Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Review (Pretty Much Spoiler Free)

I have never really done a book review before, as books are not really my thing. Lately, I have been trying to make more of an effort to actually read things above and beyond my normal reading habits, Harry Potter included. But every so often an entertainment experience happens that needs to be shared and therefore I have decided to share that experience with you.

My Harry Potter history is one that has happened more recently. I watched the first two movies because I certainly cannot miss any event movies, and when the third movie rolled around I found it to be the best so far, yet it did not entice me very much to read the books. Yet, in the summer of 2005, I found myself surrounded by fans of the books in massive anticipation for the sixth installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. At this point I found myself wanting to get on the bandwagon. There is nothing like an entertainment experience that is shared on a level with so many others. So, the day after the Half-Blood Prince was released, my friend Audrey loaned me the first five novels in their paperback form. And despite some bumps along the way (like a sunburn, a story for another time), I devoured those books like nothing I had ever done before. Within two weeks all six books had been read and I found myself a huge fan greatly anticipating not only the fourth movie which was to be released in less than six months time, but the 7th book, which I was willing to place money would be released on 7/7/7. Of course, someone should have taken me up on that bet because I was wrong. Not by much, but I was certainly wrong.

I followed the revelations with fervor. I was ready to experience the last chapter of the saga. Is Snape good or evil? How will Harry be able to manage his final quest without the aid of Dumbledore? Will Ron and Hermione finally get it on? These were questions begging serious answers and I could not wait to get my hands on them.

I was really hoping to experience the prerelease madness with some of my peers on the evening of July 20th. Unfortunately, given my recent move to South Carolina, I had no friends or relatives with which to share that experience, so I opted for the route. Then around 2PM on Saturday afternoon, I received the book. At 4:00PM I began reading and I read throughout the evening and night sporadically. At 2:30AM when everyone was asleep I picked up the book for the last time and read it until 6:08AM on the morning of the 22nd.

As a result, I can happily say that this installment did not disappoint, despite a few issues the book had along the way.

The book starts out the way the previous few had started out: outside Harry's perspective. Almost a brief prologue, it sets the stage for what is to come in the rest of the book, and for what you expect to see. When the story shifts back to Harry, the book really takes its time to get going. There is so much to be done in the book, as there are at least 4 Horcruxes that need to be destroyed before the final battle with Voldemort. Events such as Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour's wedding do not even happen until Chapter 8. Much of what precedes the wedding is necessary exposition and moves along at a relatively brisk pace. Sure, I may have wanted them to do a little more during the beginning and really get into the heart of the quest, but compared to what happens next, the first portion is incredibly fast paced.

After the chapter on the wedding, things seriously start to slow down. A huge chunk of the middle section of the book is Harry literally camping in a tent wondering what to do and where to go next. Every time I turned the page, I expected them to get going but they really never seemed to. This isolation was not particularly helpful as there was surely so much going on in the wizarding world that would be interesting to see. Yet, this is Harry's quest and what must be done is done.

Fortunately, once that section ends, a stretch of somewhere around 250 pages is essentially non-stop action leading into a phenomenal conclusion and a battle that I could not stop thinking about how cool it would be to see on screen. There are moments near the end that I will not share for those of you who have yet to read that just floored me. Certain characters were developed in ways that I had never expected and acted in brilliant ways.

What really impresses me the most about the series is how intricate the fabric of the seven novels is woven. At no point do you believe that any of what was put in earlier books was by chance. Everything had a purpose. Characters whose motivations seemed to be clear cut in earlier novels are now turned on their heads. Fortunately, it never feels like a betrayal of those characters. If a change happens, then the reasons and purposes of those changes have been intricately laid in prior novels. Rowling did not write these books flying on the seat of her pants. She had a plan and implemented it almost perfectly. Very very few plot holes exist in these books. Granted, I am sure there are a few if a person looks hard enough, but you will be hard pressed to find them. There are a few questions I have (most interestingly about an item called the Elder Wand), but I feel there are answers out there that Rowling has just not given yet. I am sure there are answers to those questions, and maybe I just glossed over the answers and missed them.

The amount of death in the book is almost astonishing. Many characters die, some expected, some not so expected. Yet, with one exception, all of them are handled well and some are actually very touching.

The biggest complaint I have about the book is not enough time is spent with many of the periphery characters. Granted, this is ultimately Harry's story but after spending so much time with so many people it would have been nice to see how everyone was coping with the onslaught of the evil Voldemort rising to power. A little more time with Snape would have been crucial since he was so integral to the sixth book and the conclusion of his storyline is not exactly what I would have liked to have seen, even though it may come across better filmed. Indeed, there was a good portion of development given to Snape's character which was absolutely welcome to see because you are shown precisely the reasons why he did what he did and whether or not what he did was for good or for evil. Prior to the book's release, I was willing to bet loads of money on Snape's goodness, but no one took me up on the offer. Did they agree with me or was I just lucky that they didn't want to take my money? I won't give the answer here but I will say it was great to get the backstory that we did.

An epilogue was placed on the book telling you the fates of some of the characters, which I have somewhat mixed feelings about as it really does not give the reader that much information. While it was nice to have, it seemed to be somewhat disjointed with the rest of the book.

Ultimately, this is fiction at its finest. Many, if not all, of the themes are themes people have seen before. Good vs. Evil, dealing with issues of racial purity, an innocent thrown into a situation of which he seems to have little control, and so many more are all pulled almost straight out of a textbook on mythology written by Joseph Campbell. But the way Rowling was able to string together the plight of adolescence with so many of these heavier themes into a compelling narrative, one in which some of the most cohesive storytelling of all time is shared with the world, makes Harry Potter a definite recommend for anyone who loves a good story. These are not children's books. They are books for anyone who loves stories.
A definite recommend.

Overall: A-
Last 250 Pages: A+

1 comment:

Crete said...

You write very well.