Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Harry Potter #7
Bloomsbury/Raincoast Books 2007
Children’s Fantasy; YA Fantasy
This review contains spoilers.
I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t read my review from 2007, when the book first came out, until after I’d published this one. I want to see how they compare – what thoughts/reactions etc. had changed, if any, and any additional insights – but it does make me nervous, because I reckon my first review will prove to be much better written – and what if I seem dumber this time around? I find I get a bit muddled from watching the films, too, in that after watching them I can’t remember if bits were in the book or the film and vice versa. Oh well. Really must stop over-thinking things!
The final Harry Potter book always looks too short to me, like, how could everything possibly be wrapped up in a book that’s not as long as The Order of the Phoenix, when there’s still so much to do?! I felt that the first time, and I felt that again. But once again I admire Rowling’s skill in crafting a tremendous story and a powerful ending for what is to me one of the best fantasy series out there.
There’s a lot going on in this novel, but it’s nicely balanced with quieter, slower parts and you really get that last chance to really know Harry, Ron and Hermione. Rowling never lets plot overpower her characters or her story, and she won’t be rushed: the pacing is steady and consistent throughout, which only adds to the tension-filled scenes where you start biting your nails.
This is a book that makes me cry, and I’ll tell you why – in a bit. I wondered how I could share all the things I love about this particular book, and figured listing them was probably the best option.
- Hedwig dying. I had completely forgotten, and it’s so, so sad. I like how they did it for the movie, giving her a role and using her as a visual means of identifying Harry, since in the book it’s more complicated.
- Hermione erasing her existence – removing knowledge and memory of herself from her parents’ minds and sending them off to Australia under new identities so that they aren’t a target. There is something incredibly tragic about this, though it doesn’t get much attention. I can’t imagine the kind of strength and resolve it would take to do that, though the realities of the world would probably help give you the resolve.
- Kreacher becoming an ally. And all for an act of genuine kindness (Harry gives him “Master Regulus'” locket after hearing his story). And what he was made to do for Voldemort. Nothing, not even Kreacher, is black and white, and that’s an important lesson to learn. He betrayed Sirius at the end of The Order of the Phoenix, but when you learn more about him, you realise it’s not a simple matter at all.
- Dobby’s death. He was such a brave, selfless elf, and as characters, he and Kreacher really brought into sharp relief the whole issue of house elves and their mistreatment.
- The mortality of the Weasley’s. Until this book, they always struck me as one of those solid features who come close to utter tragedy but always manage to avoid it, like with Arthur getting attacked by the snake. Here, though, George loses an ear and, at the end, Fred is killed. Fred’s death is one of the saddest things for me.
- Likewise, Lupin and Tonks’ deaths at the final battle – I remember reading that the first time and feeling that sense of utter disbelief. I felt it again here, like someone had surely made a mistake, especially when Harry sees their bodies next to Fred and their described as sleeping. But with a newborn left behind, and the fact that Lupin only recently found the first real happiness he’s ever known – to have that cut short, it makes me want to cry just typing this. The deaths of these characters had a much bigger impact on me than the death of Dumbledore – as big a surprise as that was on first reading – at the end of The Half-Blood Prince. In a way, Dumbledore had to go so that Harry could come into his own. But these characters, their deaths are so needless, and they were too young and left too much behind.
- Snape’s love for Lily. I knew there was a good reason why we forgave Snape at the end, but I was glad I couldn’t remember exactly what it was. Snape is another complex character, who shows that it’s not a simple matter of right or wrong, good or evil. He’s not someone to be judged at face value or first impressions, though obviously that’s what everyone has been doing all his life. It’s not even pity that I felt for him, but empathy at losing the woman he loved and sacrificing everything in memory of her. He never stopped loving her. Timeless love. No wonder Dumbledore trusted him implicitly: he understood the power of such emotions and never dismissed them as insignificant.
- The truth about Dumbledore’s past, and his sister Ariana. So sad. I haven’t seen the second half of the movie version yet but I hope they include these details.
- Harry walking to his impending death, supported by the ghosts of his parents, Sirius and Lupin. I cried when James and Lily and Cedric appeared at the end of The Goblet of Fire, and they had no less power here, bolstering their son and being there so he wasn’t alone as he went to Voldemort, knowing he was going to be killed – and not knowing that he would survive it.
- The dragon kept imprisoned in Gringott’s Bank. I felt so bad for the poor tortured beast, and so happy when they freed it.
- Xenophilius Lovegood. The position he was in, having his daughter taken away and used as a threat against him, to betray his beliefs (i.e., in Harry as the Chosen One).
- Petunia Dursley, Harry’s aunt, is a sad figure in her own right. It becomes clear in this book why she was so anti-magic: she was jealous of her sister Lily’s ability. The scene where Lily mentions that Petunia wrote to Dumbledore, asking to be let into Hogwarts, and Petunia’s feelings of embarrassment and shame and longing, of feeling excluded – you can’t help but feel for the little girl who grew into a resentful woman in denial.
There’s lots of happy things here too, like Fleur and Bill Weasley’s wedding and Ron and Hermione finally getting together, as well as great mini-adventures that all lead up to the final show-down. The plan to get into the Ministry of Magic, and later the Gringott’s Bank break-in, for example, were really fun and exciting and scary. And one of my favourite scenes is the Neville Longbottom snake-killing scene – really, I just love all the Neville scenes but that one in particular really stuck in my head all the intervening years since first reading it.
And underlying it all is this Hitler-like race and class war that Voldemort is enacting. Muggles and Mud-bloods become demonised and terrorised and everyone has to prove their “purity”. The film captured this really well in the set design, especially inside the Ministry.
I loved that there was so much I couldn’t remember when I started this book – I couldn’t remember what the Hallows were, or what was inside the Snitch, or how they found the other Horcruxes. I had forgotten Dobby died until I watched the film a few months ago. It was wonderful to read it almost like it was the first time.
And then there’s the epilogue – I’ll mention it because I remember how much fans railed against it when the book first came out. I’m still not sure why, except maybe it wasn’t up to the standards of the rest of the series. I read somewhere that Rowling wrote it at the beginning, which is kinda cool, and shows just how well she planned it all out. The line that I love is this one, where Harry tells his son: “Albus Severus, […] you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.” [p.607] It gets me every time.
My 2007 review.
This was the final book in our Harry Potter Reading Marathon read-along, 2011. Thank you to everyone who read along with me, it was loads of fun doing this with others!
1. The series has finished. Do you have an ultimate high point from the entire series, a favourite scene or line or character? Or a low point?
2. The structure of The Deathly Hallows is different from the previous books, probably because it isn’t structured into a year at Hogwarts, though it still follows that timeframe. To me, it feels steeped in nostalgia. What was your overall impression of this book?
3. Like I listed above, a lot of people lose their lives in this book, people we’ve grown to think of as family. Which character, if you could name just one, would you bring back with the Stone of Resurrection and why?
If you read the seventh book in the Harry Potter series for this read-along – or if you reviewed it recently – leave a link here so we can read each other’s reviews. Also, if you reviewed the previous books but didn’t get your reviews up each month, you can leave links here for those too.