Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: Scholastic (2007)
Genre: YA Fantasy
It wasn't until I saw the trailer for the first Harry Potter film nearly ten years ago that I became aware J.K. Rowling and this series of books even existed. Upon first glance, I didn't see much of interest to me, only an extravagantly financed children's movie that appeared to be a flagrant attempt to create a merchandising bonanza. I think I was half-right, as the merchandising has been in full swing with even the creation of an entire theme park dedicated to all things Harry Potter. What I see at first glance, however, was the impressive story behind all the hoopla.
When it comes to reading the books, I was definitely late on arrival. I became familiar with the characters through the films, reluctantly watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone some years ago, and I was gradually worn down into liking the movies as I watched each one in succession. I didn't start reading the books until about two years ago, by then already having seen the first four or five films. I'm the kind of guy who, if I enjoy a movie that's based on a book, will make an effort to read the source material.
One of the things I found with reading the books was that I enjoyed them less and less with each volume. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two, which really took me back to the days of reading Roald Dahl and other children's stories as a little kid. And I liked the third book too. But by the time I got around to Goblet of Fire, I found the books to be long-winded and lacking in surprise, even though they still held that indelible style from Rowling. The problem for me was that I'd already seen the movies, and the mysteries--no matter how elementary--were one of the core features that held my interest through the films. The novelty and charm of Rowling's words alone just weren't winning me over later in the series as with the films. Not even the added context to certain details from the books compared to the films was enough.
But for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I resolved to read the book before ever setting eyes on the movie(s). I read through them, admittedly skimming through Half-Blood Prince since I'd seen the movie only weeks prior, and came to the thickest book of them all, the final book. I think I did myself a favor by reading this book before seeing the events played out on the screen, because I'm not so sure I could have brought myself to even pick up the book if I knew how it all ended.
Now, I preface the rest of this review by telling anyone who has somehow managed to avoid reading the books or seeing the movies, I'm about to dish more than one spoiler with regards to the novels. So if you have any desire to retain some sense of surprise should you decide to hop on board the Harry Potter bandwagon, just stop reading now and check out something else on my blog ... or maybe go check out IcanHasCheezeburger.com. It's your call.
Okay, so Half-Blood Prince left off on a bit of a downer, which was becoming a bit of a trend in the novels. Goblet of Fire, somebody dies at the end. Order of the Phoenix, somebody dies at the end. Half-Blood Prince, somebody integral dies at the end. Before I even cracked open Deathly Hallows, I told myself I should not be surprised if Harry Potter, himself, dies at the end. The whimsical tone had pretty much drained out of the books for me, but I guess that was intentional because the final book was reserved for the ultimate showdown between Harry and Voldemort.
As the book begins, Harry bids a final farewell to the Dursley family, his muggle tormentors from the very first book. It was nice there was some resolution there, and that it was dispensed with early on, as the Dursley's were basically comedy relief and this book didn't have a lot of room for that. On a side-note, I recall Rowling once dispensing a "whatever happened to ..." list of many Hogwarts students, but I am curious on some level to know what happened to Harry's cousin, Dudley.
An immediate detail that set this book apart from the preceding six is that Hogwarts wasn't featured until very late in the novel. Since this book basically marked the end of Harry's adolescence and his emergence into manhood, running around the school on his quest for the umpteenth time would have probably felt tiresome. Maybe that was another thing that wore on me with each book, the seemingly endless parade of mysteries to be solved on the school's grounds. At any rate, I must admit that using the school as the setting for the final battle was appropriate given the time invested by Rowling in creating such a lush environment for the characters to run around in.
As for the revelation regarding Dumbledore's hidden agenda regarding Harry's destiny as well as Severus Snape's role in it all, it was certainly engrossing, but I had to stop now and again and shake my head. The whole thing--and this is something I'll have to ruminate on for some time if I'm to fully comprehend it--when I look at it from certain angles seems way too convoluted to seem plausible. After all the questions are answered and Harry realizes what has been going on behind the scenes in order to help and protect him, it's a wonder he didn't go right out of his gourd.
All in all, I think it was a pretty satisfying end to an immense series of books. And it was nice to see Neville and Luna, two of my favorite characters in the series, get fairly prominent roles. One thing I found a bit disappointing was how diminished Draco Malfoy was in this book. After being Harry's antithesis through the series, and seemingly coached to be the one to face him in some kind of showdown, Draco really didn't amount to much more than a footnote in this book.
From what I've heard about the Deathly Hallows, it's been turned into two movies to milk the franchise for all it's worth--and because the book is nearly 800 pages long. I'm not sure where they are cutting the book in two for the sake of the movies, but I've heard it will involve a cliffhanger ending. That's fine for people unfamiliar with the books, but I have to wonder how others who already know how it ends will feel about the conceit of a cliffhanger ending to the next film, especially considering every other Harry Potter film hasn't bothered constructing some "tune in next time" moment before the credits roll.
Oh well, the whole thing is nearly at an end as only the last two movies remain. And once it's over, we all--what?--greedily anticipate the next two films based on The Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit, I suppose. The Twilight saga isn't much of an option for me, that's for sure.