Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

J.K. Rowling has released the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter franchise, entitled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Clocking in at 750+ pages, this is a massive tome, worthy of the books which Hermione always seemed to be reading in earlier entries. Of course, if the publisher had gone with a slightly smaller font (read that as the font they use in 'adult' novels) then they could have easily shaved a 50 or more pages off of this book. Which in turn could have knocked down the nearly $40 price tag to the more usual $25-$30 for a hardback. So, anyways, I was at Books-a-Million on the day this was released, not really expecting to buy it, as I was going to wait until they released the whole set as a boxed collection of hard covers (I don't have the first 5 novels). Yet, when I saw that BAM had marked it 40% off for being a best seller, and then I get an additional 10% off for being a bonus card holder, I couldn't not buy it. Heck, I'd be stupid if I spent $40 on it later when I could get it for $20 then. So I picked up that hefty novel, and went about looking around BAM. A while later, I went to the checkout, there was only 1 open, so I got in that line and waited. While waiting, I flipped open the front cover to read the dust jacket flap for the book's synopsis, and this is what I read:


No, not this, that kind of blank space right above this, where I shoved the ellipsis. The only thing that annoys me more than a book with a bad synopsis is one that doesn't have one at all. The blurb doesn't have to give away plot points, but it should provide a brief overview of what the reader can expect to be in this book. This one should have mentioned Dumbeldor's death in the previous novel and that Harry, Hermione and Ron had decided to hunt for Voldemort's horcruxes, the physical manifestations of his broken soul, rather than return to Hogwart's. It's a gross oversight on the part of the publisher, and screams that they automatically assume that everyone who picks this book up will want to purchase it. Rather arrogant of them, if you ask me.

But onto the review.

The plot is pretty much as I outlined above. Our heroes have decided to hunt down these various macguffins in order to defeat Voldemort. It was all nicely outlined in the previous installment (Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince) and Mrs. Rowling follows it fairly well. As usual, we get the various deus ex machina as helps for Potter in his quest, and the twists and turns of who Potter can trust and believe. I would call it predictable, but the deus ex machina tend to appear out of thin air, surprising both the reader and the hero. While some are explained later, none are hinted at before. This is pure laziness on Mrs. Rowling's part, unless she just thinks that readers are too stupid to figure out hints, so why should she give them to us.

Characters are fairly standard to what they've been the entire series. Hermione is a know-it-all. Ron's something of a git. Harry's, well Harry. That's not to say that they're not complex and each has their own strengths, weaknesses and quirks, but rather they are all well wrought extensions of the characters they were in the previous novel. And this is an important fact. If you go from The Sorcerer's Stone to The Deathly Hallows directly, these characters will feel odd and not quite right. Out of everything, this building of characterizations is probably Rowling's greatest strength. There's a direct growth in the characters which, while not necessary to read previous novels in order to enjoy the story, to get the full impact of just how much these characters have grown and changed, then you do need it.

What is better, is that it's not just the three main heroes that have done so. It's the villains and the secondary and even the tertiary characters. This is nowhere more evidenced than by the short bit we get to see of Harry's cousin, Dudley.

Settings are the usual magical sites and oddball houses which are part and parcel of the Potter series. Rowling loves her descriptions though, and truth be told, there were some times when I could have used less descriptive text and a bit more dialog or action. Of course, probably a good 99% of the time, a knowledge of the setting is needed for when whatever action for that particular scene occurs.

The theme for this novel eludes me for a moment. I want to say sacrifice, but that just doesn't feel right. Of course other options in this area are the inevitable good versus evil, redemption, falling, living and dying, and learning to understand and get to know those you love and those you hate. Ultimately though, I may have to say that it is all of those combined. This, and all the other Potter books, are young adult novels. Above all the various magic and mystery, they are modern-day morality plays. They try to instill the concepts of love and friend, that there are things that are good and right just as there are things that are not. As such, the themes are complex and deep, playing as an almost undercurrent to everything that the characters do and say. How they act and react one towards the other, and I'm not just talking about in the antagonist/protagonist sense, but also between protagonists and protagonists and even antagonist and antagonist.

The mechanics of the book were fine. My only complaints in this regard are the nebulous thing about size and paper wastage and of course the lack of a blurb. That really irks me. Grammar and other typos were more or less non-existent (at least I didn't come across any, so it's the same thing to me).

Overall, it's a grand ending to the series, and more importantly, a thoroughly enjoyable read. Not only was the battles fun and exciting, I think it also had the highest death count of returning characters in the entire series. Whether or not those deaths are a good thing, well that's for the readers to decide for themselves. Ultimately, I think I'm going to miss these characters, and am somewhat saddened by the fact that we'll get no more Harry Potter novels. That said, I do think I would like to see some other stories written in this universe. Things such as the first war with Voldemort, or even the duel between Dumbledore and his friend which was referenced so many times in this novel.

I give it a 3.6 out of 4. It would've been higher, but I'm really irked about that lack of a blurb.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin