Wow – this book was as close to “right on the mark” as one could get. In the final Harry Potter book, author J. K. Rowling wraps up a decade long story of a young boy who discovers that he is the most famous wizard of his time. Harry’s arch-nemesis, Lord Voldemort, killed his parents when Harry was a baby. Each of the seven books deals with Voldemort’s return to power and his ultimate goal of killing Harry Potter. But, chances are that if you’re reading this book review, then you probably don’t need me to explain the beginnings of the Potter story.
The first thing that I want to say about this seventh and final installment of the Potter series is that the last 100 or so pages did exactly what the tens of millions of Harry Potter fans needed it to do: it wrapped up the loose ends and then gave a quick snapshot of 19 years into the future (more on that later). The brilliance of Rowling’s final chapters make the dissatisfaction of other finales become more pronounced…
One of the things that is especially well done in the final book is the story of Albus Dumbledore, his family history, and the introduction of his brother, Aberforth. The pesky Rita Skeeter makes her way back into the story as a filthy, low-down reporter once again. The climax of the Dumbledore storyline comes in two scenes, surprisingly. The first is when Aberforth meets Harry and explains his side of the story around his mother and sister’s deaths. The second is when Albus meets Harry in King’s Station after Harry is “killed” – or in proper terms – after Voldemort destroys the Horcrux hidden within Harry. More on that scene in a minute. I cite this scene specifically because it shows the younger fans of these novels that even the all-knowing, seemingly all-powerful, and inherently “good” character that was Albus Dumbledore had his flaws in life. A resentment towards his responsibilities as the oldest member of his family, a lust for ultimate power, and a predisposition towards telling half-truths are some of the many flaws in Albus. This is a great lesson for the reader as it shows that even the best of the best have their hidden secrets – this subplot made Albus Dumbledore more human.
Another part of the story was excellently written revolved around the Malfoy family and Dumbledore’s constant assertion throughout the series that love is the strongest force out there. Voldemort’s inability to understand this concept is displayed as he constantly bosses around Draco Malfoy in his mother and father’s presence after he takes over their home. Though it is not written, I suspect that the devolution of her son in front of her fellow Death Eaters awakens that deep magic that Lily Potter used to protect Harry when Voldemort attacked. One could guess that this deep magic is simply love, but that is for Rowling to talk about since these are her books and her creations. Narcissa’s betrayal against Voldemort is perfect story swerve that leads us to a magnificent final scene.
In this final scene, Voldemort is outside of a broken Hogwarts demanding that all surrender to him as he has the “dead” Harry Potter at his feet. Thanks to a few giant distractions and an onslaught attack by magical creatures including the centaurs of the Forbidden Forest, Harry is able to sneak away as the Second Battle of Hogwarts begins. These final scenes are satisfying for a few reasons from this point forward. First, you get four epic-style duels between the series’ good and evil characters. It begins with Voldemort dueling with Professors McGonagall and Slughorn and the Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt. Finally, after seven books, these professors are allowed to show their true magical prowess! A second duel is taking place between Bellatrix Lestrange (who easily becomes the most evil witch on the planet during book seven) and Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, and Ginny Weasley. When Ginny nearly dies from one of Bellatrix’s spells, Mrs. Weasley jumps in front of the girls yelling, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”
Easily the best line of the book – that instantly made Mrs. Weasley one of my favorite characters.
Mrs. Weasley goes on to kill Bellatrix in what had to be Rowling’s way of showing that the deep magic that is “love” will always overcome the lust and destruction that is evil. When Voldemort sees this, though, he is enraged and attempts to attack Mrs. Weasley, which leads to Harry revealing himself (and shocking everyone in the room). What follows next is brilliantly written as Harry shows his intelligence by logically proving that he is in possession of a stronger wand than Voldemort’s Elder Wand. When both wizards perform their “signature” spells, Harry’s logic proves true as he acquires Voldemort’s wand and kills him on the spot.
There are other magnificent scenes depicted in this book including the Gringott’s break-in and escape on the blind dragon, the torture of Hermione as Dobby saves the gang in the Malfoy basement, and the opening sequence when Hedwig dies as seven Harry Potters leave Privet Drive at the same time. Which brings me to another matter in this book and all of Rowling’s books – death of the supporting characters. While we are not hit with major deaths from any of the core group of characters, we are hit with Severus Snape, Fred Weasley, Colin Creevey, Mad-Eye Moody, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks and her father, Dobby, and Hedwig’s death in the final installment of the series. Other characters are killed including Minister Scrimegour and Bathilda Bagshot, but the big deaths in the book are really of Lupin, Tonks, and Fred (at least I think so).
Rowling showed another act of brilliance when she included an epilogue, showing the main characters 19 years into the future. As one could have predicted, Harry and Ginny Weasley are now married and have three children: James Sirius Potter, Albus Severus Potter, and Lily Potter. It’s obvious who the children are named after. Ron and Hermione are also married with a child and we are also shown Draco Malfoy with his son. The most telling part of his appearance is the slight nod he gives Harry and Ron on the platform as their children board the train to Hogwarts. From my perspective, this shows the reader that the Death Eater movement is truly gone and that Malfoy has obviously learned the error of his ways. Good stuff.
Now, pulling myself out of the Harry Potter world for a minute, I think the true magnificence of Rowling’s final book is the fact that it is final and there is a definite ending. Unlike other major entertainment phenomena, the Harry Potter series has paid off for the fans who invested a decade’s worth of time, effort, and enthusiasm for the books. Rowling justly rewards Potter fans with a story that gets progressively “grown up” over the course of the seven books and a story that comes to a definitive ending. Not to mention that Rowling breaks with current trend of having some shady of gray be the ultimate winner. In the Harry Potter series, good clearly defeats evil and the heroes are rewarded with what appear to be full, healthy lives during the glimpse that we see 19 years after the final battle. It was actually a refreshing change to read such a decisive ending.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I give this book my highest recommendation and if you are not a Harry Potter fan, than I would recommend the entire series to you (even if you know what happens in the final pages of the final book). A job well done by J. K. Rowling.