Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I finished it! I finished it in twenty-four hours just like I wanted to!

Spoilers are going to follow. I know how very very frustrating it is to have someone, either inadvertently or totally on purpose, ruin something you had been looking forward to by telling you an important point without giving you the choice to hear (or read) it or not. I know this. After the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, I was taking my time reading it. Suddenly and without warning, a friend told me something monumental (in the frame of the story) randomly at the bottom of an e-mail. It most certainly does take away from the journey to already know the end. This is also why I vowed to finish the book as soon as possible. This one would not be ruined for me!

That having been said, I am now going to talk about the book and my feelings regarding it. You will have to make an effort to read this part, so if you don't want to see anything but you read it anyway, it's all on you. Highlight the area below if you want to hear about my opinions. There are spoilers in there, you have been warned. You make the choice.

One more thing before I go on. I've been saying that book #3, the Prisoner of Azkaban, is my favorite book. Many people started liking the newer ones more, but book 3 remained my favorite. It has now been bumped to the second-favorite slot by book 7. Onward!


Before I say I don't know where to begin, I think I must begin at the beginning. I can't talk about this book without taking you through it like a synopsis. No, I changed my mind. I will begin at the end. I flipped to the end of my book to get the final page number, so as to better help track my progress. My eyes unbidden moved to the last sentence. I began reading knowing the last bit of the Potter tale: "All was well."

First, we start out with action. Then we move on to pre-action, then there was more action. That's pretty much how the book went throughout. At the beginning, I was just reading. I was thinking about the author's writing style, how she was setting her scene, that kind of thing. Even after Dudley actually thanked Harry for saving his life in book 5 before they parted ways (though I grinned through all of that). Even in chapter 4, at the height of early action, when one of my favorite characters (whom never even entered the thought process of who might die during the course of the book) was hit with a stray spell and died, I was still just reading.

I didn't cry at Hedwig's death. And I went to bed in the wee hours of Saturday morning having glanced at the beginning of chapter 5, with the title "Fallen Warrior" and Harry screaming at Hagrid motionless on the ground. I spent those few hours sleeping, dreaming and thinking about what I had read and being so distraught about it (yet not to the point of tears) that I didn't think I wanted to finish the book. As chapter 5 progressed, I learned it was not Hagrid, but Mad Eye Moody who had died. But it wasn't until Harry was telling Hagrid that Hedwig got hit and was dead that it hit me, at the same time it hit our hero. I had a moment to again contemplate the skill of this author and that was it. I was no longer looking at the pages of the story, I had let myself into that world where I could watch it unfold instead of read about it, where I empathized with Harry as I followed his journey. I bawled through the rest of chapter 5.

Being inside the story now, I didn't think about the momentous pre-release talk about how many of these people, who were beyond fictional characters during the telling, were going to die, or who they were. Even the big debate of Snape's loyalty wasn't what I was thinking of. I was thinking about the story and seeing it live beyond the pages of my book (which was, again, the first one out of the box).

I was happy to learn that my suspicion about the locket was completely correct, and anxious to discover that it had been stolen from Kreacher. I was also very pleased that Kreacher started to warm up to, and maybe even like, Harry a bit. I was sorry that they were forced to leave 12 Grimwald Place, I was angry when Ron decided to leave Harry and Hermione to the task, alone and without his valuable help. Despite Ron's large unpopularity, he really was vital to Harry's network. I actually get a little upset at all the people who don't care about Ron the way Harry did. Ron's departure from the story (though not death) was a severe blow to Harry, and I felt that blow as it happened.

Some rather silly choices were made by Harry as the story progressed, as we have come to expect of him. Especially when he called Lupin a coward and forced him to leave, no longer able to get any further aid from this rather useful ally. I realize I'm not being very linear here. I know that Harry got angry with Lupin and that they had to leave his home before Ron decided to take his leave. There's so much to think about this book that it's hard for me to write now, severely sleep-deprived as I am, and still be in line.

Let's see. I wanted Harry to spend more time in Godric's Grotto, but alas. Going there at all wasn't such a smart choice. The ups and downs of their journey are almost a non-issue, even the discovering of the Deathly Hallows and what they exactly were. Though I did notice one bit of a continuity issue. Harry's invisibility cloak was one of the three Hallows. A hallow, by the way is a noun considered by most dictionaries to be obsolete as it has since gone out of popular use (until now) that basically means a relic. Anyway, part of what makes the cloak special is that it does not wear out or tear and spells and charms do not work against it. Except Mad Eye Moody's magic eye. So, this infallible relic could be beaten by a magical item of far less importance? Oops.

It was so great when Ron came back, having seen the error of his ways, and I had a fleeting terrible thought that one of Harry's best friends was going to die at the end. I wanted all three of them to make it out ok. One of Harry's close friends did die, and though I didn't cry like I did when he lost Hedwig, it was still painful to watch Harry digging Doby's grave. Yet another character that had not crossed my mind would die in this book. The preceding death of Wormtail was well done, as well done as death can be. The life-debt owed did indeed play out in Voldemort's failsafe: the silvery hand bestowed upon him in book 4. Wormtail hesitated when Harry called him on that debt, and the hand, sensing the betrayal, took payment from his life. We didn't stop to mourn over him, how could we? A fitting end, I think.

Lupin and Harry made up (kind of) after the birth of Lupin and Tonks' son, and Harry was named godfather. How extraordinary, thought I! Now, Harry can fulfill in someone else's life the roll that ended up being so important in Harry's life, that same part that Sirius had. It never crossed my mind that Harry might not live to see the end of the book, let alone meet his godson.

I think I'm at the climactic battle scene now. I was please to find it taking place at Hogwarts. I was sure it would and was correct! Harry, as we have grown accustomed, missed the obvious and it was bugging me, as he always does when the answer is so clear to me but he just doesn't put two and two together. I am referring to when Harry was told that Ron and Hermione had said something about a bathroom and left. Come on, Harry! Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, you ninny!!

During this end, we also saw the death of Fred Weasley. That part made me angry. Of all the jokes he and his brother played, everything they could do and did together. I guess, even though I knew important characters would die, I didn't really expect it to actually happen.

With two Horcruxes left, one we know and one that the characters seem to have forgotten about (honestly, I lost count and maybe they did too, or didn't know there was another) our heroes find themselves in the Shrieking Shack, witnessing the death of Serverus Snape. It was because of one of the Hallows, the wand that was supposed to be unbeatable would not work for Voldemort because he simply stole it from Dumbledore's tomb. Voldemort figured the wand was actually passed to Snape, and so killed him to get it passed to him. Voldemort left, allowing Harry to enter just in time to collect a few memories that Snape needed to give him before he died. Back at the castle and a temporary pause in the battle, we mournfully learn that both Remus Lupin and his wife Nymphadora Tonks met their end. This was so very sad for me. For one, how they died or who killed them was not known to us, and both of them were so wonderful and helpful to Harry, but really that their son will really need Harry now. How very, very sad.

But there is still a battle to be won, and Harry needs to spend some time with Snape's memories. In the Pensieve, we learn that Snape was Harry's ally after all. A point proven by some earlier memories of a deep love for Harry's mother. I just wanted to scream "I knew it!" but, neither of my parents have finished the book yet. Harry also learned that he must die, because he was the final Horcrux. And then I was crying. It's really hard to read and cry, you know? How could that be? How can all be well at the end, if we're witnessing Harry deliberately and knowingly walk to his death? I don't care if all is well for the secondary characters and not for our hero. And how could all possibly be well if Harry dies, though I was still certain he would die triumphant.

Now was the end. Neville was given instructions to make sure, no matter what, that Voldemort's pet snake die. Harry, with support from his previously dead family and friends by way of the third Hallow, marched to Voldemort's camp, and let himself be hit with the killing curse once again. This part, and the parts that followed were so brilliant that I didn't even figure it exactly. Part of what I had hoped is that somehow, Voldemort's curse would only hit the part of his own soul within Harry and therefore Harry would survive it. This is not exactly what happened. By killing the host, the part of Voldemort's soul was also killed, but in the magical mistake that put a part of Voldemort in Harry, a part of Harry was also put into Voldemort. Harry can't die, because Voldemort was still living, host to a piece of Harry! Brilliant! Harry came to where he had been killed, forced to maintain the illusion of him being dead, so that Voldemort would triumphantly bring him back to the castle.

He did so, and as Voldemort taunted the 'losing side,' Neville taunted him, proof of Harry's death or not. For a bit of torture, Vodemort summoned the Sorting Hat and set it aflame on Neville, saying that there would be no more sorting, the school would be Slytherin only. Neville, being the true Gryffindor that he was, just like Harry, pulled the Gryffindor sword out of the flaming sorting hat, just as Harry had done in book 2. In a swift movement, he killed the snake as he had been instructed, and that was it. Voldemort could now be killed. The battle was off again. It was exhilarating, because I was now certain of victory, certain that we had come so far and the important people who I really wanted to survive would do so.

In the final showdown, we learned a little something about Voldemort's wand. This part was also brilliance. Voldemort was not the master of the unbeatable wand, it was Harry, though he had never actually touched it. Cast your mind back to book 6, Draco disarmed Dumbledore, but was unable to kill him. In the disarming, the wand passed to Draco. He didn't know it, of course, so he didn't keep it. Earlier in this book, Harry disarmed Draco. It wasn't the special wand that he had gotten, but the disarming was enough to count, therefore unbeknownst to Harry, the wand passed to him (and he had been using Draco's wand after his own had been broken). The wand would not attack its own master, and Voldemort lost it to Harry's spell, which also caused his own killing curse to backfire onto him. And that was that. Voldemort was defeated. Cheer with me now: YAY!

Now I was left confused. The battle is won, but the story is not over. Of course not! That last line was in a flash-forward. Harry and his wife Ginny were taking their children to the Hogwarts train. They met up with Ron and Hermione and their children, we learn that Neville is teaching Herbology, and somewhere in there Harry gets a curt nod from Draco. The young Potters and Weasly boarded the train and they were off to school. A satisfactory end to an enormously entertaining story. And all was well indeed.

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