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Harry Potter and the deathly hallows #7 / J. K. Rowling ; illustrations by Mary GrandPré.
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Booklist Reviews 2007 August #1
*Starred Review* The cloak of inevitability hangs on the final installment of the Harry Potter series. One must die, one will live. Friends will be distinguished from foes. All will be revealed. To Rowling's great credit, she manages this finale with the flair and respect for her audience that have permeated the previous six novels, though the mood here is quite different. The story has a certain flatness that extends through much of the book. Rowling can no longer rely on diversions like Quidditch matches and trips to Hogsmead for relief; Harry has made the decision not to return to Hogwarts. Aided by Hermione and Ron, he will instead search for the remaining Horcruxes that hide pieces of Voldemorte's soul. Danger and death are in the air, but Rowling skillfully deals both out in tightly controlled bursts that are juxtaposed against periods of indecision, false leads, and even boredom as the trio try to divine their next moves. Most startling are the new elements, including the not-altogether-successful introduction of the Deathly Hallows. These magical artifacts unnecessarily up the total of things that Harry is looking for by three, and the ownership of one of the Hallows, a wand, may lead to confusion for readers at a climactic moment. More successful additions, adding depth and weight, are the multilayered revelation of Dumbledore's family history and the brilliantly handled answer to the question of Severus Snape's allegiance. Throughout, Rowling returns to and embellishes the hallmark themes of the series: the importance of parental influences, the redemptive power of sacrifice, and the strength found in love. These truths are the underpinnings of a finale that is worthy of fans' hopes and expectations. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #5
The wildly popular series ends with a bang as Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, abandons the familiar haven of Hogwarts to defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all -- or so he hopes. From a hair-raising escape at book's beginning to the monumental battle at its end that pits the Death Eaters against the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's Army, and numerous magical creatures (including an unlikely contingent of house elves), Deathly Hallows breaks formula, eschewing the schoolboy setup of the past for a straight-up quest adventure devoid of Quidditch, detentions, and exams. On the run, now-seventeen-year-old Harry, Ron, and Hermione search out the Horcruxes, introduced in Book Six as the key to Voldemort's destruction. Meanwhile, Harry, distraught over his mentor Dumbledore's death, puzzles through the former Hogwarts headmaster's shady past and discovers a new means of defeating Voldemort: the Deathly Hallows, three legendary objects that together give their possessor power over death. As the book opens, Voldemort has begun to seize power in a silent coup: with discrimination codified, step by step, into law and critics swiftly "disappeared," the resulting society is a familiar dystopic nightmare -- and Hogwarts is no sanctuary. Rather, with the still-enigmatic Snape installed as headmaster and several Death Eaters added to the staff, it is a youth prison and indoctrination center. Rowling pulls few punches in depicting this bleak landscape: torture, if not graphically described, is implacably present, and the body count climbs ever higher. Readers who grew up with the series will appreciate how it has matured, but younger newcomers may be overwhelmed by a level of violence and loss that far surpasses all previous volumes. Rowling obviously had a long eye for plotting: numerous minor personalities emerge from the woodwork to fulfill past foreshadowing, while others -- Ron and Neville Longbottom, especially -- finally come into their own. As for Harry, the boy hero flirts with darkness, casting Unforgivable curses with a feeling of "heady control" and ominously tempted by the promise of power that tainted Dumbledore. Ultimately, however, he is saved by his capacity for love and self-sacrifice, and it is here that Rowling's message rings loud and clear. Harry is consistently defined by his compassion; it can even be his (temporary) downfall, as when his choice to disarm rather than kill one of the enemy identifies him amid a cadre of decoys. But compassion is the quality that allows Harry to break the cycle of hatred between Muggle and wizard, house elf and human, and even Gryffindor and Slytherin -- and the ripple effects of this achievement are incalculable. Ravenous fans and higher-than-ever stakes aside, the book has its flaws. Rowling still discounts the ability of her audience to read between the lines and leaves no subtlety to the imagination (to a righteously angry Hermione, "'Yeah,' said Ron sycophantically"); certain plot devices seem like hasty additions to the magical rulebook; and the scenes of conceptual exposition, particularly a plodding one that bisects Harry and Voldemort's final showdown, are poorly integrated, rarely sustaining tension. Nevertheless, Rowling fulfills the promise of earlier volumes, tying up loose threads, deepening character complexities to match Harry's evolving recognition of life's shades of gray, pulling out every emotional stop, and leading her hero into adulthood while still producing the most focused plot line and layered, heart-in-throat climax of the series. (Snape plays his part, and rather than resolving his character as pure good or pure evil, Rowling allows him a full measure of both and the internal conflict to match.) After all the adrenaline, an epilogue gently releases readers, shining a brief nineteen-years-later light on the aftermath for all involved that contains small, satisfying echoes of Harry's own first introduction to the wizarding world. It is unsettling to reach the end of a saga that attained such heights of cultural saturation; there's not enough action or bittersweet resolution in the world to prepare us for the finality of that last page turn, and readers will always want one more chapter, one more story, before leaving the universe of the book. Rowling gracefully acknowledges this ambivalence. The opening scenes of Deathly Hallows find Harry, for the last time inside the Dursleys' house at number four, Privet Drive, sifting through his belongings, recalling past escapades, and wistfully bidding goodbye to those who, like his parents and godfather, were lost to him. Readers will share his feelings of nostalgia in this triumphant farewell to the boy wizard. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
PW Reviews 2007 July #4
It would seem churlish to review the Harry Potter series finale with something less than overwhelming enthusiasm—after all, there's no one like Rowling. Who else has sustained such an intricate, endlessly inventive plot over seven thick volumes and so constantly surprised her readers with twists, well-laid traps and Purloined Letter –style tricks? Hallows continues the tradition, both with sly feats of legerdemain and with several altogether new, unexpected elements. And yet the revelations don't pack as much of a punch; the moments of genuine astonishment or grief that mark every other book in the series go missing here. Perhaps readers know too well the rules of Rowling's magical universe, a universe she has constructed with extraordinary thoroughness and care.
As the ending of the previous book suggested, Hallows revolves around Harry, Ron and Hermione's quest for the rest of the Horcruxes into which Voldemort has poured his soul. Without the Hogwarts school year to supply structure, the plot can meander, and Harry himself is tempted to go on an altogether different search. For once some puckered seams trouble the surface of the storytelling—is Harry now using forbidden spells? How many Horcruxes are there?
It's hard not to wish that the editors had done their jobs more actively. Hallows doesn't contain the extraneous scenes found in, say, Goblet of Fire, but the momentum is uneven. Rowling is better at comedy than at fight scenes, and Hallows has less humor and more combat than any of the preceding books. Surely her editors could have helped her build tension with more devices than the use of ellipses and dashes? And craft fight dialogue that sounds a bit less like it belongs in a comic book? True, none of these flaws is fatal to a fan's enjoyment. But why not have make the bestselling children's book in history the best it could possibly be?
One great virtue remains constant: Rowling's skill at portraying characters. Harry and friends mature, not in straight lines but in realistically messy patterns. Over the course of the seven books, Harry develops from the scrawny misfit of no. 4, Privet Drive, to a teenager who can pull off acts of self-sacrifice and goodness without cheapening his charisma for readers—no mean feat for a writer. And when Rowling concludes her long story, she does so the old-fashioned way, without ambiguity. Harry Potter has finished growing up, and even the most ardent fans will know that it is time to say good-bye. Ages 9-12. (July)[Page 83]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.