This reviewer’s heart felt more than a touch of sadness as she closed the back cover of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. It’s never easy to say goodbye, especially to those we love and cherish, and to a world we believe in totally, without question.
Reading the Harry Potter series has been a reader’s excavation: the simple, jeweled surface of THE SORCERER’S STONE caught the attention of bibliophiles the world over nearly a decade ago. Its straightforward yet engaging structure charmed readers of all ages and introduced them to a world of magic and friendship --- and of good and evil.
However, the real magic of Harry Potter’s story is that THE SORCERER’S STONE was just the beginning. After the first three volumes, J.K. Rowling quickly abandoned the “bad guy of the year isn’t who you think it is” method of storytelling (while deliciously depositing other plot treasures here and there, like Ron’s “pet” Scabbers and Ginny’s possession in THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS) and revealed to her faithful readers a deeper, richer world than anyone could have imagined at the outset of the series.
And THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is the richest book of them all. Throughout the series, the majority of the action has taken place with “Harry blinders” on --- that is, because of the third-person limited narration of most of the books, the other characters’ actions, appearances, motivations and loyalties have been colored for the reader by Harry’s opinion of them.
Now that Harry has matured and is on the cusp of manhood, those around him are seen in far more detail and with more care than ever before. Rather than just basing opinion on what surface information he has presented, Harry examines and speculates on the reasons for action in those around him, and the characters are more real because of it. In the first several chapters, the reader is presented with some precious observations about Harry’s loved ones --- a blossoming romance, a marriage, the presentation to Harry of a meaningful birthday gift --- that makes the other cold fact of the book that much harder to handle: Harry’s world is a world at war.
At the very time when the characters become that much more precious to the reader, their lives hang in the balance --- from the moment Harry Ron, Hermione and numerous Order of the Phoenix members depart 4 Privet Drive and are ambushed, it is clear that a war has begun. When everyone finally regroups at the Burrow several hours later, some arrive injured --- and some never return.
True to his resolve, Harry goes willingly into this battle. Gone is the safety of Hogwarts and of the structured familiarity of the school year. Rowling creates a deep sense of unease and restlessness by yanking this security blanket from both her characters and her readers. Though Harry is clearly on a quest, there are many false starts, delayed plans and poorly-executed missions. The reader can very much empathize when Ron, Hermione and Harry, roughing it in the woods on their frustrating search for the Horcruxes, become cranky, sniping and petty.
Though the structure of THE DEATHLY HALLOWS differs slightly from its six predecessors, Rowling’s themes remain familiar --- good versus evil, the redemptive and protective power of love. What Harry discovers on his search for the Horcruxes (as well as the Hallows, but I will leave each reader to discover exactly what the Hallows are) is that, as Sirius has so wisely pointed out to him, “People are not separated into good people and Death Eaters.” The book humanizes both a perceived hero and a perceived villain by displaying both sides of each man’s personalities, light and dark.
Never fear. In addition to the ever-deepening emotional maturity of its main character, THE DEATHLY HALLOWS also offers quite a few nail-biting battle scenes and more than one narrow escape. Rowling still firmly believes that a person’s actions can be just as important as their emotional inner landscape. She has stated that more than a few people will be upset by the high death toll in her final installment of Harry’s battle against Voldemort, and she does with fair warning --- more than a half-dozen characters Harry (and readers) know and love (or love to hate) perish before the ultimate one-on-one battle between the boy hero and evil personified.
In the end, the survivors of this battle cling to each other with love that has deepened and grown over the past nine years. Rowling, who began writing this story longhand over a decade ago, in a café while her infant daughter slept in a stroller beside her, believes unwaveringly in the fundamentals of love and family. She reminds readers that these things are more important than magic, fame, power or glory --- and so does Harry.
Reviewed by Colleen Christi on July 21, 2007
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Book 7