Page-turner? Yes. Well, it is except for some boring bits in the middle, especially times like when a character is reading a long excerpt of Skeeter, full of such sanctimoniousness that it stretches plausibility, even as an intentionally badly-written book-within-a-book. It was during these times that I would put down Deathly Hallows and exclaim, “Wow, this book sucks!” In Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling continually breaks the old fiction writer’s rule, “show, don’t tell,” and it’s safe to say that her spasms of artlessness sometimes rankled my feathers. (It is rumoured that before she hit upon the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling’s original title was to be Harry Potter and the Two Friends With Whom He Spends the Entire Book Planning Their Next Move.)
Then again, it’s hard to see how she could have done otherwise, because she sure had her work set out for her. For a finale of this magnitude, subject to this kind of scrutiny, Deathly Hallows is as good as it could possibly have been. This is no small compliment, as I mean this sincerely. It is not like, as I have done in the past, desperately trying to find things to like about Revenge of the Sith. This is one of those very rare human experiences where the experience itself is fully commensurate with its anticipation. It is not like The Sopranos or the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine finales.
It would be hard to say much more without giving away significant spoilers, but I will say that, at least for me, the book largely lived up to and sometimes even exceeded my expectations. On the up side, Deathly Hallows delivers the exhilaration we’ve come to expect from the series, and it also does a good job of answering outstanding questions from previous instalments. On the down side, this book does a good job of answering those questions – to the point of excessive tidiness. (Again, it is not like The Sopranos finale!) Still, you have to admire how various revelations and mechanics all come together in lockstep, and you feel the impact of her having conceived of and written the ending long ago. You look back on things even as far back as the first or second books – which in my case I haven’t read for over a year! – and go, “Woah.”
One thing I admire Rowling for (although I don’t always agree with it) is her utter refusal to pander or pamper readers with this volume. Even its title is somewhat confounding; the “Hallows” of Deathly Hallows refers to its obsolete meaning, “relics.” (I had thought it meant some sort of valley!) Rowling also has no qualms about referring to recurring minor characters, obscure animals and plants, and other such things with a narrative impunity that will have the reader running back and forth between the book and Wikipedia. They’ve also made no effort to annotate any of the more rarefied British colloquialisms, which I feel is an unnecessary frustration. As for the usage, though, it adds a certain flavour that I’d be daft to complain about – blimey, now ‘ey’ve got me doin’ i’!
I can only say now that I’ve enjoyed these books immeasurably, and will inevitably read them again. I may even watch the films, even though they seem to be much more sedate than what I’ve been imagining while I read. I’d break the reviewer’s wall and say, “Thanks, J.K. Rowling,” but that would be simply barbaric, and it would only add to the inane cacophony already out there in Fan Land. But how can you not be sentimental at the end of such a long journey?
So, now what?