30 December 2007

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows It should be Harry’s final year at Hogwarts - but it’s not. Voldemort and Co. are on the ascendant and wizards everywhere are going into hiding. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are joining them - not so much for safety’s sake, as to better manage the hunt for the Horcruxes and Voldemort himself. It’s a life-threatening task, and one with few clues to help them. One of the few things they know for sure is some connection to the Deathly Hallows, a trio of mystical - and mythical? - objects bestowed on three brothers by Death himself. In between racking their brains and dealing with the stress of their situation, they pay action-packed visits to places as varied as quiet villages and some of the wizarding world’s best-secured buildings. As daring as these are, it is the final task which requires the greatest strength of all: a showdown in the very halls of Hogwarts, where heroes emerge in unlikely places and danger is always right behind. A not-so-ancient prophecy is about to be fulfilled, and through it all the death toll continues to climb.

In a word: brilliant. In a few more: this is an example of something so rare I’m surprised I even have a name for it - a laughed-cried-and-sat-up-til-2 a.m. book. In all the death, danger, and darkness, there is still humour; and sometimes they co-exist very closely. This is a book for which you want to have Kleenex on hand; at least one point had me sobbing freely in the early hours of the morning.

The Death Eaters here surpass all previous evilness, and reminded me of the Nazi regime, which I rather suspect was the idea. The hunt soon falls into a pattern of running/hiding, action, repeat, but it avoids dullness. Even when their ideas on the subject of Horcruxes have nowhere to go but round in circles, there is enough progress being made of one kind or another to maintain interest. It’s a true test of intelligence, courage, and friendship; and for this reader, at least, there was the added interest of searching for clues to indicate who might be getting killed off. As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered, for I had guessed correctly. What I never guessed at were the different sides of some major characters which were revealed. Not just great twists, but great writing; so few characters in the series are wholly good or wholly bad (with a few notable exceptions), and one at least goes from memorable to truly unforgettable. The resolution is also fantastic, pulling together things from the whole length of the series to make it utterly believable, and terribly moving. The seemingly unrelated Hallows fit in neatly, and I have to admit that they surprised me. I’d assumed, since first hearing the title, that it referred to a location. (Well, ‘Deathly Hallows’ sounds like it could be one of those oddball English place-names, doesn’t it?)

Just because they spend most of the book on the run doesn’t mean that there aren’t some other familiar faces turning up, and best of all was Neville Longbottom. His grandmother was proud as anything that he lived up to his father at last, and so was I. This is a book that leaves you with the warm fuzzies as well as tears. Which means that, yes, I liked the epilogue. I do wish it could have told more, but with so many characters, following them all into the future would have required a very long epilogue! I know some people would have preferred it was omitted, but I don’t agree because of one thing: the forgiveness it showed. The book wouldn’t have felt complete without that.

And I want a handbag like Hermione’s!

Rating: A

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776