Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling is the seventh and final book in the series. I found it to be a fitting end to the Harry Potter saga. This entry is an exciting climax to the story. Rowling continues to weave a strong and exciting plot and entertaining characters into some interesting themes. It all wraps up very nicely.
This book breaks the plot pattern that was established in previous entries. In the earlier books we had the inevitable summer adventures of Harry and his friends, followed by a trip to Hogwarts followed by the day to day occurrences at the magical school. Instead, in the early pages of this book, the evil Lord Voldemort has taken over the Ministry of Magic and most of the power in the wizarding world. Harry and his friends, Hermione and Ron, do not go to back school. Instead, they set off on a quest-like mission to destroy Voldemort’s power by finding and destroying dark magical objects know as Horcruxes. The trio travel the forests and towns of England, encountering friends and enemies along the way, as they fight evil wizards and creatures.
The last fifth of the book involves both Harry and his allies fighting Voldemort and his Death Eaters at Hogwarts itself in a final, spectacular and violent magical battle. The author puts all sorts of interesting elements into the finale. Rowling also shows that she is indeed an author who is a cut above the average fantasy writer.
A tendency that has been building up throughout the series is that the magical violence and combat is very real and that it involves death, maiming and real brutality. As mentioned above, Rowling’s attention to detail is impressive. For instance, even brave characters often experience realistic fear before battle. They are often depicted as trembling. They are often traumatized after magical combat.
Well established characters die or are physically scarred for life. Ron Weasley’s large family has been close to Harry throughout the books. They all are devastated as one son, Fred, a popular character, is killed in the midst of the Battle of Hogwarts. Other allies, including the married couple Tonks and Lupin, are also killed in the battle.
At one point, Harry, Hermione and Ron survey the physical and emotional devastation and casualties,
Ron led the way to the Great Hall. Harry stopped in the doorway. The house tables were gone and the room was crowded. The survivors stood in groups, their arms around each other’s necks. The injured were being treated up on the raised platform by Madam Pomfrey and a group of helpers. Firenze was amongst the injured; his flank poured blood and he shook where he lay, unable to stand.
The dead lay in a row in the middle of the hall. Harry could not see Fred’s body, because his family surrounded him. George was kneeling at his head; Mrs Weasley was lying across Fred’s chest, her body shaking, Mr Weasley stroking her hair while tears cascaded down his cheeks….
Harry had a clear view of the bodies lying next to Fred: Remus and Tonks, pale and still and peaceful-looking, apparently asleep beneath the dark, enchanted ceiling.
The Great Hall seemed to fly away, become smaller, shrink, as Harry reeled backwards from the doorway. He could not draw breath. He could not bear to look at any of the other bodies, to see who else had died for him. He could not bear to join the Weasleys, could not look into their eyes…
He turned away and ran up the marble staircase. Lupin, Tonks ... he yearned not to feel ... he wished he could rip out his heart, his innards, everything that was screaming inside him.
Rowling has managed to weave together exciting magical battle passages with effective descriptions of the aftermath of violence. Other fantasy writers, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, have done this before, but Rowling’s technique seems different. I find it effective and believable.
The character of Severus Snape is also brought to an interesting conclusion here. Throughout the series, the Hogwarts teacher has bullied and even verbally abused Harry. He was known to be a former servant of Voldemort who had switched sides and was allied to Dumbledore in the fight against Voldemort. In the previous book, Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, Snape seemed to switch sides again and join Voldemort. In this book it is revealed that he has stayed loyal to the anti-Voldemort cause. His entire story is also revealed to Harry. He had grown up with Harry’s mother Lilly. Years ago, the two attended Hogwarts together. As Snape was drawn to the side of the growing power of Voldemort, Lilly and he became estranged despite the fact that Snape was in love with her. Lilly eventually marries Harry’s father James, who Snape hated. Though Snape tried to prevent it, Voldemort murdered Lilly along with James. At that point, Snape began working with Dumbledore against Voldemort to honor Lilly’s memory. He also pledged to protect Harry as he grew up. Despite the fact that he never waivered in his fight against Dumbledore and that he showed great bravery, Snape stayed an angry bitter bully who still did not like Harry. He still harbored a rancorous resentment aimed at Harry’s deceased father James. All of this adds up to him being a complex character. He was on the side of virtue while being a thoroughly dislikeable person. His motivation for opposing Voldemort was almost entirely motivated for his love of the deceased Lilly and not inspired by other altruistic reasons.
I quibble that the book is a little too long. The middle part seems to meander. I think that Rowling could have used a more effective editor.
I would not read this book without reading what has happened before. It does not work as a standalone. This series works best as a whole.
This book is an excellent conclusion to the series. It ties the plot, character and themes that Rowling had previously developed to great effect. This is a satisfying wrap up of the series. My favorite book of the bunch was the first, this one being my second or third. In the end, I am glad that I finally gave this series a go.