Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Non-Spoiling Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

At 11:50 PM on this past Friday night, I was on a bus back home and I noticed the great mob of people that had gathered around Barnes & Noble in order to be among the first to own J.K. Rowling's final Harry Potter book. Briefly, I thought about joining them. There is something about being a part of a pop culture phenomenon that is appealing, the mere ability to say, "I was there when..." even though ultimately, in the grand scope of things, it's not important at all.

And, I decided not to join the mob. My reasoning was with 12 million copies being shipped out on the first run, I'd get the chance to buy the book the next day, and so I did. There were a great number of unopened boxes, like Christmas presents, sitting behind the counter, containing the secrets to what ultimately happens to Harry Potter, his friends, and "The Dark Lord" Voldemort.

Normally, as I had done with the six previous entries, I would bide my time. There would be no need to buy and read the book this early. But with this edition I felt it was ultimately necessary, because the spoiler factor is strong for me. I absolutely hate knowing what happens before I get there. Your experience reading/watching plotted entertainment is drastically different when you know what happens. And you will never know what it's like not to know, and then be surprised. I had The Sixth Sense ruined for me, and the ending of The Sopranos, and I was determined not to let that happen here.

Still, there was a chance, despite my precaution, to have it spoiled for me. Despite my rapid reading time of the latest book, driven by my obsession not to have it ruined, there was still a chance that when my face became exposed to daylight that someone on a bus or a train or the media would find a way to tell me every secret, and the book would lose every sense of anticipation it could possibly muster.

That all said, I blew through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with barely a scare (although I did go to and it already had an article about the ending, which I avoided like the plague). What J.K. Rowling knows is that you are dying to figure out what happens, and the payoff will be all the more brilliant when it arrives. So for nearly half the novel, Harry and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are neck deep in frustration trying to find some items that were described in the last entry, The Half-Blood Prince. In fact, so much frustration that it begins to tear at their trust and loyalty. And then slowly, Rowling begins to reveal a ton of information, and the fates of others are always a sentence away from being decided. You'll swear Harry Potter is going to die. Then you'll change your mind and swear he's going to live. And always around the corner is something that could make you wrong.

It is this fate, and the fate of others that hang in the balance, combined with a wealth of history, known and unknown, all of the pieces coming together, that make Hallows a satisfying reading experience. It's more than 750 pages, and one minute you're on page 400, the next you're at 500. Which makes this a typical Potter book. All of them can be read, no matter the page count, in a matter of days. You'll rarely be dreading picking the reading back up after you've found a good stopping place.

But what worked for me the best was that, even with a plot consideration that was left dangling in Half-Blood Prince, that most people surmised would play out a certain way, is how Rowling proves most of us right; but I don't think anyone who has read the books, even those who read them over and over, could guess the motivations and backstory for that plot point. It's the kind of history that makes the latest book much richer than just a series of reveals.

So congrats to Rowling for keeping us enthralled for so many years, can't wait for the last two movies to be made of the best two novels in the entire series. But should Rowling continue to write after making what is estimated into the billions off of this franchise, will we be giving her Harry Potter-less books any patience? I wonder, considering how we've just been taken on a big ride, the series getting progressively darker and more complex, if we would give a book even the caliber of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone half a chance? Everything was so simple then, and starting on a new series, or gasp, just writing a stand-alone book, might seem anticlimactic after all of this. I guess she (and we) can worry about that some other day; The Deathly Hallows is an amazing ending and worth celebrating.

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