I’m not out to directly spoil "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," but some of my comments will give big pieces away, so if you haven’t read the book yet and think you will, come back after you’ve read it. It’s worth reading without having major parts spoiled. (spoilers don’t start for a few paragraphs, and I’ve put a marker so you’ll know when to stop reading)
That said, my ultimate recommendation is this: GREAT BOOK. Read it now if you’ve read books 1-6. Read books 1-6 and then this one if you haven’t.
I am sad to see the series be over. I for one didn’t get into the series until the 6th book was published (around the time the 4th movie came out I think). I am not some huge avid fan. I didn’t go to a bookstore at midnight when it was released: I walked into a bookstore on Sunday afternoon and picked up a copy from the table. They had plenty left. But something happened once I started reading the book that surprised me: I couldn’t put it down. I started reading at about 5 and didn’t stop until I had read the last page after midnight. You know it’s a powerful story when you can ready 750+ pages in a single sitting!
When I saw the first movie, I thought to myself, "Ok I get why kids would love this. I don’t get why it’s such a hit though." When I saw the second movie, I thought "Well, she clearly has a plan with what she’s doing – they’re not just one-off stories." After seeing the 2nd movie, I was even more impressed with the first. I looked forward to the 3rd movie coming out, and remember talking to my friend Michael, who is a big HP fan, and he told me he was disappointed about how much stuff from the book they had left out of the film. I thought the 3rd film was great (in fact, of the 5 they’ve released so far, I think it’s still the best), so I wondered how the books might be if there was even more to see of the world. As I said, around the time of the 6th book’s and the 4th film’s release, that’s when I bought books 1-6 and started reading. The 4th film was the first HP movie I saw where I’d read the book beforehand.
Anyway, here are my likes and dislikes on the 7th book now that the story is over:
—– Spoilers begin —–
LIKE. In book 6, I was disappointed how the kids didn’t appear to be using the stuff they were learning much. They were getting an education, but it didn’t fit into book 6 as much as I’d have liked. In Book 7, Rowling made up for it. They applied spells & lessons from past book throughout the entire book, and it was clear that the kids were successful only because of their first 6 years at school. I thought that was a nice touch. I liked how some very old spells ("wingardium leviosa!") were used.
LIKE. She pretty much explained everything in book 7. Snape, the horcruxes, Dumbledore’s hand, his death, Voldemort’s past and connection to Harry, Harry’s own family history. I can’t really think of anything from the previous books that didn’t get some attention.
LIKE. Snape’s role. I’m not going to say that I called it, but I had a strong suspicion coming out of Book 6 that Snape wasn’t the cold-blooded murderer that he was made out to be and that Dumbledore at least knew what Snape was going to do (I didn’t think that they’d actually planned it together however). I was pleased to see him vindicated, and I do think that Rowling did a nice job of providing some perspective on all of Snape’s actions that showed that he did, in fact, have good intentions at heart. The scene with him dying and giving Harry his memories, followed by Harry’s trip to the pensieve, were particularly powerful.
LIKE. Man this book was brutal. We lost friends almost as soon as the book started. What a way to go. I like it when books/films/shows pull no punches. Not every death gets a slow-motion close-up for the hero to mourn. Mad-Eye Moody’s death was particularly cold, impersonal, and removed. Lupin? Tonks? Fred? (or was it George?). It’s unbelievable how high the death toll is in book 7.
DISLIKE. The epilogue just didn’t do it for me. 19 years later did not provide enough closure. What happened to all the Death Eaters? What happened at the Ministry, the Wizengamot, and the magicians in general after the fall of Voldemort? What happened to Umbridge? I would have preferred a chapter describing the aftermath in a closer time-frame (1 month, 6 months, maybe a year) first. I think it would have been much more powerful. The 19 years later epilogue could remain, but as it was it just didn’t pack an emotional punch for me. I fully expected to cry at the end of the series, but I didn’t. I finished the Epilogue, put the book down, and said "Hmph." I cry at the end of the Firefly episode "Out of gas" every time. Every time. Why not the end of the 7-book epic story about Harry Potter? I blame this on Rowling. The closest I came to crying was when Harry used the Resurrection Stone and was surrounded by his friends and family: the people whom he loved & gave him strength walked beside him as Harry walked to his death. Very powerful. Too bad the final chapter didn’t carry the same punch.
LIKE. The grand battle at the end could have only happened at Hogwart’s School of Wizardy. I was glad to see the final chapter unfold there, as it gave us a chance to go back through the school and see the teachers & students that we had read about for the past 10 years.
LIKE. Harry beat Voldemort not with a dark spell, but with Expelliarmus, his simple disarm charm (the one he was rebuffed not to use in the beginning of the book). Nicely done. Harry didn’t sacrifice anything of his humanity to beat Voldemort. And, he was clever enough to figure out that he was the rightful owner of the Elder Wand.
LIKE. I love the cover of the book. In the US hardbound edition, it shows the final battle as Harry defeats Voldemort. You don’t see the Elder Wand flying through the air, so it almost looks like Harry is about to be, or has been, beaten. Great great great illustration since it has multiple interpretations dependin on whether or not you’ve read the story.
DISLIKE. I don’t believe Ron would leave. I didn’t like the way he came back. It all seemed contrived. And did we really need to wait for Ron to believe in himself until halfway through Book 7? It would have been nice if this had happened sooner, say in Book 5 or 6 if it was going to happen at all.
LIKE. Dumbledore stayed dead. I was worried he’d come back, or be faking it, or something. No, he’s dead & gone (well, as gone as a Headmaster of Hogwarts can be), so none of the emotional impact of the end of Book 6 is lost by reading book 7. I was really worried that he’d come back, at which point the series would have been like one of those old 50’s science fiction serial TV shows, where at the end of every episode the hero appears to be in mortal peril, only to escape easily in the first 30 seconds of the next show.
LIKE. Rowling stayed true to herself and her writing style. After so many years, and 5 movies, I could see how she might write the last book like it was a movie script ("The DaVince Code," anyone?). I was glad that she didn’t do that. Woe be to the people who have to turn book 7 into a screenplay.
One last thing that I’m not sure how I feel about: they didn’t actually go to school this year. I think it was appropriate to leave the school for the story, but I feel sad that we won’t see what being a wizard is like for a 7th year student. A year-in-the-life has been the thread that’s held the first 6 books together, so it feels strange to have not done the same thing this time around. Of course, I like the book and what happens, so I’m not really complaining.
—– SPOILERS END —–
All in all I strongly recommend the whole series. It’s not just a collection of kid’s book. It’s imaginative, fun, thought-provoking stuff. With a few great mysteries thrown in. Like any great epic story, I’m always sad when it closes because it makes me think, "What now? What to read next?" I can’t wait for the next great Potter-like epic to come along.