Let's get this out of the way.
I finished the last Harry Potter book last night and had a few thoughts to pass along. Spoilers are ahead, so if you haven't finished the book yet or don't want to know what happened or simply don't care, just skip this post and be thankful you lead a healthy, normal life. For the rest of you who have read the book, don't care or wish to mock me, here's what I think.
The book was interesting and for the most part entertaining. Claire noticed me reading it over the past couple days and was intrigued that was I was reading Harry Potter. So I dug out the first book and handed it to her to read. Doing it, I noticed that it's been almost eight years since I read the first book and that Becky and I finished it in three days.
That was a long time ago. Eight years later I'm not quite as enamored with the books as I used to be. Around book five Harry became this grouchy, selfish and almost painfully unsympathetic character and stayed that way until about the last fourth of book seven. It got to be a real drag.
I wanted to finish the series, even as I enjoyed it less, because I was so intrigued by those first books, interested to know how it would all resolve, curious to know just how Harry had survived as a baby and how he would turn into this wunderkind wizard.
And now I know. And I'm kind of ambivalent about the whole thing.
At the same time, I've got to give credit to J.K. Rowling. She kept her characters human, obnoxiously at times. I remember reading all the Tom Clancy novels in high school and being left with the sense that Jack Ryan was this unbelievable, infallible hero who could never really make a mistake and always knew what do. By the time Clancy made him president, you realized that the author had slipped deep into hero-worship never to return. Jack Ryan became a god among men and a bad cliche.
Mercifully, Rowling never falls into this trap. In fact, most of the time, she took it to the other extreme. Harry was always in a bad mood. At times, he was woefully unsympathetic. He was mean, self-obsessed and fixated on his parents. There were times over the past three books that I'd wished he'd just get killed so he'd shut up and stop whining about himself and his his parents and focus on something or someone besides Harry Potter.
Rowling kept that up for a good portion of book seven. Luckily, Harry finally matures and becomes less annoying. In fact, the book's finale, when Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts to make their last stand was really, really good. Finally, the potential of the entire series comes to fruition and you see all the characters grow into who you wanted them to be.
Neville's my new favorite. He was Harry's mirror image for much of the series -- weak, goofy and unsure, but his parents destroyed by Voldemort all the same. But he came into his own at the end of "Deathly Hallows" and in a way was more Harry Potter than Harry.
Snape's big reveal was also really satisfying. Of all the characters in the series, this is the one Rowling gets right. She never went straight melodrama with him and made him substantially three-dimensional. It made his death that much more tragic. Fred died, which bummed me out and so did Mad-Eye, Lupin and Tonks. Those all felt kind of ancillary.
The one character I kept hoping would die, however, never did. Hagrid survived. There was a brief moment at the beginning of the book where it looked like he might have bought it and then another scene near the end. But no, he's left to annoy and distract for generations to come. I would have gladly traded his death for Fred's.
There was a lot of whimsy in the first books that was gone by the seventh. And I suppose that's understandable. The books get progressively darker as the characters mature and face more dangers. That being said, I wonder if the writing became more of a chore for Rowling as she went on and less of an enjoyment as it clearly had been in the beginning.
Book seven also alludes heavily to a Nazi-controlled Europe, with Mudbloods standing in for Jews and Death Eaters for the Gestapo. The whole quest for Horcruxes and then the subplot to collect the Deathly Hallows felt almost Dan Brown-ish. We've got secret societies, powerful talismans and a centuries-old conspiracy to keep them hidden. It didn't do much for me.
That being said, the book was gripping overall. Rowling wasn't afraid to put her characters in real peril and as a result "Deathly Hallows" was a true page-turner. And excluding the misguided epilogue, it ended smartly and satisfyingly.
Except for the fact that Hagrid didn't die. That would have made it completely satisfying.
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