LONDON — Clearly, since this is the last chapter, J.K. Rowling decided to go all out.
It may not be the longest book in the series, but “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” definitely packs the most punch. The drama starts on the first page and continues practically throughout the entire story.
With Book 7, Rowling brings her phenomenally successful series about the young wizard to a close. And what a close it is.
There were some complaints that Book 6 — “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” — didn’t have a lot of action until the end, that its role seemed to be filling in important bits of back story and setting the stage for the final installment.
There will be no such complaints here. The pace picks up from the start, with readers thrown into a world that’s much darker than any of the previous Potter books. Harry and friends Ron and Hermione are on a quest some weeks after the death of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and it’s time to put aside familiar faces and places and get on their way.
Lord Voldemort, Harry’s nemesis, seems to be everywhere, his tentacles of power reaching into every corner. It’s a dangerous world they must travel, and no place or happy occasion is safe. Their journey takes them to some unexpected locations and makes them interact with a whole host of characters, including some who were merely references in other books and some who are painfully familiar faces.
Old antagonists from previous books show up — one of whom enters into a positive relationship with Harry, and another who continues to wallow in all the traits that inspired Harry’s hatred.
Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the search for horcruxes, vessels that Voldemort created to hold pieces of his soul, which make it impossible to kill him as long as they exist. The search has them moving over various parts of the United Kingdom as they try to fit all the pieces together. Many secrets are finally revealed, all leading up to the ultimate confrontation between Harry and the wizard who tried to kill him so long ago.
Harry has become a young man
Rowling captured many hearts with her first book, and her last is guaranteed to keep them. She is amazingly gifted, demonstrated not only by the incredibly detailed world she has created, but by the depth of feeling and complexity she writes into her characters.
It’s all here: humor, courage, redemption, sadness, terror, human frailty — sometimes all in the same character. There are sections that will make readers laugh out loud, as well as scenes of such sadness that tears are inevitable.
From a boy of 11, Harry has become a young man, determined to take on quite a burden. He suffers because of his commitment, and he’s not the only one.
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Rowling said characters would die, and she meant it. Pain and death are constant companions, and sometimes who is taken is a shocker. The deaths aren’t always drawn-out, violent scenes; sometimes, you discover that someone has died at the same time Harry does.
Characters you thought you knew surprise you. Some grow in unexpected (and not always pleasant) ways, while others have more complicated pasts than you could ever imagine. No one’s life is simple — with a couple of Death Eater exceptions, many of the characters prove that you can’t make assumptions about people’s motivations.
Rowling rewards her faithful readers; there are numerous allusions to people, places, spells and objects that were mentioned in earlier books. It’s a pleasure to see how she closes the loop she opened so many years ago with the story of a young boy who one day discovered he was a wizard.
And, of course, she answers many questions: Why did Snape kill Dumbledore? Is Snape Harry’s enemy? Where are the horcruxes? What are the deathly hallows?
It’s been a long, long road to get to this point (the first book was published in the United States almost a decade ago), and Rowling does herself proud. She completes her entertaining, compulsively readable series with a book that is both heartbreaking and hopeful, one that left this reader sad to say goodbye to Harry but thoroughly satisfied at how it all went.
From “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to “Deathly Hallows,” Rowling has completed an astonishing cycle of books that can only be described as a true literary classic.
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