Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (book)

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 7/22/07 w/ Additional Edits.

In 1997, the world of children's literature was kind of sleepy and not much was going on. Kids were watching too much TV, playing video games, and everything. It seemed like there was no more imagination in books. That all changed thanks to an unknown Scottish writer named J.K. Rowling and her first book about an orphan boy who learns that he's a wizard, discovers a new world, and a school called Hogwarts. In that first book entitled Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S. edition), we learn about a boy named Harry Potter and how he gained friends, played on broomsticks, fight evil, and learn about a dark wizard named Lord Voldemort who murdered his parents when he was a year old where at that same time, he defeated the dark wizard.

10 years later, the Harry Potter series has expanded into a pop culture phenomenon of its own. Followed by five more best-selling books and a film franchise of its own with the fifth film Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix released in July 2007. Harry Potter has become not just the admiration of fans ranging from kids to adults, he's attracted controversy including claims of witchcraft by a local Georgia woman named Laura Mallory (who in 2006, won the Idiot of the Year award by the Washington Post). Since the release of that first book, readers and filmgoers got to see Harry Potter grow up from a boy who doesn't know his place in the world to a young man learning about his own destiny. Now, after six years of being a student of Hogwarts and facing tragedy along the way. The final chapter of Harry Potter's life in Hogwarts comes to an end with the seventh and final book entitled Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.

When readers last left Harry Potter following his previous adventure in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, Harry enters the book in mourning over the death of his godfather while his mentor and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore took great care into his education. It was in his meetings with Dumbledore that Harry discovered into how Lord Voldemort survived the killing curse the night his parents were murdered. Realizing that Voldemort made seven Horcruxes with one in his maimed body that was two years before. Harry learns that there's four left in the world as an attempt to search one with Dumbledore nearly killed them. Upon their return, Harry was forced to watch in horror as his weakened mentor was murdered by the man in whom Harry had loathed more than anyone in Severus Snape.

When Snape was revealed to be the Half-Blood Prince, the writer of the book in whom Harry had been learning obscure spells and potions ingredients. Guilt spread over the young wizard and was becoming more questioning into why Dumbledore trusted the man who had given Voldemort the partial information from the prophecy relating to Harry. On that same night Dumbledore was killed, Harry saw that in Dumbledore's hand was a locket but not the Horcrux they were looking for. Inside the locket was a message relating to the Horcrux by an individual with the initials R.A.B.

Following the Battle of Hogwarts and Dumbledore's murder, Professor McGonagall became the new headmistress as she along with the heads of house including a despondent Hagrid question whether the school should remain open for the coming year. In Dumbledore's funeral, Harry tells his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger that whether or not Hogwarts remained open, he will not be there for his final year as the two joined him on the search for the remaining Horcruxes after they return home and attend the wedding of Ron's older brother Bill and his fiancee` Fleur Delacour.

After two years of guesses, theories, and everything through the podcasts and Harry Potter sites. The final book is now released as fans will finally get answers revealed and everything. Whose side is Snape on? Who will help Harry along the way? Is Dumbledore really dead? What else is a Horcrux? Where are they? Who is R.A.B.? Is Hogwarts re-opened? Who is new to the Hogwarts staff and filling out other positions? Who will be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? Will Ron and Hermione get together? Who will help Harry aside from Ron and Hermione? Will Harry and Ginny Weasley get back together? Who is going to die? Who will win in the final duel between Harry and Voldemort? All of these questions will now be answered in this final installment of the Harry Potter series.

The plot to The Deathly Hallows is simple. It's about Harry, Ron, and Hermione going on a quest to find the remaining Horcruxes that Voldemort left behind. With Voldemort and the Death Eaters planning a successful coup on the Ministry, Harry is on the run as he, Ron, and Hermione go on their quest to find the remaining Horcruxes. During this trip, Harry learns some troubling stories about Albus Dumbledore from various sources including Rita Skeeter. He also learns the identity of R.A.B., the location of the remaining Horcruxes, and three objects known as the Deathly Hallows. With Hogwarts now under the control of Severus Snape under Voldemort's orders, the trio go on a quest to find more about the Deathly Hallows including a wand that is more powerful than any wand that wizards had.

During this journey, Harry has to deal with the same mind manipulation of Voldemort as he continues to see things in his head. During this moment, he learns on how to control these thoughts while they meet various people and creatures along the way. He learns more about his family, Aberforth Dumbledore, and what he have to do in order to defeat Voldemort. With the battle lines drawn with help from all the people and creatures he can get, good and evil finally battle to the death as Voldemort is forced to see his own failings.

While the idea of the plot of this final novel in the Harry Potter series is simple, the story is actually far more complex and layered than in any of the previous books. Much of the credit goes to J.K. Rowling who creates situations and scenes that explores not just Harry’s emotion but also the struggle he and his friends have to go through. The theme of this book and all of the books before is death. In fact, just before the book opens, J.K. Rowling borrows two literary quotes in relation to death. One from Aeschylus from The Libation Bearers and another by William Penn from More Fruits of Solitude. The quotes seem to make sense in what J.K. Rowling is trying to say about death.

The book opens with a chapter called The Dark Lord Ascending where it would foreshadow the entire tone of the book of what is to come. In this chapter, we see Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters including the Malfoys, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Severus Snape. It is there that they set up a very important part of the plot in what is to come in killing off a character, who is a teacher at Hogwarts.

When the Death Eaters take over the Ministry along with everything relating to them such as the press and most of all, Hogwarts. Things just don't get bad, it gets worse. Voldemort's hatred of Muggles, especially Muggle-born wizards and witches forced to be questioned and handed to the Dementors. Rowling creates a dystopian world that is similar to what the Nazis did in the 1930s. It's Rowling's knowledge of history and mythology that is wonderfully used. Even when it relates to another Dark Wizard who came just before Voldemort's time, Grindelwald.

Grindelwald, was a character who was referenced in the first book as a wizard whom Dumbledore defeated. He was later revealed to be an old friend of Dumbledore and someone who would later regret his association with the Dark Arts. He also carries a symbol that is first seen at the wedding of Fleur Delacour and Bill Weasley in a shirt worn by Luna Lovegood's father Xenophilius. The symbol offends wedding guest Viktor Krum because it was Grindelwald's signal. Xenophilius is a new character of sorts, who is introduced to the book. He appears in a scene revealing the symbol which is also a reference to the Deathly Hallows. He's a character that proves to be just as eccentric and as wise as his own daughter while being the only journalist to try and print the truth. What he reveals along with another information in relation to a Horcrux the trio is looking for proves to be valuable.

The relationship of the trio is put to the test. Even as the flaws of all three of them are revealed. Despite Hermione's own intelligence, she is revealed that it's also her own big flaw. Even as Xenophilius points out in how she views a book Dumbledore has given her that is a magical fairy tale just to her but to wizards and witches, it's much more than that. During the journey to the find the Horcruxes, Ron's own impatience proves to be a bit of his own undoing as he is fully unaware of the toll of finding the Horcruxes are. Yet, despite those flaws the two characters have, even with each other. It only makes them more enjoyable as they also find ways to make their own sacrifices in destroying the Horcruxes.

Harry, the story's protagonist, definitely goes through his own development where he is forced to see that not everything is as it seems. He's even forced to face deaths that hit him very hard. He also deals with disillusionment over some of the people he has known, especially Remus Lupin and Albus Dumbledore. Lupin, who has a much bigger role than in the two previous books, is dealing with not just a new marriage to Nymphadora Tonks but also the upcoming birth of their first child. There, Lupin is forced to confront himself and the fact that he's a werewolf where Harry angrily has to tell him what his own father would've thought of all of this.

Then there's Albus Dumbledore. Throughout the entire books, Dumbledore is seen as this eccentric, odd, brilliant, and masterful wizard. In this book, the flaws and secrets of Dumbledore are revealed. Especially in what happened when Dumbledore was screaming in pain in the last book when he drank the goblet to attain the fake Horcrux. The images that also relates to Dumbledore's relationship reveals the fragile bond he has with his own family, including his brother Aberforth. Harry, Ron, and Hermione has met the reclusive barman at Hog's Head before but in this book, they begin to know more of their estrangement and the family secret that has tore them apart. Albus does appear in flashbacks and such while Harry is forced to hear these horrible secrets not just through Rita Skeeter, who is creating an autobiography of him, but also Ron's great-aunt Muriel at the wedding.

If Harry's own frustrations about adulthood and the mentors he's looked up to are part of his development. So is his ability to master Occlumency. Forced to see images again, he begins to feel troubled through what he has to see until suddenly, he was able to master them. Harry also learns that despite some of his frustrations and anger, he still has people who can help him. Whether it's Ron and Hermione, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, or even someone unexpected, they're there for him. Yet, Harry is forced to know that it's all down to him when facing Lord Voldemort as he even realizes something about himself and the night that his own parents had died.

While it's always known that several beloved, supporting characters won't have many scenes yet everyone has something to bring. There's great appearances from members of the Order like Mundungus Fletcher, Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks (along with her family), and Kingsley Shacklebot, who has much bigger role in this book. Lee Jordan also appears along with Harry's ex-girlfriend Cho Chang in a brief scene.

All the Weasleys are there with everyone having something to bring including Percy, who is forced to see the corruption of the Ministry. There are some definite surprises from the Weasley. Ginny of course, proves to be a very important character in whom, Harry has been thinking about more than anyone as she helps in battle. A real surprise is Molly Weasley. She's known to readers as a loveable housewife and mother who is the only maternal figure Harry has. Yet, when she steps up to battle... watch out. She not only has the best line of the entire book but man..., she's a badass.

Hagrid returns with a very big role as he helps Harry escape from Privet Drive while proving to be just as powerful in the battle scenes. There’s also brief apperances from Professor McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, Slughorn, and Trelawney to prove how powerful their magic are.

Two supporting characters that are really loved by all are Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood. If there's one thing to sum about Longbottom, it's this. NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM IS DA BOMB!!!! His development throughout the series is just a revelation as he proves to be just as useful and as powerful as Harry is where it's now realized why he's in Gryffindor. Luna Lovegood is just as powerful and brilliant as she proves to be a very helpful figure in helping Harry discover not just the legend of Ravenclaw but also the object that Voldemort stole that he made into a Horcrux. While she's known as an eccentric and as the anti-Hermione in terms of faith over facts, she brings the kind of balance that is needed in terms of belief.

If the good guys are something to enjoy reading about. There's other characters as well, we see goblins and how they tend to favor objects of value rather than people's lives. House-elves definitely play a bigger part, especially Kreacher who reveals not just the identity of R.A.B. (which was quite obvious) but also what happened in which, pity is brought to this poor elf. Then there's the characters readers don't like. Dolores Umbridge makes an appearance and she proves to be just as unlikable as she did in the previous books.

The Malfoys also appear though their roles aren't bigger. Yet, their part in the book proves that their affiliation with Lord Voldemort has now been shaky as Lucius's failures and the fear inside his wife Narcissa and son Draco show them in a better light. Even in scenes where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are captured, we see Draco do his best to help them. Wormtail also appears but only briefly. Yet, readers do see what kind of power his silver hand has.

While there's notable appearances from several Death Eaters including Fenrir Greyback, the most interesting of all is Severus Snape. Snape, of all the characters in the book throughout the series is the most ambiguous and complex. Even as he now plays headmaster at Hogwarts under Voldemort’s orders while there are several flashbacks that definitely reveals his true nature and pain that is unexpected. Bellatrix Lestrange is much bigger in any of the books as she proves to be just as psychotic and unsympathetic in how she loves to torture people and kill them as well. Yet, her unstable state of mind also proves to be her own undoing.

The Dursleys also appear for the final time in one chapter. While there's no change in Vernon Dursley or very little in Petunia, Dudley is a character that makes a surprising revelation in seeing what Harry is trying to do for them. It also shows the aftereffects of what happened to Dudley after his attack from the Dementors two years before while Petunia is seen in a flashback about Harry's mother. Flashbacks are important to the story, especially for Harry who gets to see things in their full content.

Then there's Voldemort, a villain who proves to be the kind of villain that everyone has to fight against. His control of people that are good with the Imperius curse shows how far he’s willing to go to get rid of his enemies. The way he attacks Muggle-born wizards and witches, those he called blood-traitors (like the Weasleys) show how corrupt and diabolical his power is. Yet, Voldemort's quest for supreme power, even as he tries to obtain a wand more powerful than any kind of wand as it relates to the Deathly Hallows. It's there that Voldemort's own flaw is unveiled. His ignorance towards love as it would become his own undoing. It's something that Harry has found out while proving that even the greatest Dark wizard ever can be outsmarted.

Objects are a big part, even with what the Trio has to use. In Dumbledore's will, they're given objects that will help in their quest. Hermione, a children's book. Harry, the first Snitch he had caught in his first Quidditch match. Ron, Dumbledore's Deluminator that is seen in the first and fifth book. Another important object is the sword of Godric Gryffindor, proves to be powerful in destroying Horcruxes. The Polyjuice Potion is used frequently in the book in how many of the characters disguise themselves as Harry is on the run. Then there's the objects of the Deathly Hallows. One of them is something Harry already has, his invisibility cloak. There's something about that cloak that Harry discovers as it proves to be more powerful than it seems.

The objects, powers, and mystery concerning the wizard world is wonderfully told by J.K. Rowling. Even as she moves her writing style towards more adult-like themes. There’s definitely a bit of language throughout the book and violent content that won't be recommended to children under 13. Especially some of the battle sequences, fights, and everything that definitely plays a large part of the book. If there's anything J.K. Rowling is good at, it's capturing the emotions and mood of the characters and where they're at. Yes, there are several major characters that die. Many of those deaths prove to be just as sad and heartbreaking. Again, it relates to the theme J.K. Rowling is talking about, death. It's something Harry has to deal with. Even in one scene, Harry buries a dead character where the character is given a proper burial. It proves to be one of the most emotional moments of the book.

This story is in many ways epic. Not to some of the works of Tolkien but also something as cinematic in the films of Sergio Leone. There's a wonderful, epic quality to the story that can pertain something as mythology and history. It's a genius in how Rowling writes these stories, set up situations and everything. In fact, The Deathly Hallows proves to be a book that is very powerful and rewarding. A lot of the stories told throughout this entire book proves to be rewarding as all of these characters, good and evil, are something that readers care about. In many ways, J.K. Rowling has created something that could've been close to a perfect end.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. There is an epilogue in the book. While what was revealed and the content of the epilogue is rewarding and fulfilling in some ways. The problem with this epilogue is that in seven pages, it's way too short. It only profiles a few of the surviving characters 19 years after the final Battle of Hogwarts occur. One of those characters become a professor at Hogwarts and that's it.

The real flaw to this epilogue is that there's too many loose ends, a lot of unanswered questions, and the idea of what happened to all the other survivors. How did they cope with the deaths around them 19 years before? What are they doing now? Who is the headmaster at Hogwarts? Who is Minister of Magic? What do they do for a living? It's a really unsatisfying ending in a lot of ways for non-hardcore fans as more will be revealed in J.K. Rowling's upcoming Harry Potter encyclopedia.

Despite the epilogue, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows is still an amazing, sprawling book from J.K. Rowling. While fans will be happy and sad over the outcome of the series. The final result is that J.K. Rowling has created an imagination and a series that will be beloved in the many years to come. Ten years ago, I don't think anyone was reading something but what she did with this entire series brought joy back to reading books again. Another great thing is that the series will be read again and again from the first book to the final one. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows is a must-have for anyone who loves Harry Potter. We just need to be fulfilled in hoping that Ms. Rowling releases another book to see whatever happened to...

(C) thevoid99 2010

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