterwards, or does he get some honorary degree? Does he take his NEWTs? Does he end up becoming an Auror? And, this having stricken my heart the most, WHAT HAPPENS TO GEORGE? Sure he’s a business owner, blah blah blah, but he’s lost Fred!! Identical twins who have finished each other’s sentences for years. The grief must be unbearable, and in the end, this half of a pair I have loved and wished I could actually meet for years, gets his final moments as bending over the dead Fred. Insufficient!! HE’S your scathed hero. And there’s no mention of him, or Luna, or Dean, or nearly anybody the heck else in the epilogue of Splenda. I didn’t just fall in love with the Trio, I fell in love with everybody. And I’m just left feeling so… unsatisfied.

    Someone Imperius Jo into writing another epilogue about the months, not years, that follow!!

  19. Sphinx Magoo says:

    I’d forgotten about the Sorting Hat! Thanks, everyone!

  20. Yeah, that buying all three editions thing was a hoot. One has to wonder what “loose ends” MrsH would have been able to gloss over. While I wouldn’t mind knowing Harry’s profession two decades hence, I don’t think I ever bothered to wonder what his parents did to make their way in the wizarding world.

    I actually liked the book pretty much all the way around and while I may have wished a little more from the epilogue, even the little we got was pretty satisfying to me. It felt good to me to know that even after all of that horror and tragedy, Harry’s greatest victory may be the fact that he is able to leave the horror behind him and truly heal to the point where he can lead a normal life. If two decades past and he was still scarred by the whole thing? Man, what a crappy ending that would be.

  21. Jeffery2010 says:

    Just my two cents – maybe I’m older than the average reader here (42) and while I agree the epilogue was different in style than the rest of the books, I have to tell you as a father of 5 – a happy family with healthy children is the best possible ending in the world-trust me on this (bourgeoisie? Please! Anyone know the French word for pretentious snob who uses the word bourgeoisie? ) . But, yes I agree, I would have loved to know more about the rest of the wizard world.

    Fred’s death did hit me the hardest, and Harry’s digging Dobby’s grave was a wonderful/sad/touching moment, as was Snape’s “Look me in the eyes”, after his pensieve revelations that line meant so much more.

    I did get tired of “sit in tent – argue – feel depressed and lost – repeat”.

    Compare and contrast:
    Hidden cave, no visible boat, zombies, deadly drink.
    Throw Tiara in closet.

    The Sorting Hat can pull the sword from wherever it is? O.K., if you say so. I’m just glad Neville was portrayed as strong and true and got his heroic moment.

    Draco? A throw away character in this book, barely a cameo. How did he feel afterwards? 5 books hating him, 1 book hating/pitying him, and a final book… ignoring him.

    “Don’t hurt ‘em!” – Oh why couldn’t Hagrid have been killed instead of… well, anyone else?

    Soooo glad that the novel ended at Hogwarts. That was the perfect place to bring the books to a close. Hogwarts has always been a very important character in it’s own right, and I was missing it during the first of the book.

    Overall – excellent – now lets have a real epilogue, of say 600 pages – Harry Potter and the Aftermath.

  22. RE: the bourgeois ending. Yes, it was anticlimactic, compared to the burly-brawl fight scenes that preceeded it, but remember… bourgeois means “middle class”, and the vast readership of the Potter tales are not wizards or witches… they’re middle class people.

    While the wizards and witches at Hogwarts are heroic, they’re not real people, but real people can be heroic, just by living their lives.

    I live a middle class life. I have a wife. I have kids. I go to work every day to feed them, clothe them, and give them a home. There’s nothing magical about it, but to me, the people who get up and go to work, day after day — because they love others — are the real heroes in life.

    And that’s something all of us Potter fans can really do in life.

  23. matteo says:

    I am 29, I am a total sarcastic art snob … and I freaking loooved the ending!! Why does everything have to be bitter-sweet ? When I was a kid I hated the fact that after the journey Frodo goes away, sad… why can’t characters just be…happy ? Why isn’t Harry Potter as good because the survivors are not melanchonic …19 years later? Good literature has to end in tragedy to be considered such?

    And the best thing about the epilogue…was reading that harry’s son has “severus” in his name. Snape’s love for Lily brought tears to my eyes…

    Oh, btw, maybe I am stupid, but…how does exactly Voldemort die? Because the wand refuses to hurt his rightful owner ? And what happened to Harry’s horocrux ? I gotta re-read the last 150 pages a little more slowly…

  24. I just finished the novel last night after reading the whole thing in two very long sittings. Part of me wanted to attribute the emptiness I felt as reader’s fatigue, but upon further reflection, I think it’s the epilogue. It was as if after 598 pages of an emotional roller coaster, we drift to the end. I would have preferred another chapter about the aftermath before the Happily Ever After. I feel like it would have allowed the readers a chance to actually grieve for the fallen. Really, except for Dobby’s, all the deaths in DH were glazed over.
    I really wished Rowling had paid more attention to Fred’s death. I think that would have made his final march to the forest even more poignant. Afterall, he was a character that I’m sure many readers loved.
    But overall, I loved the book and am very sad the saga is over.

  25. I think this was a terrific ending to Harry’s story.

    While Ms. Rowling has said she won’t be writing any more Potter books, I would love to see some novels about some of the secondary and tertiary characters, especially the ones who had the most happen to them in this book.

  26. crosswordbuzz says:

    ask almost anyone who has been through some sort of madly horrific experience, like HP’s life to this point, and they’ll usually tell you that all they want is to go home and live a nice, quiet life, without all the fuss.

    the people going through these epic adventures rarely enjoy them, so when they’re over, those people rarely seek out MORE adventures.

    what i’m trying to say is that rowling’s ending for the book is both touching, realistic (in its own internally consistent way) and just the right touch, leaving much of these answers to our imagination rather than spelling them out for us.

    and she obeyed one of the first rules of entertainment, no matter the medium: “always leave ‘em wanting more.”

  27. My only real gripe is that Snape was so absent in this book. For me, he is the most real, compelling character in the series. I was sure he was not evil, but dreaded that he was not good. I was disappointed that his complexity was all boiled into a series of memories in a bowl. Sigh.

    I also realized a long time ago that Harry couldn’t really be killed off by JKR, but it seemed clear after HBP that he would have to somehow sacrifice himself and be brought back. I envisioned it being through the use of the Deathly Hallows as this book progressed. I was disappointed at the nebulous nature of his restoration to life. Sigh again.

    But nothing’s perfect! It was a great ride and a fun read.

  28. Randall Kirby says:

    Harry’s kids’ initials are A.S.P.

    Yeah, he’s going to Slytherin.

  29. Mark Parsons says:

    Wow, I loved it!

    The coda was sweet, but like most of you, I wish it had been just a bit longer and included more of a sense of aftermath. I think Rowling was perhaps writing for the youngest end of her demo: I imagine kids will love the epilogue.

    I really liked the lost in the woods sequence. Harry & Hermione and nobody to help them.

    I was right all along about Snape (not a hrd thing to guess, really) and I loved his final line too, but I do wish somehow we’d had more of him. A longer, revelatory scene with Harry would not really have fit, but perhaps McGonegal and Snape? I WANT A SNAPE BOOK! And one about the Founding Wizards. And one about the Next Generation: Salazar Slytherin still looms large, apparently, selfishness and evilish ambition are part of human nature.

    I predict that Rowling WILL return to this world eventually. There is too much room to explore. Remember when King retired? HA! As if. I thought that sounded doubtful and I doubt Rowling will stay away from the Potterverse, although I expect a very long gap in publication. **makes sigil to ward off poxy-stinky Lucascurse**

  30. Atleebrak says:

    I have no quibble with the ending. From about the third book on, all Harry ever wanted was a normal life and a family. His whole childhood and adolesence was strewn with deprivation and loss. He was driven by his thirst for normalcy, a thirst every bit as strong as Voldemort’s for power and domination. Why wouldn’t Harry’s perfect ending be seeing his children moving on to the place he loved first and best?

    My husband is convinced that Harry is now the Minister of Magic, esp after Dumbledore’s assertion that power is best used by those who don’t seek it, yet who accept it when it is thrust upon them. If Harry is indeed the MoM, it would be entirely fitting that, at the end of the book, he was focused not on his position but on being there for his kids at an important moment in their lives.

    I think Rowling purposely left a lot of doors open with that ending so that she would have some elbow room should she ever decide to visit the wizarding world again. The only things she felt she needed to convey were that Voldemort was really dead this time, that Harry was happy, that life goes on, and that all is well.

  31. Joshua says:

    I could really have done iwht a little less sitting around in the tent and a little more on the EFFECTS of what happens. Every time a character dies, we just kind of shrug and move on — if even that. The only time the aftermath of a death is really explored, its for … DOBBY? Dobby who basically shows up, says, “Harry Potter, I’m here to save yo–arrrrgh!” Reminded me of Groundskeeper Willie trying to save everyone in the Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horrors, “I’m not very good at this!” Tonks and Lupin die — what effect does that have on their son? Fred dies — what effect does that have on the rest of the family?
    Also, JK seemed to lack the sand to actually kill anyone we really care about — just fringe characters. I mean, for crying out loud, she kills HEDWIG. Oooh, that’s so awful. The only two significant deaths, Lupin and Snape, are so rushed that they lost most of their effect. We’re treated to more about Dobby’s death than that of anyone else, and … well, come on, its Dobby. Meanwhile, JK flirts with the idea of killing Hagrid, but never goes through with it.

    Too much also happened off screen — Ginny/Neville/Luna raiding Snape’s office, Neville’s resistance, etc. While all this interesting stuff is happening, we’re sitting around watching Harry try to figure out what to do next in the tent, since he doesn’t have a bleeding clue where the H’s are. :-D

    My least favourite of the series, by far.

  32. RoseFire says:

    I think the ending of the book was perfect.

    I don’t think anything thing else need to be explained. The epilouge was fine. The magical community pulled together at the end. Although, Rowling didn’t say it directly, they all pulled together and fought against evil. They all didn’t mind dieing for a better world.

    About the death of Fred, she didnt need to expand on it since Fred was only important because of his interaction with the main characters. He never had a story of his own other than what you hear through the main characters.

    Also, Kingsley was appointed Ministry of Magic at the end…

    Snape was never going to come out and tell Harry all of that himself. That’s not his character people! Learning his true character through his memories was fitting.

    I don’t think any book should continue. Any other book would just be anti-climatic. NO EPILOUGE OF 600 PAGES NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN!

    The horcrux in Harry was destroyed by Voldemort because Harry willingly sacrficed his life. Harry didn’t die because Voldemort attached Harry’s life to him because when he took his blood he essentially holding a part of Harry

    And why should Hagrid die? What did he do to you?

  33. Sphinx Magoo says:

    One thing: Draco’s kid will be named “Scorpius”??!?!

    Gak!

  34. Sphinx Magoo says:

    Did anyone else read the final confrontation between Voldemort and Harry and get reminded of the final confrontation between Westley and Prince Humperdinck in “The Princess Bride”?

  35. Emilianbucks says:

    Alfonso Cuaron? Are you kidding me? Did you see Children of Men? Just because he can do dark doesn’t mean he can do quality, as Children of Men readily demonstrates. I for one would much rather have David Yates stay on for the rest of the films. Have you SEEN The Young Visiters? Brilliant!

  36. Jeffery2010 says:

    OK Rosefire, I didn’t really mean “epilouge”, but I do think there would ba a good book to be had from the aftermath. I don’t think all the Death Eaters were ready to sit down and break bread with the rest of the community. For lightness we would have the reconstrction of Hogwarts to deal with (that could actually be fun).
    As for what Hagrid did to me…. I just did not like how oblivious Hagrid was to the danger he would put Harry et. al. into. “Go ask the spiders, here watch this giant for me…” , and in the middle of a battle to the death, friends dying left and right, he wants to protect rampaging spiders that are out to kill his friends.

    Emilianbucks, I’m on your side. Alfonso Cuaron? I hated the sceanes with Aunt Marge and on the Night Bus. Very clumsy direction.

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