Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling, 2007

Let me start by saying this: I hate the snake-shaped dedication of "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows". I hate it and I don’t like the quotes from Aeschylus and William Penn, either. It is so not Harry Potter and it doesn’t fit in. With that said, I was rather curious as to how Rowling would end the Harry Potter series and I dug into the book in the hope of finally getting a satisfactory end to the tale. Boy, was I disappointed!

In "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows" Harry leaves the Dursley house for the very last time and after a dramatic fight against Death Eaters in which the Weasley twins lose their identical looks, Harry ends up in The Burrow for Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Here he, Ron and Hermione inherit different objects from Dumbledore, before Lord Voldemort takes over the Ministry of Magic and the unlikely trio sets out on a loooong journey to find and destroy Horcruxes that contain pieces of the evil Voldemort’s soul.

"Long" is indeed the key word for "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows". It is WAY too long! As usual Rowling needs a couple of chapters to recount what has happened in previous books and as usual Rowling doesn’t know when to quit. She makes fun of Rita Skeeter’s 900 page long Dumbledore biography, but her own book is no better. Besides, the "In Memoriam" chapter is one of the most boring she has ever written, using quotes from fictitious interviews, obituaries etc. Yawn!

Rawling also needs to wrap up Harry’s life with the Dursleys and at least that is almost decently done. In fact when you have passed the "In Memoriam" chapter, the book picks up pretty well, at least chapters 4-8 are quite good, but the story stalls when Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to find the Horcruxes. The trio travels for 8 months (!!) only to find one Horcrux and nothing really happens during those months. Sure, Ron falls out with the other two and there are some dramatic highlights when they visit Godric’s Hollow, Luna’s house, Malfoy Manor and the home of Bill and Fleur not to mention Gringotts Wizarding Bank, but it takes forever to get there. It is tear-provokingly boring.

As usual Rowling refers to a lot of stuff in her HP-saga. In HP7 you’ll find (more than) hints at Mary Poppins, van Gogh, Mona Lisa, Peter Pan and Jesus of course, not to mention "Lord of The Rings". I was actually appalled to see how Rowling has modelled several chapters on "Lord of The Rings" with Harry as Frodo, Hermione as Sam, Ron as a twisted version of Gollum and Slytherin’s locket as the Ruling Ring without giving credit to Tolkien.

Halfway through the book Rowling muddles up her story by introducing the Deathly Hallows with which a person can conquer death. Harry is now in two minds as to which to pursue, the Horcruxes or the Hallows, and his quest thus becomes pretty confusing.

All the time Harry is flitting in and out of Voldemort’s mind, Rowling spoiling the dramatic highlights by telling Harry’s and Voldemort’s stories at the same time, making the readers unable to fully delve into the action of the narrative. It is of course pretty handy for Harry to be able to read his opponent’s mind and this way know what can’t be known in order to propel the story. It seems a little far-fetched, though, especially as it takes 600 pages before he gets the info that he needs.

The final battle at Hogwarts at the end of the book could have been pretty exciting, but Rowling slows down the high-speed action by telling Snape’s story and sending Harry to King’s Cross in order to explain the plot of the entire Harry Potter series! I am very disappointed that during the 7 volumes of Harry Potter, Rowling never learnt to show instead of tell. But to be fair there’s a couple of really good chapters towards the end (chapters 29, 31, 33 and 34), just like there are some good chapters in the beginning of the book, but all in all those 100 pages are too little, too late. They don’t justify a book of 800 pages.

At the end of the story Rowling pulls her ‘old trick out of a hat’ as the success of the battle depends on a magic artefact that isn’t there and then suddenly is. Repetitious and not very satisfactory. But at least Percy comes to his senses – we always knew he would as he bears the same name as Dumbledore (Percival). After the return of the prodigal son we’re in for another really weird death, as one of the major characters snuffs it rather unheroically. Rowling has never mastered the art of killing protagonists in a satisfactory way. I mean, death by wall?? Come on! That’s no way to go! Other protagonists just die. We don’t know how, she never tells us and what is even worse, Rowling doesn’t have the good sense of letting the people left behind grieve properly. It is not satisfactory at all.

As usual Rowling is very inconsistent with details. In HP7 she suddenly renames the Put-Outer a "deluminator". Why? It’s been called a Put-Outer in all the other books. And I can’t help wondering why good light is red and bad light is green when Harry and Voldemort duel, because it makes no sense. Especially when we learn that Harry’s eyes are green and Voldemort’s red. It is inconsistencies such as these that annoy me!

It also annoys me that the protagonists have changed so much. In the beginning of the book Ron is sulky and calculating, then he suddenly turns around and becomes an intelligent, caring leader. His usual sense of humour seems to have left him, instead Harry is the humorous one, acting like a sarcastic, frustrated parent. Hermione is weepy and emotional and even a bit helpless whereas Ginny is a hardcore, sexy go-getter. Not very convincing at all.

Finally, I find it rather weird that Rowling decides to repeat the thing about the link between Harry and Voldemort as something new and shocking. Er…why? Ever since HP2 we have known about the way their destinies are intertwined, so why pretend that this is a new revelation?

I have to say, though, that chapter 34, "The Forest Again" is probably the best chapter of the entire series. Finally Rowling has found a reason for Harry’s long inner monologues and it is well written, too. And of course Rowling has Harry ending up as a twisted version of a modern day Jesus. Oh yes, we saw that one coming, didn’t we?

Rowling finishes the series with a "19 years later" chapter which I find pretty annoying. Sometimes things like that work, but here it doesn’t. The chapter seems to be there purely in order for Rowling to show how decent and good her protagonists are. They all found true love at the age of sixteen, never strayed after that and lived a totally monogamous love life. How boring is that? I’d rather stick with Aberforth and his goats, Charlie and his dragons and the twisted dependence between the Weasley-twins! Besides, when you write such a 19 years later-chapter, it’s a good idea to involve all of the major characters, but we never learn what happened to George or Luna, which is pretty frustrating.

I must say that I had a hard time awarding "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows" stars. A lot of the chapters deserve only one star (the "Lord of the Rings"-chapters less than zero), but then there’s chapter 34, which deserves five. In the end I landed somewhere between two and three, so to be a good sport I’ll award "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows" three out of five stars: ***

@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2007