With his seventeenth birthday, comes the end of the protective spell that Harry Potter's mother placed on him that has kept Lord Voldemort at bay all these years. The Order of the Phoenix finds it more and more difficult to keep him safe, especially with Voldemort and his Death Eaters gradually rising in power. When their enemies infiltrate every magical institution, including the Ministry, the newspapers, and even Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must go on the run for their lives while trying to complete the last mission Dumbledore left to Harry, locating and destroying all of Voldemort's Horcruxes. With limited information to go on, they find their task nearly impossible, but little by little they begin to make progress. Eventually, they stumble across an old tale about the Deathly Hallows, objects which may potentially turn the tide in their favor, and Harry must then choose between hunting for Horcruxes or hunting for Hallows when they have no idea where either one is. Before he can complete his mission, Harry finds himself in a race against time to prevent Voldemort from reaching one of the Horcruxes first. As a climactic battle ensues, placing the lives of all his friends in danger, Harry must make a final fateful decision about facing his own destiny when it is something that he never expected and which leaves him with a very uncertain future.
I can't believe it's taken me this long to complete the Harry Potter series, but I'm so glad I finally did. Wow! Now that I have, I'm nearly speechless. What an amazing and magical (no pun intended) journey through an enthralling world that seems so real, I was almost convinced that it actually exists. No wonder these books have legions of loyal fans, and I definitely count myself among them.
As I mentioned, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the conclusion to J. K. Rowling's popular series and what a wrap-up it was! The first half or so of the book makes the reader feel like all is lost. Harry, Ron, and Hermione find themselves on the run from Voldemort and his Death Eaters, while struggling to fulfill Dumbledore's mission for them. They experience a few small victories, but mostly it's a case of them taking one step forward and two steps back. I kept wondering how Harry was ever going to defeat Voldemort when he was having great difficulty just finding and destroying a Horcux. Perhaps that's the beauty of the story though, because when things finally start coming together, they do so in a big way. That's not to say that there weren't still roadblocks, but each time another was overcome, I was cheering our hero on in my mind. Each smaller victory slowly built into bigger and bigger victories until the exciting nail-biting finale. It was all a thrilling roller-coater ride that I was more than happy to take.
Harry Potter will always be one of my all-time favorite literary heroes. He has grown up from The Boy Who Lived into an admirable young man, who cares enough about his friends and chosen family to willingly sacrifice himself for them. All of his years at Hogwarts and everything he has learned both at school, and privately from Dumbledore, have been preparing him for the one climactic moment when he fulfills his destiny of destroying Voldemort once and for all. The reader can see his training coming into play here in many different ways. Yet, there are things for which his lessons could never have prepared him, things that Dumbledore didn't want him to know until it was absolutely necessary, which frustrates him at times. We also get to see the very best qualities of both of his parents embodied in Harry. His father's determination and penchant for mischief serves him well in pursuing his goals, while his mother's kindness shines through, making him an incredibly likable person. In fact, it was Harry's kindness and mercy toward others that inspired a steadfast loyalty from them that moved me to tears. They believed in him when he doubted himself, and were willing to lay down their lives for his cause without even being asked. Every sacrifice that was made along the way shook Harry to the core, yet they also made him even more resolved to succeed so that their lives would not have been lost in vain. He was a young man who cared not only about people but all the magical creatures as well. He also showed a steely determination to face the end with dignity and non-violence. I'm not sure that I'm really doing justice to his character, but Harry truly is one of the greatest literary heroes who has ever graced the pages of a novel.
Ron and Hermione deserve their fair share of the credit as well. They remain Harry's steadfast friends to the end and beyond. Each of them brings unique talents to their relationship with him that are integral to the mission at hand, but more importantly, they often hold him up when things look bleak and hopeless. Now admittedly they aren't perfect. Hermione's skepticism sometimes gets in the way of her believing that Harry is interpreting things correctly or has made the right decision, but ultimately, she supports him anyway even when she thinks he's wrong. There is also a short period of time, when things seem hopeless, that Ron wavers greatly in his belief that they can win out over Voldemort, leading to a temporary split in their friendship, but when he finally returns, he's every bit as determined to see it through as Harry. I also couldn't help but love that Ron and Hermione finally gave into their feelings for one another and stopped dancing around their obvious attraction. When this happened, the moment was both sweet and funny.
Throughout the series, we've been introduced to many supporting players, and I've suspected for a long time now that each would somehow bring their individual talents to the fight against Voldemort. I couldn't have been more pleased to see that I was right. There were so many stand-out characters, I don't think I can name them all, but a few of my favorites include the entire Weasley family, Neville, Luna, Dobby, Lupin, Tonks, Hagrid, and Professor McGonagall. The Death Eaters have their stand-outs as well who readers will love to hate. Both sides suffer heavy casualties, and sadly, some beloved characters who've been around for a long time don't make it through this book alive. Each time a new death occurred it brought a heaviness to my heart and tears to my eyes. Strangely enough, even though he killed Dumbledore in the previous book, I never hated Snape in the same way that most readers did, and now I know why. He's a surprisingly complex character who made perfect sense to me in the end. I loved reading about all of these characters, even the bad guys, and there are even a few redemptions among them. It's a testament to J. K. Rowling's writing skill that she could develop all of them in such a way as to engender such strong feelings in me of love or hate, admiration or contempt.
The Harry Potter series as a whole has spent a lot of time on the ALA's Most Banned/Challenged Books list, but IMHO, it doesn't really belong there. Now, admittedly, I would caution parents of younger children to know their child's sensitivity level before allowing them to read this particular volume. As I mentioned, the death toll is pretty high and although the author doesn't usually linger for too long over most of the deaths, more sensitive kids might still be upset by some of their favorite characters dying. There are also some fairly intense battle seqences and other instances of peril in which characters are tortured, but again, it wasn't nearly as graphic as it could have been, probably in deference to the younger audience. The language is a little stronger in this book as well, though nothing over the top or that I felt was out of place for the circumstances. However IMO, you can't have a story of this magnitude and not have some of these thing occur, otherwise, the stakes wouldn't be high enough. Any potentially objectionable content is far outweighed by the positive messages this story conveys regarding love, acceptance, loyalty, friendship, bravery, self-sacrifice, and standing up for what's right in the face of extraordinary evil. There is also a much more subtle cautionary message about the active seeking of power making one more corruptible. I absolutely loved how Harry understood so much more than Voldemort ever did about power and that no one person should ever possess the kind of power his nemesis coveted.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was an extraordinary wrap-up to an already amazing series. Even when the first half of the story was moving a bit more slowly, I was always eager to get back to it, when I had to put it down. The last half kept me on the edge of my seat, dying to know what would happen next, while never truly wanting it to end. J. K. Rowling definitely did not disappoint with this exciting conclusion. She even gives the reader a peek into the future to see where your beloved characters are nineteen years later. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. I know all good things must come to an end, but for me, I guess Harry Potter will never end. This series has found a place in my heart and a spot on my keeper shelf for life, and I look forward to revisiting it in the years to come, perhaps even with my grandchildren.
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