Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - e's review (spoilers!)

First off, to all of you who still haven't read or finished the book:
1) You are either the slowest readers of all time, or...
2) You are not true Harry Potter fans.

Don't be poseurs! If you were a REAL fan you would have gotten the book in your hands as soon as possible, and then you would've made it your life's goal to finish it before the mass media leaked everything. (Amazingly, that never really happened, did it? But still, if you were a real fan you would've taken no chances!!!)

So if you intend on reading the book, hurry up and do it already, because I'm going to cover all of the details of The Deathly Hallows in this post. Stop reading now if you don't want to ruin it for yourself!

Now that I've put all of the appropriate disclaimers in place, we can get on with it.

Here is my one sentence review: The beginning rocked and the end was mostly good, but the rest was pretty much poop.

Yeah, I said it! I haven't read that many reviews of the book, but all of the ones I did read made it seem like the book was all awesome. Well, I'm sorry to be a hater, but I cannot tell a lie. It just wasn't that good, and I will spend the rest of this post defending my one-sentence statement above.

But first, you should know what I thought was going to happen. I definitely knew Harry would live... there was no doubt in my mind about that. What kind of message would THAT send if evil freakin' triumphs?!?! Helllooooo... the book's have been dark, but not that dark. I had heard (because there was no avoiding it) that at least two major characters would die, so I thought Hagrid would die near the beginning, and that would serve as a motivator for Harry to finish off HWMNBN as the rest of the book progressed. I thought Snape would die near the end, and that it would be fairly obvious that he was sacrificing himself to save Harry, but that he would seem extra-evil up until that point. I was slightly scared for Ron, because I figured if Harry wasn't going to die, Ron's death could also serve as a huge motivator for Harry to ensure that Good Prevailed. I knew Hermione would never die. I thought that Draco would turn good at some key moment in the book, and I also figured that Neville would play some major role. Several people had told me beforehand that they thought perhaps Neville would actually be the one to kill HWMNBN, and that the whole prophecy had been about Neville the entire time. I definitely considered that to be a valid possibility. I also knew that there would be some cheesy scene near the end where Dumbledore would be shown smiling down at Harry from his portrait (TOTALLY called that one - check the bottom of page 747). As we now know, most of what I thought would happen - though not way off - was still wrong.

The beginning = awesome

I gotta give props to J.K. Rowling for her upfront fake-out - she had me wavering a bit in my confidence that Harry would not die by including the two passages about death and friendship in the epigraph. I read them, and then sat there for a few moments, stunned in my armchair, near tears. My mind started racing... "Is this her way of making the little kids feel better about Harry dying at the end?" I mean, they were very positive quotes about death, like about how death's not that bad and friendship survives even in death, and all that crap. We of course now know from Dumbledore's chat with Harry in the limbo-world that since Harry was not afraid to die in order to save everyone else, that that was the key to his victory and HWMNBN's demise. So the quotes were still fitting when it was all said and done, but as I sat there on the morning of the 21st, not knowing what would happen, they caused a chilled pang of terror in my heart.

And then I began my 11-hour journey...

No one can deny that the first 175 pages of book seven were probably the most action-packed beginning of any book in the entire series - truly edge-of-your-seat reading.

Things I liked:
- Dudley finally came around
- The escape from Privet Drive and the battle in the sky - I can't wait to see how they do the multiple Harrys in the movie.
- The fact that I was POSITIVE that Hagrid was going to bite it... but that he survived. As I mentioned above, I was sure that he would die in the beginning of the book, so since that was in the back of my mind, I was growing increasingly stressed during chapter four, thinking: "Oh #($)*%()#$, I'm right! But I don't want him to die!!!"
- Kingsley's Patronus's appearance at Bill and Fleur's wedding reception, announcing: "The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming." When I read that part, I was yelling, "Get the hell outta there, peeps!!!! Run like the wind!"

What I didn't like:
- Hedwig dying. I feel like that was gratuitous on top of sloppy writing. Fine, kill Mad-Eye Moody to ensure everyone understands that the mission was dangerous and had consequences... but Hedwig? That seemed like an easy way to get rid of the owl and cage rather than having to mention Hedwig throughout the rest of the book or explain how she survived the fall. It would've been better had Harry opened the cage during the battle and let Hedwig fly away, and then at the end she returned to him. Don't you agree? Needless.

The middle = mostly poop

Chapter Ten, when they reached Grimmauld Place and heard Kreacher tell the story of Regulus stealing the Horcrux, is the point at which I thought things took a turn for the worse. Now, I know that Hermione would say that I am prejudiced against house-elves, but the elves (because they are NOT cool elves like in LOTR) have always been my least favorite part of the series. It's like J.K. Rowling was trying to get too many "issues" covered in the books, so she threw in the whole "house-elf rights" plot line. But anyway, everyone I know had already guessed that "R.A.B." on the locket from book five was going to be Regulus, so that "reveal" was fairly anti-climactic. I really did not dig any of the book again until Chapter Twenty-Three (when the three friends were being held at Malfoy Manor)... but then after that chapter the story resumed its boringness.

Things I liked:
- When Lupin was acting all shady when he visited Grimmauld Place, it seemed like he could possibly be bad, so I liked that we were kept guessing about him for a bit. Side-note: Lupin is/was one of my favorite characters.

- When Ron left, I wondered if either: 1) he would get captured, put under some spell and do something bad or 2) he would die... so I think the fact that she had him leave helped build suspense. I also liked that he was the one to save Harry in the pond and to destroy the locket.

- The chapter at Malfoy Manor was the first bit of real tension in the middle part of the book... I honestly thought for about a half of a millisecond that Hermione might be a goner, but in a sick and twisted way I am glad that she got tortured but didn't give up anything. Girl power! It was also pretty heart-wrenching to read Ron's reaction to hearing Hermione being tortured above him.

- When all of the stuff was multiplying in the Gringotts vault, I thought immediately that that would be another cool scene for the film version.

- I really liked that Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth, helped them out, and that it was his eye that Harry had been seeing in the mirror. I totally missed the many references to him in the other books. So that was clever.

What I didn't like:
- ALL OF THAT TIME when they just hung around Grimmauld Place, or moved around in the forests doing nothing. Bor-ing. It seemed like 5 years went by, and therefore I kept thinking, "Well, the war against HWMNBN must not be THAT bad if nothing's happening that they catch wind of." I don't blame Ron for leaving! By the time Harry and Hermione confronted that old lady who was possessed by the snake and she supposedly almost killed Harry, I didn't even care. I knew that there was still too much of the book left for anything major to happen at that point.

- Dobby's death. I didn't mind so much that he died (see above regarding my dislike of the elves in the books), but they seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time on his death, versus, say, Hedwig's or any of the humans' deaths?!?! It was too much.

The ending = good

My official judgment of when the book started redeeming itself from over 400 pages of dullness was on page 597, when Snape announced: "It is I" and confronted Professor McGonagall in Hogwarts, which preceded the huge battle-to-end-all-battles on the school grounds.

What I liked:
- I liked that Harry tried to rescue Draco, Crabbe and Goyle when Crabbe's spell backfired (literally). To have left them to die would've perhaps been justified, but not very Harry-like. But Crabbe did end up paying the ultimate price for his eeevilness.

- All of Snape's memories were awesome - I was hoping that we would finally get his entire back-story. I was a tad disappointed that no one else got to see that he was actually protecting Harry all along - as I mentioned near the beginning of this post, I figured he would go down in a blaze of self-sacrificing glory and would redeem himself for all of his sketchy actions to date. Yet, he died quietly, alone, with just Harry watching hidden from behind the wall. It was sad. I always liked Snape and believed that he would turn out to be good - and anyone who thought at the end of book six that Dumbledore hadn't already asked Snape to kill him (if it came down to that) is dumb. Now that I've thought it over for a while, I think it is good that Snape didn't put on some obvious display of bravery or sacrifice in the end. It was really just luck that Harry was there to catch his memories, wasn't it? So I liked that Snape remained, to the end, perhaps the most complex character of the series. He was not an entirely bad person (how wonderfully sappy was it that his Patronus was a doe because that was Lily's?), but he certainly was not all good, either (many people died or were hurt because he was playing a double-agent). Harry better be thankful that he had such a cool mom or else Snape would've never been driven to look after him. I think that having his future kid's middle name be Snape, rather than Severus, would've been a more fitting tribute, though.

- Unlike books four and six, where I was bawling my eyes out at every turn, I only teared up three times in this final installment: 1) When I read the two passages about death in the epigraph, 2) when Hedwig died and when I also simultaneously thought Hagrid was a goner at the beginning, and 3) when Harry went into the forest, thinking that he was going to die. That scene where he faced off against HWMNBN and Hagrid was going nuts just killed me. It also killed me again later when they made Hagrid carry what he thought was Harry's dead body out of the forest. I love Hagrid!

What wasn't good:
- The lack of explanation as to why, exactly, Lily married James Potter. We never saw him being much more than a jerk to other people, did we?

- The random screaming of "You bitch!" by Mrs. Weasley to Bellatrix seemed very, very out of place and out of character. Almost everyone I've talked to hated that part.

- Lupin dying - because he was one of my favorites. I realized, however, that he and Tonks were supposed to die to once again create an orphan - Teddy.

- Colin Creevey dying. Once again - totally gratuitous. I mean, seriously - what point did that serve to kill off the teeny kid that idolized Harry? The battle was mostly over by that point. It seemed like it was just done for shock value, and it annoyed me.

- The whole "exposé on Dumbledore" subplot (which I realized started at the very beginning, but I chose to bring it up here since it ended with Harry's talk with Dumbledore in the limbo-world) was lame. LAME, I say! And you know what else? I declare the entire "Deathly Hallows" subplot weak! Yes, I realize that the Deathly Hallows were apparently so important that they became the title of the book, but if you think about it, everything that they accomplished for the story line could have been achieved in other ways. They were just one big confusing distraction, and quite frankly, I still don't really understand what was going on with the Deathly Hallows. So if J.K. Rowling took out everything about Dumbledore's past as well as the Hallows, she could've made up the legend of the "Elder wand" through some other (and quicker) means, and that would have enabled her to still have HWMNBN be on his obsessive quest for the wand, and all of the plot that revolved around the wand could stay intact. The Invisibility Cloak has always existed in these books, so if she never provided any "explanation" for it, tell me truly, would you have even thought twice? No, you wouldn't have. As for the Resurrection Stone, that annoyed me because Harry has seen the spirits of his parents in the past without the stone. She could've just had him encounter his parents, Lupin, Tonks, Sirius, etc. in that limbo-world where he met Dumbledore, and that would've sufficed. Granted, I think she was trying to really convince us all that Harry was going to die, and that HE believed he was going to die, so that is why he wanted to see all the "spirits" BEFORE going to face HWMNBN, to gain courage and support. I'm just saying I think that she could've thought up another way for him to summon those spirits without needing the back-story of the Hallows. And if that was the case, they would've never needed to visit Luna's dad, either. So many annoying parts of the book would disappear and only the good stuff would be left. If someone has an argument as to why the Deathly Hallows and Dumbledore's back-story really, truly needed to be in the book, let me know, I'm all ears on this one.

- Dumbledore's baffling explanation for the majority of happenings in the book when he spoke to Harry in the limbo-world. I just re-read the part about "Voldemort having a drop of Harry's blood in him so Harry was the seventh Horcrux but Dumbledore wasn't really sure if Harry wouldn't die when Voldemort tried to kill him this time" and all that crap and I am still confused. How in the heck can young kids follow this?!??! And it should be a sign that the plot is too labyrinthine when AFTER everyone's read the book, the author has to hold several Q&A sessions to explain what in the hell happened (I will cover that later).

Now, obviously, I love these books, so I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression. I could never, ever write fiction and have enormous respect for anyone who can, so I'm not dissing J.K. Rowling - she's one of my heroes. I'm just saying that I honestly thought the final book was very convoluted, and I'm really not sure why Ron, Hermione and Harry couldn't have just stuck to trying to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes (which is probably what the vast majority of readers figured book seven would be about as book six ended). The last installment would've been shorter, yes, but it also would've been more suspenseful and the plot would've been tighter. While I've talked to others who liked the book a lot more than I did, no one can deny that it dragged in the middle.

My final complaint is about the Epilogue. That was probably the worst part of the book for me. It was like she needed to have the main characters sire a bunch of children so that she could ensure everyone who died had someone named after them - it was so forced. I know that she must have wanted to truly wrap up the story and not leave any room for speculation about what might have happened right after HWMNBN was defeated, but I would have preferred a more subtle postscript. The only awesome part was that Malfoy named his kid Scorpius!!! How sweet is that? I think I laughed out loud at that part, in a good way.

Having said all that, I AM GLAD that it all ended well for Harry ("All was well") and that he and his peeps finally found some peace. I am also glad that Ron and Hermione ended up together. I never really took to Ginny, but if Harry's happy, then I'm happy.

I think that by reading the book for eleven hours straight, it clouded my judgment a bit. I don't recommend doing that. I will probably read it again one day, perhaps three or so years from now right before the movie comes out, and I'm sure I'll like it more then. Four remains my favorite book, with six being a close second. And like I said before, the books may be over, but at least two movies still lie ahead!

If you are still jonesing for more Harry Potter... here are two links for you:

1) J.K. Rowling has discussed many more details about what happened to most of the characters! I was kind of mad reading all of this - it's major stuff and it's not fair that not everyone knows about it. Either put it in the book or leave it to our imagination, sheesh.

2) This is a compilation of many answers J.K. has given about a wide variety of subjects - ranging from "rumors" to her thoughts on the movies to questions about the final book.

I am depressed that the saga is over, but the good thing about books is that they can always be re-read. One day we will all feel REALLY OLD when some little kid is amazed that we were alive when the books first came out. But for now, it is time to bid adieu to Ron, Hermione and Harry.

I miss them already.

- e


Anonymous said...

e. im very thankful to you cos im in the middle of this very intense drawing/ creative workshop, and i get home exhausted every day, but im too pumped to go to bed. so when i get home, i try to watch some tv or surf the web trying to find something interesting or light and fun to read... so that i can slow my mind down a bit, and finally sleep like an angel...

and this week you gave me both lost recaps and your harry potter review. yo-hoo.

i agree with you almost 95% percent. the middle section of the book was boring as hell. i agree with all your observations of like and dislike. i HATED the epilogue.... so cheesy, i wanted to spank harry.... i LOLed at your "It was like she needed to have the main characters sire a bunch of children so that she could ensure everyone who died had someone named after them".... cos i thought it was a tad ridiculous how she deliberately mentioned the names.... i felt it was forced, unnatural,....

and i was so angry with lupin's death... i felt that repeating the orphan thing was lame, very lame.... and now harry is his godfather... blergh...

i think if she ended the book without the epilogue it would be so much more in touch with the mood of harry's world.... the epilogue reminded of the dance with the ewoks in return of the jedi, but worst. hehe.

and i cant get over lupin's death... she had already killed my other favourite, sirius... i felt it was really unnecessary for her to kill our beloved werewolf.
well, writing this got me thinking and i guess i was even more interested in the old school hogwarts characters, lupin, sirius and snape... not james - she never gave him any depth - and even lilly... that a book about them would be even cooler.

anyway... sorry about the long post, but i felt like sharing. i love reading your posts... and if you ever come to Rio let me know so we can have a beer and talk about all these nerdy and great things.

Anonymous said...

Excellent write up e. Although i really loved the book I agree with everything you said. I would like to know what was in the films that she saw in reference to the last book though. Was it just the scene on the tower? or Ron and Hermione holding hands? Did you read the transcript from the bloomsbury website of her web-chat? What type of person asks "what song would be played at dumbeldores funeral"

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with your Snape recap. i knew he would redeem himself in a huge way. what KILLED me (in a good way) was after i read about his memories and his love for lily (and her green eyes), i went back and re-read the part when he actually dies. he tells harry to look into his eyes. it's because he wanted to see lily's green eyes one last time before he dies. tears for sure!

Wanders said...


maikib said...

what a wonderful tribute... and the end, particularly sniffle-inducing. thanks for letting me share the experience with you!!

Unknown said...

OK, I just finished the book and I have been waiting to ready our blog. I know, I know, I am not an official fan BUT I am a bit sad that the saga is over. I kinda liked being one or two books behind because I knew that I had something to look forward to... I really don't know how much I liked the final book. I'm really sad about the Weasley death. I don't really care about the owl (sorry), the annoying elf, mud guy etc. but I don't like them messing with my favorite family. And as you pointed out, I feel like there was no tribute to him!?! The crazy house elf gets a whole darn ceremony in the book (which was painful to get through) and he gets nothin'.

What did they eat when they were stranded/isolated in all of these boring places?? That would not make me happy.

Sunfsh said...

There are some really excellent "Fan Fiction" stories on the web, if you are feeling that you need more Harry Potter. I mention this, because I have just recently discovered this whole new world of stories. My favorite is "A Year Like None Other", and this author allows Snape to become a favorite character, if he wasn't already.