OK, here we go. If the title didn’t tip you off, and you missed my warning from last Wednesday, I’ll be as clear as I can about this:
!!!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!
Still here? Good. Let’s get started.
Some Thoughts on the Plot:
I don’t think (despite what some people are suggesting) that Harry ever died. At the time when Harry allows Voldemort to use the Avada Kedavra curse on him, he is the Master of all three Deathly Hallows, which means he is immortal and the Master of Death. That’s why he has the choice to go on (submit to Death) or go back. He is in control of Death. I know this is not what Dumbledore tells him (Dumbledore tells him that he can’t die as long as his blood is alive in Voldemort), but I think it’s possible that A) Dumbledore was wrong (Dumbledore was very focused on the power of Love and his Love charms protecting Harry) B) Dumbledore was not telling the whole truth. Remember, Dumbledore was obsessed with the Hallows, to the point that it led to his demise. Perhaps he couldn’t com to admit/tell Harry that Harry had succeeded where he (and countless others) failed, and actually became Master of all Three Hallows and Master of Death. Harry, though, knows it. And Dumbledore kind of knows it too. Why does the scene take the form of whatever Harry wants? Because he is the Master of Death. It’s “his party” as Dumbledore says. And just like the Sorcerer’s Stone in Book One, he doesn’t want it (as we see from the conversation in the Headmaster’s office). Harry once again proves himself worthy by showing that despite the power being in his grasp, he wouldn’t abuse it.
I was right about Snape, (who by the way, is my favorite character in the book, and that’s entirely influenced by Alan Rickman, but whatever). He was good all along. I didn’t entirely know his motivation (his love for Harry’s mother – “look me in the eye”) and at the time I didn’t realize the flaws in Dumbledore’s character that only became apparent in this book, so I was wrong about Dumbledore’s motivation for instructing Snape to kill him. But I was right that Dumbledore ultimately proved invaluable to Harry in a way that he could only do in death (by appearing with him in Death Station).
What was that whimpering sack of whatever that was there with Harry and Dumbledore? I’ve seen it suggested that it is the part of Voldemort’s soul that was killed when Voldemort cursed Harry. I don’t think so. I think it was what was left of Voldemort’s soul after the Horcruxes were destroyed. Remember, he’s using the Elder Wand on Harry, which we know he can’t do. He should have killed himself. But he didn’t, because he still has one Horcrux left. That’s what’s left of his soul, that one Horcrux in Nagini. As Harry’s coming to, so is Voldemort, since Harry, as Master of Death, allows them both back. And despite Dumbledore’s assertion that there was nothing that could be done for that remaining piece of his soul, Harry still tries.
I know that there were some slow parts, though I didn’t mind them so much (as they kind of set up some interesting things that we kind of needed to know). At some point early on she must have said to herself “crap, I need an eighth book.” Part of that is her own fault, in that she left so much mystery to the last book, for obvious reasons, that she had to cram a lot in there to finish it up. I get that, and the whole “each book being one year” thing kind of constrains her, in that some things she has to drag out, while other would have to be crammed in. If she could make this book into two (or 1500 pages) it might have been a little better.
Some people have picked on the Christian allusions in the book, but they don’t bother me. She’s borrowed so much from almost every culture and mythology, that it was inevitable. Some see Harry as a Jesus-like figure (who sacrifices himself to save everyone else, and comes back to life), though I don’t think he ever died, so I’m not sold on the resurrection part of it, but at least the imagery/allusion is there. And the whole Deathly Hallows thing is basically a grail quest (even down to the three Knights Templar who are the first to “find” the grail) but I don’t mind it. She’s going to borrow some things, so fine.
The “New” Magic:
Every book has always had some sort of new magic being introduced that came into use later on in the series. Book One taught is the power of love. Book two taught us about Phoenix feathers and other stuff. Book Three introduced the Patronus charm. Book four taught us about Portkey’s and bringing Voldemort back from the brink of death, and about the twin cores. Book Five taught us about the prophecy (and something else I can’t think of now). Book Six taught is about Horcruxes; Book Seven introduced the Deathly Hallows. Book seven also depends critically on the magic of wands.
That said, if the magic of wands was going to be so crucial in the end, then she really should have spent a little more time building it up (and into other books). I know she kind of explained it, but she should have gone into that a little more. “The wand chooses the wizard” from the first book turns out to be the most important bit of magic in the series. Perhaps a little more explanation on what, exactly, is going on and why.
What kind of bugged me is that I wanted JKR, re: wands, to go into the magic core bit a little more. Remember that aside from being twin cores, Harry and Voldemort both had wands whose phoenix feather core was from Fawkes. There had to be some greater connection to Fawkes/Dumbledore/Godric Gryffindor than there was. And if Harry was going to be the descendent of someone, he should have been the Heir of Gryffindor, not Pervell (or, maybe, both). Having the Heir of Gryffindor face of against the Heir of Slytherin in a final, epic battle would have been awesome.
More than Two People Die:
I didn’t mind the “meaningless” killings as much as as friend and commenter Jeremy C – who I’ve already discussed this with, so sorry for some repetition – put it: “Hedwig?!?!?!, Dobby, Colin Creevey; and like she did with Sirius, setting up happy moments for people before they die (Lupin, Tonks, Snape)“, because if people are going to die, and they are going to die in this battle, it would bug me more if it was all a bunch of people Harry didn’t know or care about it would be unrealistic. Sure, we ultimately get a happy ending, but major characters and loved ones have been dying in this book all the time. I mean you can’t really expect the Weasley family would come out intact; what are the chances of that? Which is not to say that each one didn’t hurt a little. It was a little dusty in the room (to borrow from Bill Simmons) at some points.
I also agreed with Jeremy that Ron & Hermione and Harry & Ginny should have named a kid Fred (though I’ve seen that JKR has intimated that George names his first son Fred).
Things I liked:
There were a lot of scenes/lines that I really liked. When Harry tells Albus Severus that Snape was bravest man he ever knew (in contrast to calling him a coward at the end of HBP) I got chills. And Mrs. Weasly is totally badass. And I agree about loving Neville (Jeremy: “Also liked Neville’s bravery and his job at Hogwarts“.) Neville pulling the sword out of the sorting hat (a la Harry in CoS) was awesome – ie Neville, like Harry, is a “true Gryffindor,” showing true bravery. The way he is adamant about staying to fight – making his auror parents (and Gran) proud. That’s awesome.
My Top 5 Favorite Parts:
1. The headmaster’s office scene: The standing ovation Harry received from the Headmasters was chilling, but even the conversation with Dumbledore afterward. For the first time, Harry’s in control when he talks to Dumbledore. He’s finally got the answers, finally figured everything out for himself. Finally knows the whole truth, and is in total control.
2. The scene in “King’s Cross Station”: I liked the whole scene, but one line struck me. When Dumbledore sees Harry, knowing where they are and what that means, and says “you are the bravest boy” that gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes.
3. Snape’s memories in the penseive – I kept thinking “I WAS RIGHT ABOUT HIM!!!”
4. When people kept streaming into the Room of Requirement, even though Harry thought he had to go it alone. Everyone got word and came to fight. That was awesome. Harry kept telling people to go back, because he was genuinely worried about them. But more people just kept coming. For the first time in all seven books, the adults/teachers in Harry’s life aren’t trying to protect him. They are following him. Nobody is telling him to go back. Everybody is there to fight, to end this thing once and for all, regardless of what that means, for better or for worse.
5. The way McGonagall didn’t even question Harry, but rallied everyone, trusting him completely (partly because it’s Harry, who’s been off fighting and staying alive all year; partly because he invokes Dumbledore). I am getting chills just writing about it now. How she stops being the worried teacher, knowing the stakes, and instead knows the fight is on. When she says “we duel to kill” to Slughorn after “it’s time the Slytherins chose their loyalties for good” or whatever that line was, I was jumping in my seat, pumping my fist, cheering for her.
All in all, I thought it was a very satisfying ending (even the Epilogue). Maybe it’s childish of me to want/like the “and they all live happily ever after” ending, but it’s a children’s book after all, and that’s what I like.
We knew there had to me some magic involved, and if the first 6 books were any indication, it was going to be some newly introduced magic (this time, cheating death by being master of all three hallows). I liked the way Harry faced down Voldemort, and talked him down before the end. No fear; he knew he had him, and it was over. He just wanted him to know, also.
I thought this one was more tense and action packed than any other (even despite the slow parts). From the time Harry decides to race Voldemort to Hogwarts to get the Horcruxes, it doesn’t stop, whether by action or exposition. The whole last third of the book was better than any section of any other book, imho. I loved it. And it redeems the slow parts, I think. So I loved this book. It’s just sad that it’s over. Of all the books I’ve read in my life, I’ve never anticipated one as much as this. My only disappointment is that there won’t be another one.