Vulcan’s Peak

Wait Til You Read Book Seven

July 25, 2007 9:35 pm

Ohhh, I cried.

And laughed. And cheered. And loved every minute of it.

What a fantastic send-off for Harry Potter. I found Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows entirely satisfactory and continue to be completely in love with all my favorite characters. Ms. Rowling has my heartfelt respect.

But following this cut lies a discussion of the people and plot of Deathly Hallows. If you don’t want to be spoiled, read no further!

One of the amazing things about this book is that it is (in sci-fi terms) gadget-heavy without quite overwhelming the reader. There are seven Horcruxes to keep track of, but most of them are familiar: Riddle’s diary goes back to Book 2, while Book 6 introduced the Gaunt ring, Slytherin’s locket, and Hufflepuff’s cup. Nagini has been around since Book 4, leaving Ravenclaw’s tiara as the only new Horcrux (and we knew it was likely to be something of Ravenclaw’s). And even though the three Hallows are a totally new idea, each one turns out to be a previously mentioned object (Harry’s invisibility cloak, Dumbledore’s wand, and the ring again). Hermione’s beaded bag of holding helps to keep it real, too — we’re not forced to imagine our heroes fitting all their many gadgets, talismans, and belongings into backpacks.

The autumn during which Harry, Ron, and Hermione are camping all over Britain and (as often as not) griping at each other is one of the few spots in which the book drags — especially knowing that eventually they must surely go to exciting places like Hogwarts and Godric’s Hollow. And especially since their stay at Grimmauld Place yielded such interesting tidbits. The story of RAB and the locket, for one (As Pug pointed out, Crunch was right!), the fragment of Lily’s letter for another. Not to mention the transformation of Kreacher.

After years of SPEW and knitted hats, Hermione’s social conscience regarding house-elves is finally getting results. She points out to the others that wizard wars are less important to them than personal loyalties, making Harry realize that paying some respect to Regulus Black, as well as to Kreacher himself, will make all the difference. It’s beautiful, but I’m still curious as to whether a change is in the wind. After the final battle, the Hogwarts elves are mingling with the victorious wizards, the centaurs, and everyone else. Are we to assume that because the battle has been won by a diverse army, that the role of house-elves in general society is going to start changing? That the tensions between goblins and wizards or between centaurs and wizards will ease for the time being? Back when Harry and Ron decided that they might like to be Aurors when they grow up, Hermione made some comment about wanting to take SPEW further — I can see her involved in an organization dedicated to smoothing the tensions between the different magical races. The head of some magical non-profit, if you will. And I’m pleased that Ron seems to support her position…now that she sounds practical about it, rather than rabid.

Out of everybody, however, I think I might be most proud of Neville. The confidence and capability with which he steps into Harry’s place at Hogwarts (1) makes me wish I could read Neville Longbottom and the Hogwarts Guerrillas: Another Story of Year 7, and (2) brings me back to that darn prophecy. Until Voldemort attacked Harry, it could have referred to the Potters or the Longbottoms: Voldemort himself chose his nemesis. But very gradually, I think we have been shown that if Voldemort had chosen differently and the burden had fallen to Neville, he could have borne it, too. Although the evidence is scant at first, it’s been there ever since Dumbledore gave Neville those 10 points for standing up to his friends in Book 1.

And what about Neville’s gran? The lady beat up an Auror and was on the run — Rawr! I wouldn’t be surprised if she were good friends (or even sisters, dare I say it) with Minerva McGonagall, who has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I cheered (silently; it was pushing midnight) over her encounter with Amycus Carrow in Ravenclaw Tower and her duel with Snape.

And oh, Severus Snape… I enjoyed hating him all the way through, but I was so pleased to realize as soon as he started offering Harry his memories that he too was Dumbledore’s man through and through. Or rather, Lily’s. In Book 6, we were given an explanation for why Dumbledore trusted Snape (that he had renounced his evil ways and was sorry), and I found that pretty weak. However, believing Snape because of his love for Lily makes perfect sense: love has always been Dumbledore’s favorite motif. These past two years, I have been skeptical of those who suggested that Snape killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore’s orders, but the explanation of the cursed hand and its result (Dumbledore’s looming death) made it believable. A desperate fanwank becomes a heroic death — and Dumbledore deserves no less. Getting to see the little scenes between Snape and Dumbledore over was a real treat, too.

The effort in this book to bring Dumbledore down a notch and keep him human was, I thought, necessary and significant. I think one of the themes that JKR emphasizes throughout the series is that heroes are only human and that normal people can be heroes. Dumbledore is not a saint (as he has insisted before); his past holds mistakes and character flaws like anybody else’s. Harry has grown into a real hero, but his intolerances, anger, stubbornness, poor judgment, and other flaws are integral to his story. Neville belongs here too, of course, and to pick just one more example, I want to point out Ron on page 379 (US ed).

“You’ve sort of made up for [leaving] tonight,” said Harry. “Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.”

“That makes me sound a lot cooler than I was,” Ron mumbled.

“Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was,” said Harry. “I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

So I suppose that Harry would tell us that his self-sacrifice, return from death, and final triumph over Voldemort all sound cooler than they really were, too, but I found them emotionally satisfactory nonetheless. The tears started coming after Fred’s death, I sobbed for Tonks and Lupin (I have a soft spot for Lupin, always have. I like underdogs.), and was bawling by the time I realized Harry had to die — something I knew was possible, but didn’t want to believe. (I hadn’t bought into the ‘Harry is the last Horcrux’ theory, though. Oops.) I loved that Harry passed on his quest to Neville (and that Neville was able to do his bit!), and the appearance of Lily, James, Sirius, and Lupin was a beautiful tug at the heartstrings.

But though Harry’s sudden appearance in the midst of the Death Eaters is cinematic, to say the least, I have to admit that my favorite part of Harry’s death is that it allows Dumbledore to give his traditional end-of-the-book explanation, even though he’s dead.

And how about that final battle. Harry Potter takes his stand and calls Voldemort by his true name, making him his equal: another orphaned boy who found a home at Hogwarts and has amazing abilities. But not only are they equals: Harry finally has the upper hand and can give the satisfying (if ill-advised according to the Overlord’s Handbook) catechism on everything Tom Riddle has done wrong, everything Tom Riddle doesn’t know, and why he has finally won his happy ending.

3 Responses to “Wait Til You Read Book Seven”

Crunch wrote a comment on July 26, 2007

Read DH felt like reading a series of episodes from a TV series to me. More so than any of the other books. Am I alone in that?

Greet wrote a comment on July 30, 2007

Vindication! (victory lap re: Snape=good guy)

Ready for my Quibble yet? Make a list of everybody who dies, including Hedwig. What do they have in common? Now make a list of what jobs the Golden Trio have in future and where. Someone, somewhere, wearing pink boucle’, is giggling, and I Don’t Like It.

Odette wrote a comment on July 31, 2007

Crunch: I think I might agree, and I think it has to do with the fact that they don’t have the continuity of a school year in the background.

Greet: Hmmm. That’s a bit of a puzzler and I’m still working on it. Are we talking about everyone who dies, or just the good guys (of whom I count eight if we include Harry’s sort-of death)?

Pink boucle’ meaning Umbridge’s fluffy sweaters? Boucle’ is a new word for me, oh textile arts wizard.

later… Ok, now I’m counting fourteen people who are more or less good guys and are more (or less) dead. Hedwig, Moody, Scrimgeour, Ted Tonks, Dirk Cresswell, Gregorovitch, Dobby, Bathilda Bagshot, Fred, Tonks, Lupin, Colin Creevy, Snape, and Harry.

Care to comment?