I’m gonna talk about this book now, and I’m gonna mention stuff that happened in it. Per my own rules, I will now give everyone who has not yet read it time to leave the room.
Are they gone?
Ho. Ly. Crap. I finished it last night at about 1:30. My mind is still blown. I don’t remember the last time I felt such satisfaction at the conclusion of an epic series like this. Probably not since Return of the Jedi have I come away from something with the profound sense that I had an Experience with a Capital “E.” Reading this book, I was part of something bigger than myself.
Speaking of Star Wars, Voldemort is a villain on par with Empire Strikes Back-era Darth Vader. I dare you to come up with a fantasy villain who managed to be as terrifying. It’s such a popular conceit in current fiction to have the villain be a master manipulator/man-behind-the-curtain type of character, who, once his facade is discovered, reveals himself to be a sniveling weakling. But with Voldemort, like Vader before him, I felt a genuine concern for the safety of any character that shared scene-time with him — even the other bad guys. When Harry, Ron and Hermione escaped from the Malfoys’ house, I actually winced at the thought of what would happen to Bellatrix and the others. I mean, this is Bellatrix we’re talking about here. If she’d gotten hit by a bus I’d have cheered, but I cringed at the thought of what the Big V would do when he found out she’d lost his prize.
And speaking of Bellatrix, how cool was that throw-down at the end with Molly Weasley? Ol’ Molly went all Sigourney Weaver at then end of Aliens on her ass! The nerd in me thoroughly enjoyed all of the major players having their own special moments toward the end. Neville Longbottom killing Nagini? Too awesome.
I’m proud to say that I totally called it about how Snape’s actions were all part of Dumbledore’s greater scheme, but the chapter in which Harry observed his memories through the Pensieve still rocked my world. The story of Severus and Lily, even told in the short movie-trailer-style snippets, was about the saddest thing ever. Someday soon I’m going to sit down and re-read the whole series from the beginning, and I think that Snape will be the character most altered by my knowledge of what happens next.
One has to admire, I think, the finality that death has in this series. Even in The Lord of the Rings Gandalf comes back. He couldn’t go half a book without coming back to life. In the Star Wars series Obi Wan Kenobi kept showing up, glowing in the dark. But here, the dead stay dead. Even at the end, when Harry used the Resurrection Stone, the figures who appeared barely even said anything. Besides, they weren’t there to keep him company; they were their to make his journey to their side of the veil a little easier. And Harry had to die himself (or close to it) for that last conversation with Dumbledore. I had assumed, going in, that when Harry got stuck he’d just find a way to talk to Dumbledore’s portrait, and it would be like the old man had never left. But Rowling avoided that route, I think wisely. It made the characters’ sacrifices that much more significant.
Also, if nothing else about the series marked it as British, having the nebulous space between Life and Death represented by the train station at King’s Cross pretty much settles it.
Scenes I cannot wait to see in the movie: The Death Eaters ambushing the Order of the Phoenix in the air as they try to sneak Harry to a safe house; the duel between Professor McGonagall and Snape; Nagini jumping out of Bathilda Bagshot’s body (if they do it right, the MPAA is gonna shit themselves); and pretty much the whole Battle of Hogwarts.
And as much as I enjoyed all the action sequences, I still had room to love the warm and fuzzy bits too. I didn’t really know what to make of Harry and Ginny Weasley’s relationship after reading Half-Blood Prince, but there was no denying their connection this time around. And while everyone was hoping Ron and Hermione would hook up, or at least saw it coming from three or four books back, when she finally jumps him in the Room of Requirement I had to give a little cheer, followed by a good laugh at Harry’s reaction. And seriously, if Snape’s story doesn’t bring a little tear to your eye then you are underdeveloped in the soul area.
I have one minor complaint, and that was with the resolution of the Malfoys’ plotline. I have no problem with Lucius and Narcissa choosing their son over their allegiance to Voldemort. However Rowling gave the moment to Narcissa, when she whispers to Harry and then announces that he is dead when she knows he is not. It should have been Lucius. He was the one we met first, and the one whose arc we wanted to follow.
I hope there are no more novels about Harry Potter. Twenty years from now, if she really, really wants to, I suppose J.K. could crank out a story about those kids we met in the epilogue. Or better yet, their grandkids. But preferably not. That said, I do think there is room for other stories told in the Harry Potter universe. On Rowling’s website one of the FAQs involves the lack of American characters in her stories. Her response basically said go ahead and write our own. I find myself wondering whether or not there is an American equivalent to the Ministry of Magic, or where American wizards learn their craft. There’s a really great opportunity here, and Rowling practically dared is to take advantage of it.
The last seven-book arc I completed was Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. The last chapter of that story was one of the biggest letdowns in my reading history. J.K. Rowling, however, stepped up and showed everyone how it should be done. Some might complain that everything wrapped up a little too neatly in the end, but frankly that’s how I want my Harry Potter. Gift-wrapped.
Next, we’ll have to see how George R.R. Martin does with his A Song of Ice and Fire series, also slated for seven books. If he can keep his conclusion as murky and open-ended as Rowling’s was neat and clean, then all will be right with the world.
Oh, and that epilogue. I freakin’ loved it. I wanna give Albus Severus noogies.
I wholeheartedly give this book a “Ho. Ly. Crap.” review as well!
A couple of things:
– I’ve always loved Rowling’s subtleties. For example, not only was Neville killing Nagini awesome, but if you think about it carefully, Voldemort had put the Sorting Hat on his head and set it on fire. Neville was wearing the Sorting Hat! He then did what Harry did in Book 2 – he pulled the sword of Godric Gryffindor out of it (remember that we last saw the sword being carried off by a goblin), which Dumbledore has told us “only a true Gryffindor could have done.” We knew that Neville had come into his own, but here is proof beyond all doubt. I love shit like that!
– I totally agree with you that the Malfoys were mishandled. She spent the last three books dropping ominous warnings that unless the four Houses stick together, they will never defeat Voldemort, but then the Slytherins wander off to Hogsmeade after trying to turn Harry over. Yes, Slughorn comes back with the cavalry at the end, but it’s hardly a huge stroke. And Draco gets saved twice? Come on! I was so excited when he lied for them at the manor. He should have a) saved Hermione (or been saved by her instead of Harry) and had a change of heart about Mudbloods, b) given the Elder Wand to Harry, enabling him to defeat Voldemort, or c) had to duel Voldemort himself because the wand had attached itself to him when he disarmed Dumbledore. ANY of those would have been more satisfying. Sigh.
– Scenes I’m looking forward to in the movie: riding the dragon out of Gringotts, and Grawp wrestling the other giants during the final battle. It’s like she wrote it to be impossible to film!
Gotta run, but let’s chat about this soon!!