Note: I have tried my best to make the following as spoiler free as I can make it. It's not completely foolproof, but I don't discuss specifics. Proceed with caution.
I’ve grown up with Harry Potter. Sounds corny, but it’s true. I was all of seven years of age when I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; last night I was a 17 year old, one of the hundreds of fans queuing for hours outside Easons on O’Connell street in the rain, waiting patiently for the last installment. The last installment. I can barely believe it; even hours after finishing the book, hours after turning the last page, it still seems odd to think that there will never be another Harry Potter book to look forward to.
Like I said earlier, I finished the Deathly Hallows at approximately 8am after seven solid hours of reading. When I say solid, I mean seven hours of reading with continual loo breaks and trips to the coffee machine and pauses to wipe my eyes… I had severely questioned my sanity while waiting in the 7-hour queue, but I’m glad I went through it. I couldn’t imagine sitting here not knowing what became of Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest.
And is it as satisfying as is required for a series of this magnitude? For something that will hold the attentions of millions of readers across the globe?
It is with great happiness that I can safely say, yes. Yes, JK Rowling has done herself proud. If we forgive a little cheesiness at the close (give the woman a break, she’s lived with this thing for years - it’s only natural she nearly lets her emotion get the better of her), it’s fair to say that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the best Potter book to date. It’s much more action filled than earlier installments; there are a number of thrillingly cinematic set-pieces which were genuinely frightening. Without the usual business of Hogwarts to attend to, Harry, Hermione and Ron (having sworn off returning to their school for their seventh year) have no time to spare revising for exams or practising Quidditch, this story is a race against time. Harry needs to locate and destory the remaining Horcruxes before Voldemort discovers him, save the school from Snape’s greasy clutches and grapple with the mysterious Deathly Hallows of the title.
With all the action going on, you would be forgiven for imagining that Rowling had abandoned the depth of character or rich humour that had infused the other books. We are in her capable hands though, the golden trio grow and change (if attempting to save the world from the most evil wizard the world has ever seen doesn’t mature you, what will?), minor characters are brought back in from the very earliest books and we learn a great deal more about the background of certain important characters; including Albus Dumbledore.
Dumbledore is probably one of JK Rowling’s most endearing creations. It was a testament to her craft that this venerable, wise, kindly old bearded wizard did not garner too many comparisons to that other venerable, wise, kindly old bearded wizard, Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings books; but Dumbledore differed from Gandy in many small ways, and was simply a great character. Lord knows, we could all use a Dumbledore in our lives. However, with the creation of this great man, Rowling risked making him just that little bit too perfect. In Deathly Hallows, she takes a great risk in exposing some of his faults. We are shown, if you will, the nastier side to Albus Dumbledore. There’s nothing overly damning, nothing to make us hate him, but there are certain things in Dumbledore’s past that he was not exactly proud of. I wouldn’t dream of revealing them here, but suffice to say that this plot twist works. It shows that everyone is fallible and how we are all the more better realising this.
Everyone makes mistakes in Deathly Hallows. Even Hermione, the eternal girl scout/librarian (the girl really out does herself in this book; if you thought she was clever before…) is allowed to slip up now and again. Many wise people do the wrong thing or do the right thing badly, with some dire consequences. Although not quite the awful bloodbath I had dreaded, death hangs heavy like a dulling wine over the entire book. From the point very near the beginning where two well-loved characters are killed with barbaric simplicity, it’s plain that we are in dangerous territory. There were numerous passages in which I had to forcibly slow my eyes down to stop them darting to the end of certain paragraphs; and others in which I had to actually put down the book and go for a little walk around the room, to clear my head. In case you’re wondering, yes I cried. Numerous times. Some of the deaths seem awfully correct, like they had been planned from the get-go. Others seemed unnecessarily cruel, especially one which occurs halfway through which had me unexpectedly bawling, but I am glad that she did not chicken out of making this seventh book finally as “dark” and “adult” as the buzzwords have been promising for so long. There is a spectacular bout of cursing from an unexpected source which is delightfull and, best of all, I laughed a great deal. We get to delve deeply into wizard history and explore the intricate complexities of wand lore. There’s even the long awaited snog that will have fanatics practically dizzy with it’s orchestration.
JK Rowling has long been bombarded with criticism that her prose is clunky, her originality ir questionable and her style heavy-handed, but I honestly think that anyone who does not agree that this book delivers on the promise of the preceeding six and does so in a thoroughly satisfying, gripping, thoughtful and moving way is purely jealous.
In a word; magical.