Look who finally motivated herself enough to finish a book series the rest of the world put to bed over 10 years ago! Yay, I’m (still not remotely) current! Really, though, I’m thrilled beyond belief to have finally crossed the final book in the Harry Potter series, the Deathly Hallows, off my to-be-read list in service of the third prompt in my friends’ 2018 reading challenge.
I will please virtually no one with this statement, but like all of the Harry Potter novels, I found the Deathly Hallows to be a deathly slow slog. If you ARE one of the 86 bajillion people who read the novel over a decade ago when it was first published (or watched the films, as they’re really quite close in terms of both tone and structure) you know that the final book in the series details Harry’s efforts to stop an increasingly desperate Voldemort from forcing his violent nationalist tendencies on a terrified, unwilling populace. Sound like anyone we know? Along the way Harry and his friends are tasked with locating, and then destroying, Voldemort’s Horcruxes, physical objects tagged with bits of the Dark Lord’s murderous, fractured soul. Once they’re disposed of, he’s nothing more than a mortal man, vulnerable and open to attack.
It’s in the hunt for and subsequent eradication of the Horcruxes that the Deathly Hallows gets terribly bogged down, lingering for 300 some-odd pages on a locket already in Harry’s possession that defies all attempts at destruction. This passage goes on forever – it is an interminable slog of Apparating and wind-swept moors and Apparating ONTO wind-swept moors. In a 607-page book with multiple major character deaths (spoiler: arguably THE major character’s (temporary) death) as well as three big battle sequences and a satisfying peek into the future, it’s a puzzling bit of pacing. We’re in more than 450 pages before Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts to kick off the final, epic showdown between the Dark Lord and the Boy Who Lived. The long, lackadaisical tease of those first 450 pages followed by just 150 pages of frantic fighting and exposition makes for a jarring contrast. It’s also why it took me four months to read the Deathly Hallows – because I was deathly unmotivated to continue.
In hindsight, some days removed from finishing the book, I can see that the seemingly endless literary slog had a purpose. Had Harry, Ron and Hermione’s six-month search played out with seamless ease – say, flashing by in a series of condensed vignettes – we may not have gotten a true sense of just how taxing, frustrating and arduous their journey really was. As it stands, we were with them for every false start, every near miss, every fake lead, every betrayal and every heartbreak. I don’t know if there was a better way of conveying the sort of despair that results from a long, protracted fight in which you must carry on despite enjoying no victories, but I do wish it hadn’t taken up quite so much of the book.
Things I did like? Voldemort proving once and for all what a toothless wussy he really is. Voldemort suffers from the same problem in my mind as Darth Vader – both are more legend and reputation than actual threat. And I positively loved that his ultimate undoing was thinking himself beyond the need to do his research and double check every facet of his plan. You’d think if you were a hideously malformed megalomaniac making a vicious grab for ultimate power you’d at least take the time to educate yourself, do your research and get your friggin’ ducks in order. Still sound like anybody we know?
Other things I liked? A naughty little “It’s not the size of the wand” joke Ron makes towards the beginning of the book. Ron and Hermione finally acting on their sweet, slow burn of a romance. The epilogue. Neville, Defender of the Meek. Everyone finally realizing just how awesome Luna really is. A longer explanation – actually, any explanation – of Dumbledore’s tragic past. Always.
Things I didn’t like: Dobby’s death. And not because he died – I’m glad he did, I friggin’ hated that shrieky house elf. I just thought given how touching his death is in the film (I cried, and well…see above) the source material might grant his passing more than a handful of paragraphs, and none of that “dying with his friends” tear-bait business either. Fred’s death (one-half of the delightful twin duo, Rowling, are you freaking kidding me with this crap? That’s the suckiest move you pulled in seven books.) The fact that the Dursleys never got their comeuppance. Don’t know about you, but I generally like to see child abusers get their virulent (and in this case occasionally levitating) just desserts.
Another thing I don’t particularly like? This nail art, depicting the hidden message and final puzzle piece inscribed on Harry’s bequeathed Snitch, “I open at the close.” My cursive writing is not great here. I was going for elegant and refined, and it came off more big ‘n’ bubbly, my everyday writing style. Although this manicure does look so pretty glittering almost magically under the midday sun.
But by gosh am I glad to be done the Deathly Hallows, and indeed the entire Harry Potter series. I never latched onto the novels, actually found Harry to be a snotty little know-it-all. I far prefer Daniel Radcliffe’s film version of Harry – he’s a kinder, more thoughtful and reasoned young man than his literary counterpart. But the world J.K. Rowling created, as reflected in the films and now various exhibits and attractions around the globe, is vivid, detailed and fully realized right from the very first page. I think her knack for world-building is unparalleled, and I’ve always loved the Dickensian flair she takes in naming her characters. I enjoyed the books, and particularly the Deathly Hallows, so much in that regard. Ultimately, they were really enjoyable reads, and I’m glad to have finally finished the series so I can fully join the Harry Potter cultural zeitgeist. All was well.