J.K. Rowling,
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
(Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2007)

It's hard to believe the Harry Potter series officially started way back in 1997 with the release of Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's (a.k.a. Philosopher's) Stone. I was just an unsuspecting fourth grader when I picked up that first book and without a clue of the fascinating and exciting world put in motion by author J.K. Rowling's inquisitive mind. Like no other comparable writer in the world today, Rowling furiously took hold of the imaginations of tens of millions of people with each new release -- and claimed sales record after sales record along the way. After 10 years, I'm fortunately -- or unfortunately, I'm not sure which -- at the end of Rowling's epic journey.

Deathly Hallows is the first, and probably final, novel that I braved midnight release lines for and the first, and probably final, novel that I eagerly read while continuously questioning whether I should take limited breaks from its pages. It was a curious paradox, really. As much as I wanted to reach the novel's finale, I at the same time had no desire to complete the series for good. Because, of course, once it's over, it's over. Even so, I have arrived at the end and have nothing but the upmost respect for Rowling. Her masterful good vs. evil fantasy world, which reaches a decided conclusion in the end, more than satisfied the highest of my expectations.

Of course, for the unfamiliar, the Harry Potter series tells the story of an unsuspecting boy wizard who is the only person in history to survive the Killing Curse and, thus, the only likely candidate to defeat Voldemort, the evil being that used the curse on him in the first place. Throughout the seven-book series, Harry is groomed by Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore to take on the dark lord and maintain the magical world that Voldemort so desperately wants to regain.

In this final book, Harry is sent on a mission with best friends Ron and Hermione to extinguish the world of Voldemort's Horcruxes -- which contain parts of his soul -- so he can be defeated.

Because of this mission, however, nearly all of Deathly Hallows takes place away from Hogwarts, which gave it a significantly different feel from the six prior books. By placing the focus away from the school that readers were accustomed to, Rowling was able to further develop the complex relationship between Harry and his two closest allies. I enjoyed that -- a lot, actually. My favorite part of the series always was when the three would hang out with one another. And that's all Rowling serves up in Deathly Hallows.

But what I appreciate most about Rowling's prose is her incredible ability to weave in details that take on even greater meanings a book later, two books later, whatever the case may be. And nowhere is that more prevalent than in the final book, where I was noticing things that appeared to be nothing but literary detail -- for instance, six books ago -- that unexpected resurfaced, screaming "I'm important!" directly in my face. The fact that Harry caught his first Quidditch Snitch unconventionally in his mouth instead of his hand? Important. The fact that Dumbledore held onto James Potter's Invisibility Cloak for a short time before it was inherited by Harry? Important. The fact that Draco Malfoy nonchalantly picked up Dumbledore's wand after a duel? Again, important. Seemingly anything that happened -- at anytime -- likely came back here.

Unfortunately, Deathly Hallows is Harry's final tale. But fortunately for readers, Rowling ended the series on the highest of notes. Sure, not every one of its 759 pages is necessary. Some scenes could have been cut altogether, really. But in the end, the redundancies only forced me to finish the book -- and series -- a bit later than I should have. And any extra time with Harry is fine by me.

review by
Eric Hughes

28 July 2007

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