RS (rainbowstevie) wrote,

The Full-Length, Official Review of Deathly Hallows

I doubt very much these will be my last words about the book, but this IS the one place where I promise I will use paragraphs, organization, and long but shockingly coherent sentences to describe my reactions as a whole, outside the realm of two individual characters (though they are by no means excluded entirely).  If you only read one of my HP posts, this should be it, as this is the only one I guarantee to be well-rounded. 

Words of Warning: by full-length, I mean its final word count is approximately 7200; it would span approximately 12 pages printed out in its current format.  And I have edited the formerly 3 posts into one, because it occurred to me that probably no one other than myself is going to read it anyway, so I might as well have it in one spot.  After all, this is more for my benefit than yours, so that 20 years in the future when this whole series is old hat, I’ll still know exactly what my reactions were the first week after reading the conclusion.  It still bothers me that I never wrote a word about this series in my journal prior to Order of the Phoenixand even that was only a single handwritten page.

FYI: the categories are arranged by couples, characters, and/or major scenes or chapters in a way that is vaguely chronological, but in a way that probably only makes sense to me.  If it seems to jump around a lot, just go with it.

I will start off by admitting to what I've admitted before, that I basically skimmed the last hundred pages or so of the book because I was too stunned to the core by the deaths of Lupin and Tonks to care.  What I will add now, however, is that I regret to say that I cannot truly, objectively look at this book and tell you whether I liked or disliked it.  Before the book came out, some people speculated that if Harry were to die (*cough* and STAY dead!), it would mar the series as a whole; that knowing such an end was coming to the hero would devastate the masses and make them reluctant to read them over again.  I disagreed, but that's not the point. 

The point is, that's what Tonks and Lupin's deaths have done for me in Deathly Hallows.  It's a blight on the book, a dreadful and inescapable black mark that overshadows everything around it.  It all comes back to the fact that two bright characters, not exactly minor - and, to admit to fair bias, by far my favorites - were wiped out in a single bleak sentence.  While I know I cannot condemn the book as a whole for this event, because in the grand scheme of events the pair are a minor plot point, when it seeps like a spreading poison into every corner of my mind, neither can I say with any honesty that the book was a remarkable read.

We will come back to this later; for now, please allow me this choppy transition, the first of many, as I FORCE myself to temporarily put the couple out of my mind, and give you at least the illusion of an overall book review.  Also, my scholarly writing style is about to evaporate.  Rejoice as necessary.

General Overview
Half the time I was reading I felt like I was being slowly crushed by a lead weight.  The suspense was literally unrelenting, to the point where it became like trudging through mud.  For example, the whole time they were wandering, somewhat aimlessly, through the forest was torture on my nerves.  I kept waiting for something awful to befall them, while simultaneously wanting to agree with Ron, and wonder what the hell they were doing without a plan.  It dragged during the explanation of the Deathly Hallows too, and their time with Mr. Lovegood. 

Another basic, general point I want to address is how everyone "knew," going in that Rowling had promised to kill at least two major characters.  She also promised, in the same breath, that it was "not a bloodbath."  This. Was. A. Lie!   Yes, it's a war, but I wonder if even Tolkien was this brutal on his creations.  There is carnage almost literally from cover to cover as well-known characters fall left and right - over a dozen of them, the majority of which have a wrenching impact on the audience.  I mean, I doubt Crabbe evoked much sympathy, but surely there was a collective gasp as Hedwig fell dead in her cage before Harry had scarcely left Privet Drive.  (I, personally, was busy swearing.) Ms. Rowling established early on that she was going hardcore with this one. 

My favorite theory is that she rolled a cup of dice to see how many deaths she was going to write in, and then just went about filling her quota. 

This book is DARK (figuratively speaking) and HEAVY (both literally and figuratively) - almost makes the last two seem positively cheery by comparison.  Now, obviously, I didn't expect a story full of sunshine and daisies, because the wizarding world is at war.  But it began to reach the point where I started thinking that I would be very reluctant to allow this book into the hands of any child under 11.

She did achieve something that impressed me, however.  In earlier books, older characters have often mentioned the chaos Lord Voldemort created the first time he rose to power.  They described the climate of fear, the widespread destruction, the heavy losses...I thought I had formed a rather clear picture of it. 

Oh no, I had not.

Reading this book, I was THERE.  I could feel icy knots of fear spreading through me as Ron and Hermione ran from the Death Eaters in the Muggle restaurant, as we learned that merely to speak Voldemort's name was to invite swift disaster.  When the Ministry fell, so abruptly and so early, it shocked me as much as Dumbledore's death, though its reality sank in far more quickly.  It was as frightening as if I'd turned on the TV and learned that the U.S. borders had been invaded by foreign troops. The Ministry's often been portrayed as bungling, even corrupt where Voldemort's supporters were able infiltrate certain sections, but to be overtaken outright?  It can't be...yet it is.

I read about the new Ministry's objectives with the same kind of sickened horror usually reserved for reading the details of Nazi concentration camps.  Wizards forced to prove acceptable parentage, Muggle-borns being rounded up, tortured under demands to know how they "stole" magic...on more than one instance I actually felt a wave of nausea and had to stop reading.

And when Ted Tonks, Griphook and Dean Thomas were on the run, I felt even more acutely the aura of paranoia and fear for one's very life, equaled only by the chilling discussion of Hogwarts remaining open but transformed into an almost unrecognizable place.  Dark Arts as a course, lectures on the scum that are Muggles, and punishments designed to sharpen cruelty all sent quite a few unpleasant shivers down my back.  

I never disliked Umbridge - yes, she's a horrible person, but that's what makes her such a fascinating character to read about and why I think she's one of the better additions to the series.  In OotP, though, while she is quite revolting, when she's not having Harry slice his own hand open there's something almost comical about her maleficence.  You know you can count on the students, D.A. members and otherwise, to rebel against her decrees.  In DH, she goes to a whole new level of sinister, and it's not a laughing matter at all.  She goes right up to the Bellatrix level of terrifying when you consider the sheer scope of her power and authority for punishment, which she happily dispenses without hesitation or mercy.  Moody's magical eye, planted in her door like some sort of sick trophy, is a perfect symbol of this.

Flight from Privet Drive
This, I suppose, would be where the high suspense kicked in and didn't relent for several hundred pages.  The most relevant parts here are George losing his ear, and Mad Eye's death.  The bottom of my stomach dropped out when I read George's condition; and I think my exact words were "That is sick."  I don't know if I was directing those at the person who did it or the writer, to be honest.  But I was grateful for the moment between the brothers, as well as the subsequent levity of the "Ear, ear" jokes. 

Mad Eye's death, on the other hand, didn't really affect me.  If I had to choose a member of the Order to sacrifice, it would be him; I was never that interested in his character.  He was just the grizzled, paranoid, admittedly talented but too grouchy for my tastes old warrior, and in battle is where I might have expected him to fall. 

To put it flatly, I've been annoyed with Fleur's accent and fluttery manner since she appeared in GoF, I've never been very drawn to either of the eldest Weasley brothers, and I think weddings are boring in general, so I thought their wedding was little more than a massive waste of page space.  I wasn't all that excited about spending time at Shell Cottage later on, either.

I lost track of how many times he put his arm around her in this book.  Not that it prevented me from squealing any less loudly every time he did so.  The most gratifying scene for the two, though, was not their first kiss - that was nice enough, with a bit of that increasingly elusive thing called humor, but I was unamused that it was his bloody concern for the house elves that prompted Hermione to launch herself at him.  After all, it is my dearest ambition to pretend that no one has ever so much as mentioned S.P.E.W. 

As far as R/Hr scenes go, though, Hermione being tortured while Ron rages "half sobbing" in the cellar below, helplessly listening to her screams, takes the cake.  As a whole, I very much like how their relationship is portrayed in the final book, even the unpleasant bit where he ditches the group for a while, and am delighted that they ended up together with a happily ever after.  I always felt that this was the only appropriate outcome for the pair; they need each other.

It's no secret that I love this pairing, but I also never got the sense that Ginny was undeniably his soulmate, and if I was expecting Deathly Hallows to change my mind, I was sorely mistaken.  They get the shaft with their weird goodbye in the beginning, an extremely awkward kiss (in retrospect, it's rarely pleasant when Rowling tries to go into too many details of a particular romance), and Harry seems to think about Luna more than Ginny while he's out on his quest - even my mom wondered aloud which one was actually supposed to be his love interest.   Not even the fact that she's the last thing he thinks about before facing Voldemort really moved me.

I guess my expectation, prior to the book's release when I was still speculating wildly, was that around the halfway point, Ginny would start fighting alongside him, simultaneously claiming her role as a main character and his equal.  Instead, she is hampered by the restriction of being underage and a mother who vehemently enforces it, with the result that we lose sight of the character who was starting to grow into her own in OotP.  Pity.  And though she ends up with Harry when all is said is done, and it feels right in a mundane and comfortable way, I have to rely upon fanfic and my own imagination to see the sparks fly.  

Godric's Hollow
One of the richest details of the book, for me, is this expansion upon the tidbits we got before about when Voldemort came to call.  Just the aching description of the scene through the window, father and son playing, the whole family happy and peacefully unaware that in a minute's time they would be ripped apart...and then, after Lily's heartbreaking plea for her son's life, cue heartbreak: "The child had not cried all this time: He could stand, clutching the bars of his crib, and he looked up into the intruder's face with a kind of bright interest, perhaps thinking that it was his father who hid beneath the cloak, making more pretty lights..." *BAWL*  Well, not literally, but that came dangerously close to choking me up when I read it again this morning, and I suspect that at some point it will sink in enough to actually move me to tears. 

The bright spot in this chapter is that I cannot get choked up when Harry visits the graves, because I'm too busy being delighted that James Potter and I share the same birthday.

This gets its own section because the seven pages it's on contain about 50% of the humor in the entire book.  Good old Jordan Lee, and Fred of course, livening things up, and it was nice to have Lupin and Kingsley's reassuring voices on the program as well.  Wonderful, wonderful addition to the story.  I only wish there had been more episodes, because it was a suitable substitute for Quidditch. 

House Elves
Hearing the story of how Regulus Black retrieved the Horcrux locket was fascinating - and Kreacher became likable.  Amazing!  Less amazing - Dobby's death.  I've always been rather fond of the little elf, having found his unwavering devotion to Harry very touching, and the numerous times he's helped Harry with one thing or another have always made me smile.  Naturally, when the poor creature swayed on the spot with A FREAKING KNIFE sticking out of his chest, my eyes popped out of my head.  COLD, ROWLING.  VERY COLD. 

I wasn't particularly moved by the fact that Harry dug the grave by hand, perhaps because I was impatiently waiting to hear about Ron taking care of a recovering-from-torture Hermione (a scene out of which were utterly cheated), but the death alone was enough to rattle me.  Kreacher will never be as good as Dobby, no matter how helpful and considerate he becomes. 

Although the sight of him rallying the Hogwarts house elves was worth cheering; I love the idea of Death Eaters falling under a swarm of tiny little attackers.

The Malfoys
In an earlier book, someone (don't you love how detailed I am?) says that when Voldemort was first rising to power, a lot of people thought he had the right idea, about purebloods and such, but when they saw how far he was willing to go, they wanted to back out.  That, I feel, is a bit how the Malfoy family is.  In contrast to Bellatrix, who is plainly evil through and through, family takes a higher priority than Voldemort's absolute reign - the brief mention of Lucius and Narcissa racing through the battle at Hogwarts, doing nothing but searching for their son, was its own particular brand of poignant.  With that, they joined the ranks of my favorite characters. 

Hunt for Horcruxes/What Might Arguably Be Called "The Main Plot"
Oh, is that what was happening in those dreadfully long passages where it was nothing but Ron, Hermione and Harry tramping all over Britain?  I thought I liked the Trio well enough, but then again, they were usually surrounded by other classmates, teachers, or at least a pack of Weasleys.  Having just those three in the picture seemed to be a big part of what contributed to my flagging interest as I read along.  I've never been a fan of "quest" stories; my favorite part of this series has always been the central focus on Hogwarts school and their lessons there.  This is why I found Half Blood Prince less than compelling, and it's worse here when they're not at school at all.  The Gringotts scene was particularly excruciating in its slowness; I actually started flipping pages in boredom. 

Somewhere along the way the Deathly Hallows portion of the plot was thrown in, and that just confused me.  I decided I didn't care enough to wonder why they were suddenly attempting two quests at the same time, or why the three things from the fairy tale were important in the first place.    

As for the destruction of the Horcruxes...getting rid of the locket was a relief only because I was sick of the One Ring parallels; the second one was little better. I don’t even remember what it was.  The diadem was a lot more interesting; I loved finally getting some story out of the Grey Lady, who has now become my favorite ghost.  However, Neville chopping Nagini's head off just made me feel sorry for the poor abused snake, who didn't have any choice in the matter.  That, and I'd grown rather fond of her over the past few books.  It was her master that was evil, not her.  I'm sure Nagini would have been happy to lead a life fed on rats.  As for Harry…ugh, that’s its own special mess, reserved for later.

The Tale of Darkpast!Dumbledore
To be honest, I had very little patience for this subplot, and whipped past most of it, with the result that I'm not entirely sure which part of it was as bad as speculated.  As I understood it, his little sister was perfectly fine until three Muggle boys attacked her, after which she never recovered.  Is my brain supposed to be going to that Really Dark Place, given that whatever they did obviously wasn't any kind of hex, jinx or curse?  Because it is.   Anyway...after their mother died, brilliant Albus Dumbledore wanted to go travel the world with his crazy pal, looking for ways to master death, only he had to take care of his siblings, which left him bitter and resentful.  "Two months of insanity, of cruel dreams, and neglect of the only two members of my family left to me."  Sulky and resentful, he and Grindelwald got into an argument with Aberforth, "And Ariana...after all my mother's care and caution...lay dead upon the floor." 

Oh.  Is that all? He *may* have *accidentally* killed his sister when he was a youth, that's what Dumbledore's been haunted by all these years?  That and his foolish, youthful desire - which, I notice, he managed to curb - to master death?  Oh, for goodness sakes.  I do appreciate finally  knowing what he would have seen in the Mirror of Erised, as well as why he put the cursed ring on, but I can't see any of this as utterly damning.  Nor does this revelation of his internal, human struggle lessen my previous awe of him as a wizard above wizards, with an inherent sense of right.  Not even the letter he wrote at 17* endorsing the idea of wizard dominance "for the Muggles' own good" bothers me.  On the contrary, as long as he's stressing responsibility, he sounds rather sensible.  I'm sure that an attempt to put this into practice would fail as miserably as Communism - which, incidentally, also sounds sensible on paper - but I can't fault him for the idea, especially given that the widespread idea of tolerance seems to have come as slowly to the wizarding world as it did in ours.

(* = I'm getting tired of Harry judging people for things they said and did as teenagers just because he, at the same age, wouldn't have done them.  Did it ever occur to Harry that perhaps the life he's led has forced him to mature more quickly than other people?)

The Battle of Hogwarts, Part I
This comes in two parts, you see.  There's the time Before, and the time After.  You get exactly one guess as to what the dividing line might be. 

In the time Before, I think it's the best action sequence of the book.  Even though they're there to fight, coming back to Hogwarts with all its familiar faces, students and professors alike, is a relief - we're coming home.  At last we get to roam through the halls we know, plagued though they are with people like the Carrows, and the whole affair is a heart-pounding, exciting page-turner.  Percy's back, bringing with him a thrill of hope.  Good Trio vs. Evil Trio in the Room of Requirement is nearly on par with Voledmort vs. Dumbledore, and you have to love Ron screaming, "IF WE DIE FOR THEM, I'LL KILL YOU, HARRY!"  Percy even gets to joke, and then the world explodes.  Literally and figuratively.  "Fred's eyes stared without seeing, the ghost of his last laugh etched upon his face." 

The bottom of my stomach dropped out upon seeing those final words of the chapter.  It's one of the worst possible scenarios, wrenching one twin apart from the other, and that loss alone would have been enough to cast a numb horror over the battle.  If it were that loss alone, I'd be deeply unhappy, but as with Sirius' death, I would have to agree that it was extremely well-done, capitalizing on emotional rift and probably convincing me to cry. 

Meanwhile, I love that even while we're trying to come to terms with the shock, the action is still happening - in addition to a fantastic glimpse of the duels, including everything from massive spiders to Trelawney chucking crystal balls, we have to move on to the Elder Wand, and Snape's demise.  We're on our way to what promises to be a fascinating exploration of Snape's memories when The Line comes down. 

I'll expand more upon this in the next section, but suffice to say you can almost see the parody lines waiting to be written -

(insert description of poignant Weasley family mourning scene)
J.K. Rowling: Oh yeah, and by the way Lupin and Tonks are dead. So, moving on --
Readers: WAIT, WHAT?

Lupin & Tonks *plonks Fangirl hat back on - complete with no fewer than three links to supplementary material*
Um, this is going to take a while.  We're gonna go waaaay back to the first chapter and recap from the beginning.

I was deliriously happy to read they'd gotten married, although it quickly became frustrating to read of the former's unrest while Tonks beamed beside him, "radiant" and seemingly oblivious.  It worried me; I didn't know if that meant Remus was simply doing a good job hiding his reservations from her, or if she was just so happy to be with him that she didn't notice.  The latter did not bode well for defending the validity of their relationship against all the people who prefer to attack it. 

Still, it was better than nothing.  For example, into my vault of treasured lines, "Remus!" Tonks cried as she staggered off the broom into his arms.  His face was set and white. I gave a little skip when I read that, because my secret wish for an R/T scene in this book was "a reunion embrace after a narrow escape."  At this point, see, I was still ignoring those ominous signs about the state of their relationship, refusing to get my panties in a twist until I had something better than Harry's interpretation to go on.  After all, this is the boy who once convinced me Tonks had fallen in love with Sirius.

And then.  AND THEN.  In blew Remus Lupin to Grimmauld Place, eager to join the Trio on their mysterious quest from Dumbledore with nary a thought for his pregnant (!) wife.  I nearly lost it at that point, and may have actually punched the book (my sources can neither confirm nor deny).  Why?  Because my thoughts jumped straight to Tom Riddle and Merope, and being able to make a comparison between that story and Remus, however minor, is absolutely revolting.  Come to think of it, no matter how many times I read these few pages, the idea of Lupin, heretofore portrayed as so kind, patient and caring, abandoning Tonks and their pending baby never stops being horrible.  Part of me knows that in his self-deprecating way he’s trying to protect them, and wants to sympathize with his clear anguish and fear, his almost desperate attempt to convince them that he’s doing the honorable thing, but the other part just wants to tell him to suck it up and stop giving in to the idea that being a werewolf dooms him to spread misery and discord simply by existing.  It is not kinder to leave Tonks to raise a child by herself. 

Which is why Harry is my hero for saying things like, "No, I’m pretty sure my father would have wanted to know why you’re not sticking by your own kid, actually.”  Even though my initial reaction was to cringe as Harry's snide remarks became more and more cutting, and I wasn't surprised when Lupin finally got incensed enough to blast the impudent teenager off his feet, I can't say I actually thought Harry was out of line.  His former professor was quite in need of a verbal slapping, and I could only hope it worked.  (By the way, this essay subsequently alleviated a lot of my anxiety about that scene.)

Potterwatch was a huge source of relief - although it broke my heart to hear of Ted Tonks' death, it was worth it to know that Remus was back with his wife.  Once he got his head on straight, I’m sure he was perfectly lovely and devoted to her.  That's what I was imagining when I started testing out my "what if?" scenarios, prior to the book’s release, of Tonks being pregnant at such a dangerous time.  Which brings me to another quote for the treasure chest:

“Yes – yes – a boy,” said Lupin again, who seemed dazed by his own happiness.  I could read this line a thousand times and never tire of it.  Whatever issues there were in the beginning - which I fully expect fanfic to explore and exhaust until there aren't any mysteries left - are gone; this sort of happiness is what I've been waiting for.  I can hardly recognize Lupin for his babbling, and it makes me want to giggle alongside.  I knew he'd be a wonderful father if he just let himself embrace the thought.  Pity he doesn’t get to do so for long.

The last we see of them, Lupin has already disappeared into the battle and Tonks is desperately running through Hogwarts, trying to find him.  Next thing you know, we’re confronted with this bleak, blank horror of a paragraph:
The dead lay in a row in the middle of the Hall. … As Ginny and Hermione moved closer to the rest of the family, Harry had a clear view of the bodies lying next to Fred: Remus and Tonks, pale and still and peaceful-looking, apparently asleep beneath the dark, enchanted ceiling.

That’s it.  Two full-fledged Order members, and Lupin a professor before that, they’ve played rather large roles in the series and are clearly powerful, talented duelists, yet they are written off without ceremony, just two more dead in a sea of bodies.  And that, I think, is what bothers me more than the fact that they died at all – it’s that they died without meaning.  Sure, they were part of the “greater cause,” but that doesn’t mean they had to die in obscurity.  War isn’t fair, but this is war in fiction, and their characters were too important to be relegated to background deaths.

Not to mention that it simply feels tacked-on, in a time when the magnitude of Fred’s death really ought to be our only focus.  When Sirius died, we didn’t go back to Dumbledore’s office and hear that Luna and Kingsley had been found dead in the fray as well, did we?  On Dumbledore’s turn, we had Bill and McGonagall in the hospital, but nothing more.  All I can fathom is that Rowling didn’t think Fred was as central a figure as the other two, and thought she needed multiple deaths to achieve the same emotional punch.  Key word, “thought.”  We ended up with, excuse the term, overkill.  I do take small comfort in the fact that at least they’ll be together in death (if only one had survived, that would have been unbearable), but I wish they hadn’t left a baby behind.   

Speaking of which, I found it particularly irksome when Harry got a last glimpse of Lupin’s spirit (more on this part later), and we were supposed to be perfectly content with the idea that he’d died trying to make the world a safer place for his son.  Oh, well, fine then.  Harry’s parents more or less did that too.  And as we’ve plainly seen, Harry was never miserable about not having known his parents.  Nope, never ever.  I can’t imagine why you think I’m being sarcastic. 

There is a quote from a particularly well done fanfic, written about Teddy several years in the future, where he calls Harry out on this -- "You found out that your father died trying to give your mother time, and your mother died to protect you. And that when they sacrificed themselves, everything ended for ten years! ... Mine, on the other hand, didn't accomplish anything. Even the people who killed them didn't notice they were dead! They didn't save anyone, they didn't stop anything. They didn't die for anything, they just went out there and died."  And that just about sums up my feelings. 

However, to end this section on a positive note, I’ve now decided it’s not only recommended but absolutely imperative to your Deathly Hallows experience to read "No More" if you want closure on their storyline.

Oh, FINE, you win.  I was quite invested in Snape being evil, and turned a deaf ear to the internet's speculation that he might have AK'ed our dear headmaster on said headmaster's orders.  I loathed him beyond measure for killing Dumbledore, and wanted nothing more than to see Harry kill him.  I settled for a massive snake bite/bleeding to death, but was oddly unmoved by it actually happening.  I think subconsciously I had been expecting him to die, just as I had subconsciously accepted that the internet was probably right about his inherent goodness. 

What I had not accepted, however, was the internet's crackpot theory that Snape loved Lily, and I vehemently dismissed it as nothing more than peoples' love of Alan Rickman and a subsequent desire to pair Snape up with whomever they found most appealing, zeroing in on Lily just because she defended him once.  Until I read chapter 33, "The Prince's Tale."
After that, because I too have a particular love of Alan Rickman, I found Snape's story of unrequited childhood love utterly poignant, and for the first time I ever, I actually felt a surge of sympathy, understanding, even liking for ole Severus.  Particularly when he does things like cry over letters written by Lily, falls to pieces when his best attempts at protecting her fail, and even more impressively, looks horrified at the idea of sending her son - the same kid he's been taunting and punishing for the last six years, mind - deliberately to his death after protecting him all his life.  (Incidentally, I was far less horrified by this thought, and thought the "pig to slaughter" description unnecessarily crude.  Martyrdom's a perfectly noble cause for such a hero, especially one who has steadily lost so many of the people closest to him, thereby severing one by one his ties to earth.)

Anyway, the more I ponder over this chapter, the more I think it is one of the best parts of the book.  I am utterly intrigued by this new and complex twist to Snape’s character; the fact that he never stopped caring about her, even after her death, tugs on the heartstrings.  And his dying request being for Harry to look at him, presumably to see Lily's eyes one last time = *wibble*

The Battle of Hogwarts, Part II
Remember how several pages ago, we were talking about The Line between Before and After?  Good-good.  In the time After, despite a momentary interest in Snape's memories, I lost all interest in the battle.  I glossed right over Harry's March to Death, his wacky spirit trip, and the rest of the battle with nothing more than the increasingly cranky feeling that my head had just exploded from attempting to make sense of how Harry managed to be dead one minute and alive the next.  The only thing that did snap me out of my daze in the whole section was the shock of seeing "YOU BITCH!" in capital letters in the pages of my children's book.  I'm not sure why that shocked me, given how adult the rest of the book had been, but Rowling's always been so guarded about strong language that I felt I ought to give that part my full attention. 

I didn't like the fact that Molly killed Bellatrix just for attempting to AK Ginny.  I desperately wanted Tonks to take her down, payback for both Sirius and two attempts on her own life, but when that didn't happen I wanted Neville to get revenge for his parents, and if that wasn't going to happen then my third choice would have been Ron, which would have been perfectly understandable after what she did to Hermione.  But no, Molly - who's never before been featured in the duels - gets to wipe out the most evil witch in the series.  Odd.  You'd think she'd be more suited for going after the massive snake that almost killed her husband. 

And that was all I reacted to from there to the epilogue.  However, for the sake of this review, I reread the last hundred pages today, in order to complete my well-rounded review. 

Harry's March to Death
So, Harry is a Horcrux.  I was on this one from the beginning, and it was about the only one of my predictions to come true.  It was the perfect set-up for Harry’s death, and as he realized what he had to do, I was gradually getting into a better mood, because it was the perfect explanation.  One of my all-time favorite lines is The dead who walked beside him through the forest were much more real to him now than the living back at the castle: Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and all the others were the ones who felt like ghosts as he stumbled and slipped toward the end of his life.  I had begun to feel that way by the end of book 6, that his end was inevitable, that he was already slipping away from his life of the past six years, ready for the final duel and the crossing over. 

I have to admit that I liked him being reunited with the spirits, or whatever they were, of his parents and Sirius.  I forgot how much I missed Sirius and his sense of humor, and anything involving Harry’s parents is beautifully bittersweet.  I like the thought of them giving him courage.  But did Lupin need to be there?  He was close to Harry, but there was no familial connection.  It’s not even really a sense of the Marauders reuniting, since they’re already down by 1, and James and Sirius were the inseparable ones.  Yes, I like that he’s back with his friends, but it would have been more appropriate had that happened in book 6 – at this point in time, after marriage and a child, his place should be with his family.  There would have plenty of time to rejoin his friends a few decades into the future.

God, I really can’t let this go.  Okay, back to discussion of Harry.  I’m glad he doesn’t say goodbye to anyone, only tells Neville to make sure the snake gets killed.  It would have been overly saccharine if he’d had long, drawn-out, tearful goodbyes.  They didn’t have time for goodbyes, anyway, there was a battle to end all battles going on.  So he makes his journey alone, as it was always meant to be in the end.  Even the first time I read it, I was dimly aware that this was precisely how I hoped things would turn out.

And then I realized there were still over 30 pages left, and there was no way Rowling was going to use a different narrator for that much time.  The Perfect End was about to go south. 

Harry's Return
Did I read that right?  Harry Potter didn’t just live, he…came back to life?  Oh no, I see - he never really died, just the bit of Voldemort sealed within him?  This does not at all explain why he became suddenly impervious to the Cruciatus Curse, and what it does ultimately do is set Harry up as a Christ figure, which leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  Can't Harry just be a regular hero?  I think it's impressive enough that he fought off Evil Incarnate between the ages of 11 and 17, without going over the top and making him a savior (and he was a savior, if power of his sacrifice protected everyone fighting in the castle.  Gee, that sounds familiar.  Of course, this makes Dumbledore the metaphorical God figure, knowingly sending him to sacrifice, which contradicts all the work Rowling did trying to make him human.  Now my head hurts from this complex and probably faulty-on-my-part reasoning).

I had expected them to die in a final duel, with Harry getting off the last shot just as Voldemort fires his, with both curses landing their marks (passing one another in mid-air, rather than that silly wand connection in Goblet of Fire).  I figured that left the epilogue free for an omniscient perspective, as epilogues often do. 

However, I think that if I wasn’t still reeling from the aforementioned black stain on my happiness, the final showdown between Voldemort and Harry would still have seemed really cool.  I wanted to cheer him on as he taunted Voldemort, as he calmly explained why he would emerge triumphant (which is weirdly reminiscent of how Voldemort toyed with him, come to think of it), and there was something like relief in the fact that Voldemort brought about his own end rather than Harry uttering a murderous curse…but no matter how many times I go over it, there’s a sting of bitterness about those last two unnecessary sacrifices.  Everyone after them got saved, everyone else was free to rally around Harry’s championing of evil…

Then that part of the book is abruptly over, too abruptly given that Harry is still alive.  It spans only a few pages after Voldemort’s death, and then goes straight to epilogue, leaving me with the feeling that a concluding chapter went missing along the way.  I expected there to be room for Harry to reflect, to go back and talk to people, to describe what arrangements were made in the aftermath of so many chapters of chaos.  Instead, Harry just decides to have one abbreviated chat with Dumbledore’s portrait, Ron and Hermione in tow, and then have a sandwich and go to sleep.  Wow. 

The Epilogue
I will not say it read like a fanfic ending, because that was not my first impression and anyway, I’m sick of everyone saying it.  But I *will* say that it ended like a sitcom series finale – everyone ends up with the people you always expected them to, and it often bows out on a baby.  (*cough* Or ten.)  I’m actually okay with that aspect, if only because it stamps down canon that nobody can argue with, and when it’s the canon I would have imagined anyway, this makes me feel vindicated.  (And also tempted to quote Nelson Munce, “Ha-ha!”)

But in light of the fact that Harry’s story ended in Gryffindor tower on the same night of Voldemort’s defeat, the epilogue should have been broader, and more generalized, to explain how the wizarding world recovered.  How did they build the Ministry back up?  How long did it take the climate of fear and persecution to subside?  What kinds of things changed as a result of it?  (Anything interesting happen with elf/other creature rights, for example?)  How did Harry get over that ordeal without being totally, completely mentally f***ed up?  How did Ron and Hermione fare?  And please, what about George?  I expect fanfic to fill this gap, and fill it well, but it’s such a tall order that I wish we’d had a foundation to base such fic off of.  As far as laying down relationship canon, that could have been accomplished with a mere listing of which couples had which children.  That’s really all she wrote anyway, with unnecessary embellishments.

I don’t see the point or purpose to narrowing the epilogue to a single, detailed scene in Harry’s life because we don’t know these characters.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to get a sense of who these children are in a single chapter, with the result that it ends up feeling like we’ve stepped back in time rather than forward.  Albus Potter worriedly asking Harry about being sorted into Slytherin is less a nod to than a straight repetition of Harry belatedly voicing his own doubts to Albus Dumbledore.  And to be honest, can you even imagine Harry et al suddenly being in their late 30’s?  I can’t.  I just see 17-year-old Harry speaking to a child – I cannot picture him as a parent.  Ron and Hermione were a bit better; I’ve always seen their potential to be the next generation Arthur and Molly and between Ron’s jokes and Hermione’s light scolding that was underscored.  But details like Teddy snogging Victoire, or Al teasing James about thestrals, failed to make an impact on me. 

Besides which – good Lord, the names.  There’s something squicky about naming your son and daughter after your parents, and why, why, why would you call your kid “Scorpius”?  Even Victoire, while lovely in theory, ends up sounding like a guy’s name when you say it aloud. 

When All Is Said and Done
Now that I’ve spent 48 hours forcing myself to think through every aspect of the book, read about sixty different blog reviews, and rustled up enough calming fanfic and essays to take the edge off the sting of the worst bits, I’m in a better position to decide what I think of Rowling’s final effort.  And the answer is…I think it’s okay.  Compared to the general world of books, it’s a high quality piece of writing, but within the context of the series, it’s merely okay.   

I was really counting on the final book being the best.  I’m sure plenty of people think it is, but to be honest, I would rank it smack-dab in the middle of the pack.  OotP remains my favorite, followed by PoA, SS, and then DH.  There were some very good bits in this installment, but there were plenty of disappointments to counterbalance them, with the result that its net score came out feeling average.

Nearly every article published about the release of Deathly Hallows has made sure to mention the sorrow that comes with “the end of an era,” which I really don’t understand.  Why should I be sad about no longer having to wait years to know what happens next, about worrying who else will die?  What I feel, now that the last book is out, is only a sense of completion.  The last veil has been lifted; we are finally free to view the work of art as a whole, from start to finish without restrictions.  It’s a beautiful thing, and in that at least, I am satisfied. 

Now let the sorely needed missing-scene fic begin!  Er...continue. 

Tags: epic post, harry potter

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