He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

August 10, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: A Fangasm Review

So, yes, about two chapters into Chamber of Secrets I became overwhelmed with temptation and a desire to know how it all ends. So I abandoned my re-read and cracked open my newly acquired copy of The Deathly Hallows, and it was good. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I sighed, I cried some more (a lot more), and I set it down at the end feeling completely satisfied.

I'll post my spoilery thoughts in the comments, but I will say this much here: I think Rowling has improved significantly as a writer over the course of seven books, and it really shows in this book. I also believe that that Harry Potter kid has earned his rightful place in the pantheon of classic literary heroes. Taken all together, his story is a damn good one.


jeanjeanie said...

Oh, man. Where do I even start? There's just so much. The dark, violent and kinda disturbing tone set by the opening chapter was kind of awesome, and made it clear right off the bat that this wasn't going to be another adventurous romp through another year at Hogwarts. Even so, I was warmed enough by Dudley Dursley's dim but heartfelt acknowledgment that he actually considers Harry family and wasn't comfortable with the idea of never seeing him again that I was lulled into a false sense of optimism. That, of course, was shattered when the Death Eaters attacked and the dyin' commenced.

Hedwig! Mad Eye! George's ear! But especially Hedwig! *SOB* I have a soft spot where pets are concerned, and that just killed me, especially when Harry had time for it to fully sink in that he'd lost his feathery companion. WAH!

When I wasn't crying over killed off characters, I was mostly holding my breath wondering how Harry, Ron and Hermione were going to get out of each situation. The pacing was pretty good, and did a great job of keeping the suspense going. Some of the solutions felt a little contrived--the escape on the dragon out of Gringott's was cool, for instance, but I felt like it was a little too convenient that the dragon (which I felt incredibly sorry for; hi, I'll be over here with Hagrid, giving Fang tummy scritches and lamenting how dragons are just misunderstood) was blind, and that it managed to fly it's way (blindly) out of a cavern without knocking any of the kids off its back, and didn't do any aerial acrobatics once it tasted freedom for the first time in who knows how long... but I can forgive, because, like I said: cool.

Speaking of escapes: Dobby! WAH! He actually kind of got on my nerves in the earlier books, but his death was so sudden and unexpected that it broke me up quite a lot.

As for the other deaths, I can't even talk about Sirius or Fred without losing it, so I won't.

And Snape. I gotta say, I never really got the rabid Snape love, especially if you take away the Rickman factor, and I always thought Snape was pretty much a bastard. But I suspected that he must have had a thing for Harry's mom, because the previous reasons we were given for his hatred and ridiculously ill treatment of Harry--that Harry's dad and his friends picked on Snape in high school--was just...lame. A raging Lily crush would not only almost justify his hatred of Harry (via the pain of having to teach the child his great love had by another man), but also explain why he went to such great lengths to protect Harry. So it was nice to see that little theory validated, even if Snape still came out looking like a bastard, albeit a heroic bastard with a streak of decency. And also to finally learn what it was that made Dumbledore put so much trust in him.

As for Dumbledore, it was painful to see all of his flaws laid bare, and hard to see how he had manipulated so much so completely, but ultimately, he had his sites on the good of the many, and I don't need Spock around to tell me how that outweighs the good of the few, or the one. It reminded me of Giles and his willingness to kill Dawn. It was an equally bitter pill to swallow (well, okay, maybe the thought of sacrificing Dawn isn't quite so bitter), and equally understandable.

That wasn't the only thing that made me think of "The Gift" (and now we once again witness Jean's ability to make anything and everything be about Buffy). Harry's realization that he had to sacrifice himself, and his brave determination to go through with it, had me thinking of Buffy up on that tower, realizing that she could give her own life to close Glory's portal and save the world. It was just as heartbreaking, and just as endearing, and just as tragic, with the underlying knowledge that, like Buffy, a part of Harry was ready for it to be over, to just stop fighting.

But unlike Buffy, Harry chose to come back willingly, to return to life and take the fight back up and see it through to the end, whereas Buffy was brought back against her will and took an entire year filled with sex and violence to get over her resentment and start acting heroic again. This isn't to slam Buffy, but to showcase how heroic Harry's decision was. Everything that happened after that was just window-dressing.

There's so much more I could go on about. The Weasley's--all of 'em, Hermione's decision to send her parents away and erase their memory of her to keep them safe, Hermione's torture, Luna, Neville, McGonagall, Aberforth... the weaving in of things from so early in the series that didn't seem that significant at the time... the fact that I didn't even know how much I love these characters until I was finished getting to know them... I'm sure there's more, but I don't have the time or space to get into it all.

So I'll stop here, except to add that the epilogue felt like a bit of overkill, and also a bit like fanfiction, but I can forgive that too, because it was sweet, and everybody has cute kids. I think the book would have been a bit stronger and just as satisfying without it. You don't generally show the hero living happily ever after, you just say that he did, and leave the rest of it up to imagination. But after all this time, I can certainly understand JK's attachment to her characters and her reluctance to say goodbye without making sure that they were well and truly happy.

And I'm sure laying the grounds for future books about Harry's kids never once crossed her mind.

Valerie said...

Yay for you finishing HP7! I loved your HP/Buffy thoughts and agree with the tower analysis.

Here's my HP thoughts for your perusal:

1. I didn’t like book 6 very much (I felt it left too many loose ends and had a different feel from the first 5 books) but I feel much better about HP6 now having read HP7...they work much better as a set (I knew that there had to be something with Kreacher!)

2. Loved Kreacher! I did tear up a bit when he recounted his tale of drinking the poison...oh the threads of loyalty and obedience!

3. Cried for Dobby

4. Disappointed with the lack of Snape (though I am not rabid over him), but still satisfied in his overall storyline. I would have liked to have seen more action from him.

5. I really wanted more with Percy. For him either to become evil, be revealed to be under imperious curse, for him to have to work for redemption...the whole "I'm sorry now, take me home" didn't work too well for me.

6. Felt the epilogue was a little over the top mushy, though I understand why she did it.

7. Really wanted Neville to take on Bellatrix, but loved Mrs. Weasley's line "stay away from my daughter, BITCH!"

8. Now understand why I didn't cry for Dumbledore in HP6...I think I knew in my heart of hearts that he orchestrated it for himself.

9. Really wanted Draco to work for redemption, to realize that he wasn't loyal to the dark lord, just wanting to please his family, and to make a complete 180 in behavior. Maybe sacrifice himself for Harry.

10. Were the deathly hallows really necessary to the story? Couldn't it have just been a tale about the Elder Wand and Dumbledore's history?

11. Alright, I may have to go back and reread, but didn't we always know that there were 7 horcruxes? If so, why were Harry and the gang only looking/accounting for 6 (the diary, the locket, Nagini, Ravenclaw diadem, Hufflepuff cup, the ring)?

12. Griphook is going to be pissed that Godric's sword is gone again! lol

13. Trying to understand Mrs. Malfoy's aid to Harry. I know she wanted to know if Draco was alive, but if Harry had said "no", would she have turned him in? I think I really wish all the Malfoys would have just changed sides, if for nothing else then personal gain (get Voldemort out of their house, protect Draco, whatever).

14. Lot of people hated me when I didn't cry for Hedwig, but I just believed her death was heralding that no one was safe, and that anyone could die at any moment.

15. I didn't want both Lupin and Tonks to die (especially Tonks, as she, in a sense, was the continuation of Mad-Dog Mooney, being his star pupil, so her father figured died, as did her real father)

16. I felt bad that little Colin died.

17. I am glad that Dudley actually cared for Harry.

18. I liked seeing the why Aunt Petunia hated Harry so much...she wasn't afraid of the power, she was jealous of it!

19. I know JK doesn't want to write anymore, but I would like to see a parallel HP7 book from the point of view of Neville, Ginny, and Luna while they were in Hogwarts that last year...I think that would be pretty cool.

Garnigal said...

Great review and comments. I also sobbed my little heart out, right from the moment Hedwig was killed to Harry taking one last look at Fred, surrounded by his family and Remus and Tonks lying in the Great Hall. I think that about killed me. I was really impressed with Fred's death - I went from laughing to great gulping sobs in about a microsecond. It really felt like a fitting end for Fred.

Harry burying Dobby was devestating as well - the surrealness and distance Harry felt at that moment came across very well.

Derek got a note on his LJ to check out the beginning of Book 6 (maybe 5?), when Petunia reveals that she already knows about the Dementors. It's a nice little bit of explanation that doesn't make sense until later. So now we are rereading all of them (since we were both to impatient to do it first) to find all those little tidbits.

jeanjeanie said...

Valerie - I agree with most of your points.

Re: #11 - IIRC, they knew that there were seven horcruxes, but they only knew the identity of six. I think. I should re-read to be sure, too.

I agree that the Hallows themselves were a plot device and not totally necessary, but I think the backstory behind them was what was really important, and the revelation that Harry and Voldemort share a common ancestry. Plus I liked that the invisibility cloak was one of them, and the stone bringing back Harry's loved ones so that they could support him as he went to sacrifice himself was so wonderfully heartbreaking that I can't complain too much about the stone's being a device.

G said: "Harry burying Dobby was devestating as well - the surrealness and distance Harry felt at that moment came across very well."

Yes, totally. That was the part about it that really got to me, along with Harry's insistence on that intimate connection of doing it with his own hands instead of with magic, and channeling his grief and frustration into the physical labor. It rang so true. *sniff*

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