I waited to publish my review (and rant) of the last Harry Potter book until today because several friends and SciBlings wanted to also participate in the discussion, and further, I wanted to read the book one more time and think about it for a while.
Overall, the book was interesting and action-packed, especially at the beginning and at the end, although the plot did drag a bit in the middle. Basically, this was the most adult of all the Harry Potter books, and as such, it was filled with bloodshed and death of incredible numbers. In my opinion, this was not the best book in the series, which was a big disappointment because it certainly would have benefitted from careful editing to tighten up the story, so let me go into some detail about what I thought about this book.
First, I was disappointed at how the Dursleys were dealt with. I can understand JKR’s dislike for them, but I don’t believe they were entirely beyond redemption as she portrayed in the book. Dudley actually seemed to allude to his own redemption when he said goodbye to Harry, in fact.
Speaking of family, and in view of the strong connection to family throughout this series, I thought it was very strange to learn that Hermione used a memory charm on her parents so they forgot they had a daughter and they then moved to Australia. That was really hard-core, in my opinion.
As I mentioned, the plot dragged a bit in the middle, and this is where the fearless trio spend months squabbling with each other while wandering aimlessly through the countryside for reasons that were difficult to understand (why not simply hide at Shell Cottage, as they did later?). After three books’ worth of Ron’s and Hermione’s arguing, this was just plain annoying. Yes, they were fleeing Voldemort, and they were trying to figure out the Horcrux problem, and people fight when under a lot of stress, but why was it necessary spend so much text on describing their wanderings and many fights? What was the purpose for this?
Later, I was repulsed by the way that JKR dealt with Ron and Hermione’s budding romance. I was disgusted that the intelligent and logical Hermione would ever do something so stupid and out-of-character as to throw herself at Ron (of all people!) and worse, that she would do so during the last battle at Hogwart’s. Hello? Why are you two snogging while everyone else is fighting for their lives? I lost a lot of respect for Hermione because of that. Further, I was also disappointed to learn at the end of the book that Ron and Hermione eventually married and simply settled for what appeared to me to be a poor match. Worse, they didn’t even name their son after Fred. What was the meaning of that? I think that JKR failed her readers by never making it apparent what qualities Ron possessed that could possibly attract Hermione to him.
Speaking of romances, I was also disgusted that Harry and Ginny married and had kids. Again, it was never made clear what attracted Harry to Ginny. I always saw Ginny as such an immature and undeveloped character — she never seemed to be an equal to Harry. Luna, on the other hand, was a much more convincing match for Harry (as was Hermione) because even though Luna was goofy, she was also very insightful and empathetic as well as being very skilled at magic — qualities that Harry seemed to need in his eventual mate.
I also didn’t think that JKR dealt fairly with Remus Lupin. He was always such wise and kind character, often the voice of reason, but in the last book, Lupin ends up revealing himself to be a coward when he offers to run away with Harry, Hermione and Ron, instead of fulfilling his family responsibilities. This just did not resonate with the Lupin I came to know and love in the previous books. I also found it incredibly astonishing that Lupin later asked Harry to be his baby’s godfather when Harry is only a 17-year-old drop-out without any family or career of his own and who clearly is incapable of raising a kid by himself.
Thoughout the later books in this series, the readers learned of the striking similarities between Harry’s and Voldemort’s childhoods. But as I learned more, I found myself baffled by these similarities since apparently, Harry’s mother’s death was sufficient to protect her son from evil, whereas Voldemort’s mother’s death was not. But why not? Or perhaps the reason was as Dumbledore said to Harry in an earlier book, when Harry was worrying about the sorting hat’s desire to put him into Slytherin house; that we all are defined by the choices we make?
And speaking of Dumbledore, I was frustrated to learn that Dumbledore didn’t reveal anything to Harry about his final mission as this book developed. Why would Dumbledore do that? Did he think Harry wouldn’t do what was necessary unless he was tricked into it? If so, that’s actually fairly contemptible.
I also found myself consistently upset and disappointed with how JKR wrote about death in this book. In her previous books, each character’s death was carefully planned out and had a distinct purpose and impact on the storyline. But in “Deathly Hollows,” death was completely random, casual, often unmourned and barely mentioned, beginning with the horrible death of Hedwig, Harry’s trusted snowy owl companion. Worse, JKR’s prose was so stilted and predictable when she described most of the death scenes that it was almost laughable at times.
Hedwig’s death was especially poorly handled. Hedwig, who was Harry’s constant companion for the previous six years, was merely blasted to death by a curse while trapped in her cage, and that’s the end of that. Except for a few questions from the Weasleys, no one ever mentions the fact that Hedwig is gone forever. I was terribly disappointed at the cruel injustice of her death, especially because she had been locked up in her cage all summer at the Dursleys’ and that she died without knowing even a few minutes of freedom.
Or maybe that was a subtle allusion to Harry’s lack of freedom from Dumbledore’s master plan throughout this entire series? In this particular book, Harry is not an independent person. In short, he has only a vague idea what he should do, but he has no plan for doing it, and he is merely a prisoner of events as they unfold. Furthermore, on the few occasions when Harry did decide to do something, his plans are absolutely stupid. For example, who would believe that after weeks of planning with an insider, that Harry’s plan for robbing Gringott’s Bank was simply to hide himself under his invisibility cloak while Hermione disguised herself and Ron before the fearless trio cast a few spells? Really? If that’s all it takes, I’m surprised that wizards don’t just keep their money and valuables tucked under their magical mattresses.
On the other hand, JKR might have been using Hedwig’s death to tell her readers that the entire book would be filled with random and often senseless deaths because, this was, afterall, war. Certainly, people die randomly in real war and in this book, many recurring characters do die. Randomly. Casually. But I certainly don’t see what the point was for Fred, Lupin, and Tonks’ deaths — especially Tonks — which gave me the impression that JKR was simply on a mad killing spree just for shock value.
In contrast to the quick demise of Hedwig and many other important characters, the loss of Dobby the house elf was handled well. His well-timed appearance in Malfoy Manner was a welcome surprise, as was his last-minute rescue of Harry from Bellatrix. Dobby’s death was definitely a shock, and Harry’s grief was one of the better written aspects of this book.
Despite my complaining, I was quite pleased with the way that JKR handled Neville Longbottom and I thought that it was fitting that he was the one to kill Nagini, Voldemort’s snake/Horcrux. However, I was disappointed that Neville did not kill Bellatrix as revenge for the way she treated his parents years before. But despite that, of all the characters in this last book, I thought that Neville was the one who had truly grown the most, who had matured the most gracefully.
Okay, since I am complaining, I also thought the pacing of the book was all wrong: the first half was really drawn out and detailed and then, all of a sudden, there is a quick action-packed ending that didn’t reveal nearly enough. For example, I wanted to see a chapter describing a little about how the magical world rebuilt itself after the death of Voldemort and I wanted to know more about what happened at Hogwarts, such as who was named the new headmaster? And did Snape ever get his own portrait alongside all the other headmasters?
Anyway, I was not surprised by the happy ending because this is, afterall, a kid’s book. This book did deal with a lot of mature themes, but that I think that, like many kids’ books, it had a clear moral to the story: in this case, the overall moral of the story (and of the entire series) is that of selflessness. Basically, Harry gets ahead and wins in life by being selfless, and by choosing actions that benefit everyone, even to the detriment of himself.
Some loose ends that I didn’t understand;
- Did Petunia’s parents love Lily more than Petunia, and thereby set Petunia against Lily’s innocent child, Harry?
- What made Harry’s mother, Lily, take leave of all her senses, dump Snape and abandon her family so she could marry an “arrogant toerag” like James Potter?
- What did James Potter’s parents think about how Harry was treated by the Dursleys?
- How did Harry’s parents become so danged rich?
- How did Snape manage to fool Voldemort for so long? Yeah, yeah, he was great at occlumency, but was he better than Voldemort?
- I wasn’t convinced that Snape’s love for Lily was his motivation for everything he did, were you? His contempt for Harry was certainly real enough in my opinion.
- How was Snape redeemed?
- What the hell was King’s Cross was all about?
- What was the child in limbo referring to? Was it symbolic of Harry’s lost childhood or did it represent Voldemort’s immature and fragmented soul?
- How did the Ministry of Magic rebuild in the following 19 years and what was done regarding the Dark Arts to prevent this “Voldemort problem” from occurring again?
- What ever happened to George Weasley?