“Harry Potter Days” Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

July 14, 2011 — Leave a comment

There is always a lot riding on the final entry in a great series, but I don’t think expectations for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows could have been higher. The Harry Potter series was already far and away the best-selling book series ever published and the fans were ravenous. J.K. Rowling’s last book about the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends needed to be great. It needed to be epic. And most of all, it needed to be satisfying. I can tell you, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does not disappoint in the slightest.

The action of the book has been removed from the confines of Hogwarts and moved out into the cities, forest, and villages of the UK. This leaves the vast majority of the book to the core trio. Other characters come in and out of the story, and the first and last acts of the book are both filled with just about every character you could hope to see again. But the main thrust of the book rests with the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione. By this point in the series that is not a problem at all.

All three characters have been thoroughly developed and their relationships are complex and nuanced. Ron’s general jealousy toward Harry becomes and issue again, but now it’s because the mission that they’re on (they must find and destroy all of the remaining Horcruxes) seems aimless and impossible. Why should Ron be risking his life and living in the woods for a task that they can never hope to complete. The feelings that Ron and Hermione have for each other are also straining their relationship. Ron’s jealousy of Harry comes into play here as well. He can’t help but be scared that Harry might end up taking Hermione away from him. These issues only add to the drama of their mission and of the war against Voldemort.

I remember when Deathly Hallows came out there were a lot of people complaining about he endless camping scenes, and I guess I fell into the belief that this was true. Reading it again I could not disagree more. Sure, there is a lot of camping, and it is definitely a major change of pace for the series coming into the grand finale, but each camping scene is important to developing character and unravelling plot details. And the idea that the camping is endless is quite a misnomer anyway; the camping is always used as the in-between to separate bigger sequences and action. It occurs to me that the very feature of the novel that so many people found intolerable is the one that I now love most of all. The camping is Rowling’s chance to have her lead trio stuck together on their own to work out their issues before going into the climax of the series.

The character beats that fill the camping scenes are essential to the progress of the plot as well. During the final battle of the book, when everything is coming to a close, so much of the way the plot progresses and the decisions that are made depend on our deep understanding of all the characters, and without that last burst of character development the book simply would not work. Luckily, it all works brilliantly, and the result is a conclusion to an epic story that is wholly satisfying from every possible angle.

With all that character stuff in the background, including the development of Dumbledore as a true person, there is also a plot to the book. Harry, Ron and Hermione have gone off on their own to search for Horcruxes. It’s an extremely difficult task that at points appears completely impossible. Further complicating the matter is the introduction of the Deathly Hallows, three magical item that when brought together are said to make one master of Death. And here is where Rowling really shows off her magic. The Deathly Hallows are brought in as a new option for potentially defeating Voldemort, and by the end it is presented as a choice. It’s a choice between becoming as powerful as a person can be in order to beat evil, or to truly understand evil, come to terms with it and ultimately triumph over it. In the end the entire series comes down to one crucial choice, totally in keeping with the overriding theme of Harry Potter, that it is our choices that define us. It’s actually quite amazing to me that Rowling was able to run this thread through right to the end, and even more amazing is that Harry’s final decision in the final book is a genuine culmination of all that he has learned and gone through over the years. When Harry chooses Horcruxes over Hallows it is the most natural thing, and not because that’s what Dumbledore would have wanted, but because it fits with Harry’s growth beginning all the way back in Philosopher’s Stone.

I don’t want to go on and on about Deathly Hallows, so I’ll just reiterate that it is a fantastic novel and possibly the best capper to an ongoing serial story I’ve ever encountered. It is completely satisfying and emotional, and really, what more could anyone ask? The journey of Harry Potter and all his friends in the magical universe makes for one of the most compelling stories and surprises with its level of depth and theme. Many people look down on the Harry Potter series as being a bunch of kids books or simple pop-lit, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Rowling’s prose may not feature the artistry of a great Russian novelist, but it features all the beauty and meaning and character. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final piece of the puzzle that cements the Harry Potter series as one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written, and I simply don’t see how anyone who has actually read the books thoroughly could say otherwise.

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