Tag Archives: Ron

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling, 2007, Book Review

It took me fall, winter, and spring, but I finished my third venture through the Harry Potter series. And you know what? I enjoyed it as much as the first time. I’m amazed at the imagination and intricacy of the books, and I’m doubly amazed at how much I forget in a few years’ time.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, though he remains veiled and therefore more frightening to the public, Voldemort has nearly completed his takeover of the wizarding world. The Ministry of Magic has capitulated and is now run by Death Eaters whose policies are reminiscent of the Nazi regime. Pureblood families are given high status, those of mixed Muggle/wizard blood are tolerated, and Muggle-born wizards are persecuted and sometimes killed. Muggles are simply animals to be hunted. Pockets of resistance, however, are widespread.

As soon as Harry learns of the Ministry’s fall, just before the start of his seventh and final year at Hogwarts which he knows he must miss, he sets out on the quest Dumbledore set him: find Voldemort’s horcruxes and destroy them. A horcrux is an object that contains a fractured part of a soul. Even if Voldemort dies, he can rise again as long as he has a horcrux tying him to life. He’s like a cat with nine lives. To ensure his final destruction, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must find and destroy the remaining horcruxes. But where are they?

Because this final book is a quest, it feels a little less structured than the others, but I never once felt it lagged. Each time the heroes reach the point of despair, they are given help or make a breakthrough. Little by little, the story builds to the final confrontation that simply must take place at Hogwarts, the place it all began. Many excellent characters meet their demise in this book, especially in the last hundred pages. Loyalties are determined once and for all, and a good many surprises lie in wait. Though we know, of course, that Harry must win, it only happens at the highest cost and through the most twisting of circumstances. Dumbledore’s theories and manipulation lie at the heart of the conclusion, and explanations are given that reach back all the way to the very first book. It is a nicely packaged, thoughtful conclusion to the series. I especially enjoyed the final epilogue that takes place nineteen years later.

I maintain my 12+ rating. This one is tragically bloody. It contains sweeping, epic scenes of violence during the final battle. It also includes the torture and screams of Hermione when she is captured by Death Eaters and the strangling death of another. Nagini the snake emerges through the neck of an inferi (dead person who does Voldemort’s bidding) in a particularly nasty scene. One of the influential characters orders his own death by another, which is supposed to be sacrificial in nature but actually smacks loudly of euthanasia (“…avoid pain and humiliation…” “…I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair…”).

Yet the main themes of this book are overwhelmingly positive: loyalty, friendship, selflessness, sacrifice, and courage. It celebrates standing for principal, standing for ultimate truth in the face of dire consequences. Death, it is maintained, is not something not to be feared, and love conquerors even the greatest of evils. Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there can be found within the pages of Harry Potter a story of salvation, of redemption, of old, deep magic beyond the understanding of man or wizard. It is the echo of an older, greater story. It is a story worth reading, worth celebrating.

In my final conclusion, the evil within Harry Potter is the stuff of nightmares, but Hogwarts is the stuff of dreams. The detail, imagination and adventure are, quite simply, magic. While Harry should be read at an age that can handle dark spiritual themes, in my opinion, it should be read!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling, 2005

I stalled out on my Harry Potter reviews over the winter when my own novel was taking priority. This week it was so fun to set other stuff aside and read just for the sake of reading. And no place is more fun to escape to than Hogwarts. A LOT is going on in this one. It’s the most pivotal book in the series. A springboard for the final climax.

This time around, the entire wizarding world is on the edge of panic now that it is well-known Voldemort has returned. The landscape is one of fear, sudden disappearances, and suspicious deaths. Readers know (and Harry suspects) that Draco Malfoy, Harry’s schoolmate and nemesis, is in the Dark Lord’s employ. And some HUGE questions linger about Professor Snape’s loyalties, though Dumbledore trusts him implicitly. Even though security is especially tight at Hogwarts, still two students almost die when cursed objects find their way into the school. There is even talk of closing Hogwarts altogether.

Against this desperate background, Dumbledore initiates special “lessons” with Harry, showing him a series of memories involving the life of Tom Riddle, the boy who would grow up to be Voldemort. Together they come to understand the Dark Lord’s fear of death. It’s a defining moment in the series, the underlying theme: is death to be feared or not? Then they figure out Voldemort’s secret to immortality, and they take the first steps to counteract it. Unfortunately, their plans backfire. The book ends in tragedy, shifting alliances, and a lot of questions. But Harry’s path is clear, and at the end of it we can see the confrontation we’ve been waiting six volumes for.

There are some negative elements. Inferi are dead bodies that are enchanted to do Voldemort’s bidding, though they only feature in one scene that really isn’t too bad. I was more disgusted by all the “snogging” (British slang for kissing) Ron does in an attempt to make Hermione jealous. Harry gets two of his teachers drunk to elicit information from them. There’s also a smattering of mild profanities. And here we first learn of Horcruxes, the darkest of all dark magic, the willful ripping of the soul.

But this one has some really great moments between Harry and Dumbledore. I love Professor Dumbledore’s God-like wisdom and his pure belief that love is the most powerful magic in the universe, a magic Voldemort can never understand but Harry has in abundance. Here are a few of Dumbledore’s quotes:

(To Harry, when Harry is questioning Snapes’ loyalty and Dumbledore’s decision to hire him) “I think you might even consider the possibility that I understood more than you did.” Going along with Dumbledore’s judgement even when it makes no sense, that’s a pretty powerful illustration of trust, isn’t it?

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

And this tongue-in-cheek comment, “Divination is turning out to be much more trouble than I could have foreseen.”

Dumbledore also gives Harry a whole new perspective on the prophecy (concerning Harry and Voldemort) that says neither can live while the other’s alive. Just because it’s a prophecy doesn’t mean it had to be fulfilled, but Voldemort created an enemy for himself (Harry) when he acted on it. By trying to kill Harry, he gave Harry the ability to understand his thoughts and his language (parcel tongue), he planted in Harry the desire for revenge, and he gave Harry the greatest protection of all when he killed Harry’s mother who died protecting him. Harry need not dread the prophecy. But he can choose to meet it bravely. By taking the time to explain all this, Dumbledore is bolstering Harry’s courage for the final confrontation we all know is coming.

So I still advocate a 12+ age limit on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but I also encourage twelve-year-olds to read it. The positives far outweigh the negatives.

My other Harry Potter reviews: