The Deathly Hallows
Okay. So, I’ll start with the non-spoilery stuff:
1) This is a brutal book. It’s more violent and dark than all of the others put together. Like, the “evil knob goes up to eleven” type brutal. So I don’t know that I’d recommend it for anyone younger than, say, fourteen or fifteen.
2) It does wrap up, and it does answer all the questions. With a little red bow.
If you are reading this, then I assume you’ve either read the book or don’t care. So don’t bitch at me if you read something here you didn’t know.
First: HAH! I totally knew that Dumbledore and Snape had planned the death thing. I had that pegged; the event was too out of character for everything we’d known about either them: either a) Snape was secretly evil all along and Dumbledore was a total dumbass about it (and we’d been told Dumbledore wasn’t a dumbass) or b) Dumbledore let Snape kill him as part of some master plan.
Option B, then. It further humanized Snape and solidified him as one of the most complex characters.
I like that Dumbledore was shown to have flaws and to have made mistakes. That he, too, was a bit of an asshat growing up, and that he had made mistakes to learn from. His history was well played out from beginning to end, and we saw several sides of the same story and that worked well. It’s one of Rowling’s strengths: making her heroes feel real by creating non-heroic flaws and her villains feel real by giving them heroic motives (Narcissa Malfoy’s concern for her son).
I kind of felt that Hedwig getting blasted into feathers on page 20 or whatever felt like we were simply ditching a character that we didn’t want to write for – that would just be a dead weight. The problem with Hedwig is that the bird was important in books 1 & 2 and then kind of waylaid. Forgotten. Like Quidditch in book five and six (it comes up again in book seven, but more because of its historical importance).
Lots and lots and lots of death. Many handled well (Snape, in particular), but the worst deaths are done “off screen” or tucked away in a fast-moving paragraph. Mad-Eye. Lupin. Tonks. By the end, I was unsurprised to see anyone being stacked on the funeral pyre, which is “realistic” in a war, I suppose, and I’m not saying I have a problem with it, but the way some of the deaths were written made them feel like death-for-the-sake-of-showing-that-it’s-serious.
My only real problem with the series in general is that Rowling tends to introduce certain concepts in the book when she needs them while others are introduced early in the series, discarded, and then picked up again. I much prefer the second type.
For example, take the “Deathly Hallows” themselves. It would have been much better if they had been mentioned in earlier books somehow – so that we know they exist and don’t appear as a deus ex machina. Sure, the invisibility cloak was introduced in book one, but until book seven, we had no idea that it was an Artifact of God-Level Power.
Or the concept of Horcruxes might have been nice to read about earlier than when they became Plot Essential. Something innately important to the finale and would be known by a lot of wizards – like the fact that wands can be “taken” – might be nice to have been brought up earlier. Or that Sneetches are bonded to the first person to touch them.
So that stuff feels kind of tacked on. Retconned in to fill plot holes.
Other things, like Polyjuice potion, introduced in book 2 and then only mentioned from time to time – these are really well included. This is part of the world; the characters would think about them and use them. The Hufflepuff cup; the Ravenclaw diadem, the Gryffindor sword. Yes! Use these things: you’ve told me about them before; this is a high fantasy. It’s okay to have your Jesus character use or require them.
I wanted to someone to punch out Rita Skeeter. Or at least hear about someone doing it. It was most unsatisfying that she didn’t get her clock cleaned.
I don’t want to sound like I disliked the book – I didn’t. I liked it a lot, and I felt it was a solid ending to the series. I really like that it was closed in such a way that there won’t be further books. A couple people I talked to hated the epilogue, but I liked it.
There’s probably more I’ll think about later, after I’ve digested.