Well, here it is, my final review of the Harry Potter series for the FifteenThousandPages challenge. It’s a little bittersweet!
As I’ve gone through the first six books of this series, I’ve talked more than enough about what these books mean to me on a personal level. But because of the sheer number of times I’ve read these books – I’ve read each book upward of 2 dozen times individually – it’s become impossible for me to separate my enjoyment of these books from my own personal growth and needs. So I hope you’ll stay with me for one more review, as this one is bound to get a little sappy.
REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling
Plot: The finale installment of the Harry Potter series, this book tells Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s journey to finish what Dumbledore started and finally rid the world of Voldemort forever. Emotions abound.
The other is, of course, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH.” Because it is everything Molly deserved to say and more.
What I liked: Has there ever been a book series like Harry Potter before? Seriously. I’ve yet to find one – though Percy Jackson comes close in terms of growing up with a book series for sure. Harry Potter, to me, is more than a book series. When I was growing up, it literally felt like a window into my own soul. I understood these characters – their sadness, happiness, confusion at the world around them. I never had the fate of the wizarding world on my shoulders as they do, but I had the weight of my own world, and let me tell you – that was plenty heavy enough. The Trio are the perfect group; they highlight our faults and our strengths in every conversation, every decision, every moment of laughter or tears. In this book especially, where The Trio leaves their only safe haven, Hogwarts, I really learned to understand the way drastic change affects people – and how it affects people differently. Ron has always held a privileged life – despite never having much in the way of money. He’s loved, something we learn early on is ultimately worth much more than any material possession. But the grass is always greener on the other side – until we see firsthand through Ron that is isn’t. Harry, who has always understood that there are those in the world who don’t want to care for him, takes the loss of Hogwarts’ safety more easily than Ron, but we see his faith deeply shaken when a person he trusted more than anyone except Ron and Hermione seemingly betrays him. But are secrets truly betrayals? Hermione, ever the standard-bearer for the moral high ground, needs to learn that sometimes there are no good options. Just because you know what the right answer should be (‘the cloak’) doesn’t mean it’s the one that makes the most sense internally. These are lessons that I needed to learn when I read this book at 17 – the same age as our Trio. I’d always identified with Hermione the most, but certainly had a hot head like Harry and Ron. That’s probably why I never hated Ron like so many other people did – and why I still feel to this day that a Ron & Hermione end game WAS the right choice, no matter what Queen Rowling said after the fact. It’s important to surround yourself with people who make you question the deep things. Are you making the choices in your life for the right reasons? Or are you making decisions based on fear, anger, or the any number of negative emotions we feel on a daily basis? Pointed moments come particularly in the way she connected The Trio to the outside world just when they needed it was masterful: overhearing the conversation between Ted Tonks, Dean, and the goblins, learning that victory isn’t always what you expect when going to Malfoy Manor, finally catching a Potterwatch broadcast. Think of how much they needed the outside world at those moments. Ted Tonks, Griphook, and Dean gave them the knowledge that those they loved were still alive. Malfoy Manor showed that it was not all fun and games for the esteemed Death Eaters (not to mention proved once and for all the internal, incredible strength of Hermione). And that Potterwatch, showing Harry that people still believe in him, even if he doesn’t believe in himself. What teen doesn’t need those moments of clarity and reassurance?
Rowling really showed off her chops in this one. Not just emotionally, but simply in pure writing talent. Just when you get ‘comfortable’ with the pace – definitely slower and more deliberate than her first novels – she ramps up the action. Nothing ever goes as expected. The people you trust may not always be there when you need them. It’s a simple task to go see Xeno Lovegood, until his loss of Luna (who thankfully we find safe and okay-ish) begins the entire climb to the finish of the story. Xeno understands what the Hallows are and teaches The Trio about them. It’s a slow climb, building each moment Harry’s new obsession (and his way to defy the Dumbledore who lied to him) does. But the momentum never stays stagnant. It’s not a simple climb. It’s up, then down, then around a boulder or two. The slowness of the forests is preceded by the chaos of breaking into the Ministry, which only follows months learning at Grimauld Place. And then, they break into Gringotts and steal a dragon. SO BADASS! But does anything compare to the sheer heartbeat pace of the Battle of Hogwarts? Every moment is another beat of the drum. Another stressed syllable in iamb pentameter. It completely ignores the unstressed moments, until you stop and sit and learn at the train station. Even now, I still sometimes need to read those chapters twice to feel as though I’ve fully experienced them.
Her Snape chapter might be one of the best written chapters in the entire series. To pick the perfect moments from an entire life, to boil and entire life down to certain choices, is honest genius. We’re finally given the chance to understand Snape, and Harry – far better a person than I am – understands what he’s seen and forgives a man who’s tormented him for 7 years. I hate to say that I disagree with Rowling’s assessment as Snape as brave, but I do. I think he was a coward, truly, but one who did want to follow his better instincts and didn’t know how. It’s really sad. She made an incredibly tragic character out of a single chapter. It’s fantastic. The second best (but ultimately more satisfying) chapter has to be King’s Cross, where Harry finally gets his answers from Dumbledore. Dumbledore’s redemption and Harry’s ascendance to true Hero is a really incredible thing to read in those moments.
Something I also really loved about the way Rowling wrote this novel was that every death – and yes, there are deaths in wartime – had a purpose. That was something I hated in series like The Hunger Games or Divergent. It felt as if those authors threw around death in haphazard, reckless ways just to remind readers that those books came from THEIR minds and their decisions were not meant to be questioned. Rowling thinks more of her readers. She killed off particular people to highlight that life can be brutally unfair; we often know people who die much sooner than we believe they should have. But those deaths were important. No family stays fully whole forever. And it was massively important for the Marauders (the real ones – Lily included not Wormtail) to be with Harry and keep him safe “until the very end” because it’s true – the ones we love never truly leave us. And if Harry doesn’t understand he is always with them, how can he then always be with everyone else in the way he intends? I love that Rowling is thoughtful in this way. P.S. I cannot go into more detail re: these deaths because I will cry. They all stuck with me. From the second chapter to Shell’s Cottage to the Great Hall.
Finally, the best moment in the whole book is watching Molly battle Bellatrix. Molly has always been the glue to hold her family together, and in that moment she shows why moms are almost always the strongest – because often times they love the deepest. ‘NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH’ is the best line in the history of forever.
I know this review is long, and I know that I am probably rambling; I’m almost sorry about it, but I’m not. This book deserves a long ramble, because of all of the incredible parts of humanity it shows us.
What I didn’t like: The one thing that frustrated me about this book was how quickly Rowling decided to make our Dumbledore walls crumble. Sure, she’d hinted in the 5th and 6th books that Dumbledore wasn’t always necessarily honest with Harry, and clearly by the time Dumbledore died Harry knew he’d been kept in the dark on some things – which, I mean, the kid’s a teenager so let’s just be reasonable. Personally, it spirals a little quickly into “Boo Dumbledore” territory. I understand why she wanted to break that bond – without it, could Harry have ever made the decisions he needed to? Could he have withheld his desires? It’s never been about power for Harry, it’s about protection. I liked Rowling’s choice to break the bond – I just wish it wasn’t so abrupt.
Grade: 10/10, the perfect ending to a perfect series. The best way to grow up.