Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7), by J. K. Rowling

Nine stars

As we enter the final formal novel in the series, J.K. Rowling takes readers on an adventure like no other. This is the plot line that series fans have been waiting to see play out over six previous novels. Harry Potter prepares for his final clash with Lord Voldemort, where only one can survive. Good versus Evil if ever there was a clear and symbolic interaction. Rowling develops a story unlike the previous pieces, where a scholastic year serves as the story’s undertone. Rather, this book reads more like a journey from a fantasy novel, with various creatures met along the way, precious items are discovered, and an epic battle proves to be the climatic moment in the narrative. Full of action and sorrow, Rowling does not skimp out here and keeps her fans glued to the page until the final sentence is done, but even then it lingers!

After a long time waiting, Harry can finally see the age of seventeen before him. After the numerous calamities from the end of the Sixth Year, Harry is ready to fulfil the prophecy and will begin a journey to defeat Lord Voldemort, protecting good from the clutches of his evil ways. After those troublesome Durselys reluctantly agree to go into hiding, keeping the Death Eaters from preying on them, Harry sets off with Ron and Hermione to locate some of the other horcruxes about which Dumbledore spoke before his murder. The desctruction of these horcruxes is the only way to ensure that Voldemort can be killed once and for all.

After a plan to get Harry to safety by using a number of doppelgängers goes awry, there is some doubt if it is all worth it. However, there is no second-guessing the plan and the three forge ahead. If tackling the quest were not enough, rumours about Dumbledore’s past emerge in a tell-all biography that offers more dirt than glory for Hogwarts’ former headmaster. Harry begins to wonder just how well he knew the man and whether there was a dark side to him that was shielded. There are many pitfalls and struggler that Ron, Hermione, and Harry face, which leads to struggles and painful realizations. Ron’s temper is frayed when he feels he’s been duped and he flees, returning home.

Harry and Hermione are crestfallen that their closest friend has abandoned them and seek answers in Godric’s Hollow. Voldemort almost obliterates them there, leaving the two to feel as though the Dark Lord is anticipating their every move. What’s worse, Harry’s wand is broken in the skirmish, leaving them without proper protection at the worst possible moment. There’s little left to protect these two, other than their wits, which are growing shorter by the moment.

Weeks later, another clash takes place and Harry is almost killed. His savour is none other than an apologetic Ron, who arrives just in time. Using Gryffindor’s sword, the three are able to destroy another horcrux and they become enlightened about the provenance of a mysterious trio of magical objects called the Deathly Hallows. Anyone who possesses all three items is said to ‘own’ death, which may be one way to guarantee defeating Voldemort. However, it is not as easy as it sounds, something to which Harry has become accustomed over the last while.

While Harry inches closer to an ultimate clash, he realises that he may have to sacrifice everything to save others. As heroic as it sounds, it is rare for someone of seventeen to sober to this so easily. Will Harry agree to die in order to save others? Can he stomach a life without himself around, even if it means Voldemort dies as well? Dumbledore’s prophecies all come together and Harry must soldier on, forgetting what others have said. A chance encounter with a spirit form of Dumbledore opens Harry’s mind to new truths.

The final standoff is set, with Harry and Voldemort facing off. No others can interfere and there is little that can be solved by talking. Harry has made his choice, for his friends, his family, and himself. Death no longer scares him, if it means others can rest peacefully. It’s time for a spell like no other… and perhaps some luck from Merlin’s beard!

This series definitely increased in its intensity as things progressed. J.K. Rowling offers her readers something that is less a story in this final novel, but more of an epic adventure that pushes the series into the realm of fantasy (not that it was teetering before). The complex nature of this story shows a deeper set of themes that the mature reader will readily understand. A friend of mine commented that Rowling definitely wrote these latter novels with the expectation that her reader had matured, as Harry did, and would be able to comprehend the nuances. While I am not sure Neo caught some of it, I know he appreciated the action and detail, as he spoke with me about it once I had read enough not to hush him.

Harry Potter retains the role of protagonist, but is also the ‘good’ for all that can be found within this book. With this on his shoulders, Harry must come to terms with the realization that he is the only one who can fend off Lord Voldemort. Like a teenage Jesus, Harry cannot turn away from this fate, even if he questions it from time to time. Harry has moved from being a young boy with a mysterious scar to the only thing left to save the world from the clutches of evil. As dramatic as it sounds, series fans will likely agree as they synthesise the growth Harry has made along the way. Still, there are moments of teenage ‘normalcy’ as he urns for love and acceptance, as well as wanting to turn away and let someone else handle the heavy lifting.

Rowling has developed her supporting characters throughout the series, allowing the reader to choose those they favour and hiss and the folks that are best left outside the tent. However, in an epic novel such as this, it is time to cull the herd, so to say. While Rowling injects as much magic into them as she can with her written word, she also leaves some to perish and forced the reader to process this for themselves. There are many faces who have made an impact who return, almost in a cameo manner, and Rowling flavours the narrative with their interactions. Series fans will likely revel in all that is provided here, though there will surely be some whose passing will not be readily accepted by the larger reading community.

This was a highly complex and multilayered novel, understandably so. There is a general journey theme that serves as a story arc, but also smaller revelations in each chapter. Plot lines merge or blur, depending on what Rowling wants to do, but the final goal is clear throughout. Harry’s maturation comes to a head and the final battle will surely draw clear lines.

Easily the most mentally consuming of all the novels, I could not allow myself a moment to rest as I tried to make sense of the threads that weave together. The younger reader is soon sobered to truths that things are not always going to be positive, where good is sure to triumph over evil. That being said, there is a ray of hope, albeit faint at times.

Rowling has waited until the seventh novel to really pull out all the stops. The symbolism of Good versus Evil is not lost on many, though I am sure some would have liked something a tad more nuanced. It is war and Harry must realise that Voldemort is not one to stand down, but to rectify what he family to do on Hallowe’en night 1981. Rowling dazzles with her intricate narrative that weaves together a strong story and provides countless adventures in well-developed chapters. I cannot say enough about the piece and am pleased to have undertaken this reading challenge. While the formal books and done and I have a sense of where things have gone, there’s still a stage-play, a Book 8, to conquer. I will return to audio for that, as I am not sure I could wait to find a production of it.

Kudos, Madam Rowling, for keeping me enthralled throughout. I’ve loved this journey, as it brought me closer to my son, some of my dearest friends, and helped me tap into a part of myself I never knew existed.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons