Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
July 17, 2016 9:30 PM - by J. K. Rowling - Subscribe

The final chapter in the Harry Potter series. Contains series and movie spoilers.

It is a key element in Rowling's own myth that she plotted the entire Potter series before she started, and on its completion, you can see that the protagonists, the principal families and their allegiances, the design of Hogwarts public school, and the grand plan for a final confrontation between goodness and badness were, as alleged, always in place. But since book three there has been more and more evidence of (occasionally helpless) ad hoc-ery. Everything must have changed once it became clear to Rowling and her publishers that her readers - adults as well as children - would gobble up as much Potter as she could bear to produce. Hence such things as the tri-wizard tournament and an excursion to Downing Street to meet a Muggle prime minister whose original has also disappeared without trace. Even the newly arrived Hallows, some nifty plot accessories that allow for all kinds of crises, personal challenges and protracted revelations, point at a desperate struggle, once Rowling had arrived at the middle of the last book, to hold off the final act. -The Guardian

"Deathly Hallows" is exhilarating but also exhausting: Rowling's prose suddenly shifts into high gear, and the spectacularly complex interplay of narrative and character often reads as though an entire trilogy's worth of summing-up has been crammed into one volume. The novel's breakneck speed is reminiscent of John Buchan's fervid "The 39 Steps." "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is a far bleaker, unapologetically adult novel than its predecessors, which now have the feel of a long, picturesque prologue, rather as "The Hobbit" is a prelude to "The Lord of the Rings," with subplots involving goblins and warring factions who behave like orcs quarreling over the injured Frodo. But the echoes of Tolkien and Lewis are sometimes too obvious. The locket that is one of Voldemort's Horcruxes exerts a malignant power over its owners, inevitably evoking the One Ring, and the story owes too much to "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
Yet Rowling trumps even Tolkien in the sheer humanity of her characters. She nimbly and unsparingly dissects the master-slave relationship of the wizards to their elf and goblin helpmeets, and the arrogance of the sorcerers -- even ostensibly good ones -- toward their ordinary, human counterparts. And the maturation of Harry and his friends is as moving as it is realistic: Their romantic and emotional bonds are frayed and sometimes appear to be severed, but Harry and Ron and Hermione stumble on, dogged and damp and quarrelsome as real adolescents. -The Washington Post
NYT Review

A few thoughts
-This was the most frustrating book to read as a fan. The mythology felt as if it had gone from 0 to 90 and the adventure felt overall a bit lost. I mean, that's part of the point, that Harry needs to go on this quest to learn about the Deathly Hallows and find horcruxes but none of this overarching world of wizarding secrets had even been hinted at previously. It would be like Tolkien cramming half the Silmarillion into Return of the King.
-I hated the epilogue. (To be fair I've also hated the snippets of post-series factoids JKR has released.)
-With all the deaths in the book, it kind of got to be a bit much emotionally. Fred's death was done very well and really carried the weight of his death. Remus and Tonks? Not so much. I suppose it's a good analogy for how death would feel in the face of a massive battle but as a reader I had to go back several times to make sure I didn't miss their deaths. Hedwig and Dobby were incredibly sad to me but their ends in the book weren't what I expected given Harry's connection to each of them. Perhaps that's more the case with Hedwig than Dobby -- Harry did at least channel the grief for Dobby into a way to block out Voldemort's anger.
-The near misses Harry, Hermione, and Ron have are incredible as is the amount of information they find out on accident. I have to agree with Ron that Dumbledore left much to chance.
-Destroying the locket was one of my favorite scenes and perhaps Ron's best moments in the series.
-As massive and unruly as the Battle for Hogwarts was, it's one of my favorite events in the series (from an action and suspense perspective). I always get a bit choked up when Harry punches Carrow (Alecto?) for spitting on McGonagall. The awkward Weasley reunion before the battle really lightens the mood enough to not make the upcoming horror overwhelming.
-The horcrux Voldemort didn't intend to make (Harry) was a rather interesting idea. I recall there being fan theories about that before the book came out but even with it being rather well predicted, I enjoyed reading it.
-Snape's true loyalty was a surprise. Perhaps not that he was really on Dumbledore's side but that it had roots in his affections for Lily. I have very mixed feelings still about whether it was love or obsession but it was one revelation that I hadn't read before the book.
-Perhaps what bothered me the most was that parts of the book felt indulgent and fanfic-ish. The main characters making it through the adventure + battle without major injury or one of them dying felt too good to be true. While many deaths occurred they weren't people central to the plot (although their deaths still make me cry).

I'll always love the series and still reread (or re-listen) to it regularly.

[also, sorry for being days late on this]
posted by toomanycurls (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I knew that Voldemort would be defeated, because this is the sort of series where good triumphs over evil. But I didn't know exactly how it would happen. And I nearly leapt up out of my chair when I got to this bit:
Hands, softer than he had been expecting, touched Harry’s face, and felt his heart. He could hear the woman’s fast breathing, her pounding of life against his ribs. “Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?” The whisper was barely audible, her lips were an inch from his ear, her head bent so low that her long hair shielded his face from the onlookers. “Yes,” he breathed back. He felt the hand on his chest contract: her nails pierced him. Then it was withdrawn. She had sat up. “He is dead!” Narcissa Malfoy called to the watchers.
I love that Narcissa Malfoy plays a key role in Voldemort's defeat, and of course it ties in perfectly with Rowling's theme that Voldemort is not only unable to love but also unable to so much as understand love — even (perhaps especially) among one of his most trusted families.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:06 AM on July 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

No discussion of this book would be complete without the chapter-by-chapter review by MeFi's own mightygodking.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:08 AM on July 18, 2016

Does anyone love the epilogue? Seriously, I have never spoken to anyone about it who didn't think it was rubbish in some aspect. They all have their own reasons but I don't know anyone who will defend it. I so wish JKR had resisted the impulse to tie it up as she did.
posted by town of cats at 11:28 PM on July 18, 2016

People who write next gen fanfic seem to love it (or have just dedicated so many hours to dissecting it that they started to love it).
posted by toomanycurls at 12:42 AM on July 19, 2016

So if nobody loves it can we talk about our special reasons for disliking it? I don't care about the marriages and kids, I am just irked by the fact that seemingly nothing has changed re: Slytherin and Hogwarts. Unless Ron is just being a git the wizarding world is due to repeat the blood purity civil war in another generation. Blerg.

Also the hallows are silly and the wands having some level of agency thing was just too wonky, it's another one of the things that makes HP world so ridiculous.

It was satisfying to see the saga end, and I actually think the endless camping trip from hell does a decent job at exploring the often dull yet stressful aspects of war and conflict. Lots of hurry up and wait, long periods of boredom punctuated by terror. So there's stuff to like here, even as I regress into my usual worldbuilding nonsense.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:16 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just finished reading these books for the first time.

Voldemort. Why are you using the same spell that failed to kill Harry twice in your final battle. Why not explode the ground at Harry's feet? Why not summon a boulder over his head? Why not use a gun?
posted by JDHarper at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2016

You have to think that at some point someone would say, "you know, this House stuff isn't working very well" :-). On the spell thing, I've wondered about the "rules" myself. Environmental trickery seems like a good avenue...turning the ground into ice or water beneath your opponent's feet for example.
posted by idb at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2016

Dark Magic is kind of weird in the Harry Potter universe. There's the Unforgivable Curses, which are bad but each could theoretically be used for good reasons (the Cruciatus Curse is perhaps most questionable, unless you're Wizard Jack Bauer). There's Fiendfyre, which seems more incredibly dangerous and reckless rather than outright evil. Making Horcruxes is pretty obviously evil especially since it requires murdering an innocent person to accomplish it, and the effect it has on the soul is clear-cut. Voldemort's soul was so damaged he made a horcrux without even realizing it. There's various other "dark magic" spells talked about, but usually in the "it'd take Dark Magic to accomplish this unlikely feat". Doing magic doesn't seem more strenuous than say, driving a car, so it's really unclear what makes something dark magic as opposed to normal magic.

Why aren't love potions dark magic? They're basically the ultimate date rape drug. Why is paralyzing someone, or addling their brains, or erasing their memories not dark magic? Would what Hermione did to her parents get her sent to Azkaban under normal circumstances?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:11 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have very mixed feelings still about whether [Snape's thing for Lily] was love or obsession but it was one revelation that I hadn't read before the book.

A long time ago on an internet far far away, I was part of Harry Potter fandom in the earliest days, when Prisoner of Azakaban was a few months yet from US release and there were maybe two dozen fics in existence, total. It was an era of barely any shipping (I'm pretty sure what was there was Harry/Hermione), no Marauders fic because there were no Marauders, and any expressions of sympathy or interest in the Slytherin characters was considered deeply weird if not downright subversive.

One of those early ficcers -- actually, I'm pretty sure she was the first, period -- wrote a story in which it was revealed that Snape had been in love with Lily Potter. Consensus in my tween-y fandom circle of the time was that it was a nicely written story but the idea was way too melodramatic to possibly work as a real theory.

By the time Deathly Hallows came around my Potter fandom memories were years in the past, but I made a point of messaging the one friend I was still in touch with so we could mutually boggle and raise a toast to that ficcer of yore, because WHAT EVEN.
posted by bettafish at 11:03 AM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

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