I have to say, overall, I was satisfied by the book and how it closed the series. I still feel a little sad upon its completion... I wonder if anything else will ever get people so excited about reading the way this did? It's so amazing to see that, in this day and age, people will line up at midnight to buy a book. And that adults and children alike will read this book and discuss it, and share it. It's not a movie, not a videogame, not a new gadget... it's just a book. I love that.
Will thinks it's like the Star Wars of this generation, and in many ways I agree. It's a sort of an archetypal epic that really speaks to a massive amount of people on a deeper level. And seeing the battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort on-screen, I could only think of the lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader.
Anyway, click below the cut to hear my reactions on the book.
In many ways, I predicted the outcome of several key points in this book (as did many fans), but it was no less thrilling to see them proven. This book gripped me like none of the others. It made me tense, it literally had me fearing for each character, many times, because I didn't know who would live and who would die. The book wasted no time getting into the hair-raising action, and reading about Hedwig's death early on was so upsetting that I literally dreaded what that portended for the other characters and their fates.
The whole sequence of Harry, Hermione and Ron camping in the woods did slow things down, but it wasn't necessarily a bad lull. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the Lord of the Rings, which would also have stretches of time in which the characters would do nothing except camp and travel, and wonder about their objectives. I was surprised by Ron's "betrayal", but I also respected his character more for it. I liked to see this purely human side of him, one that was overcome by fear and weakness. Because, let's face it, most of us in Harry's situation would probably buckle under the pressure at some point. And while Ron was gone, I loved reading about Harry and Hermione as they grew even closer as friends.
I enjoyed learning more about Dumbledore's past. He was, until now, a sort of pleasant, all-knowing mentor, and I can see how Harry would only want to see pure good in him (especially as a child and lacking a father figure). I liked knowing that Dumbledore had a selfish, power-hungry side to him, althought though it made me squirm to realize that he sort of used and manipulated Harry. I'm glad Harry had a chance to talk with him in the Afterlife, because otherwise, I would have left the book feeling sour about Dumbledore and his role and I would have wondered if he ever really cared about Harry at all.
Just like in the last book, Ginny still irritates me. I couldn't see why Harry fell for her in the first place, and I still don't see it now. It was almost too convenient - as though he couldn't end up with Hermione because she was taken, so he needed someone else to pair off with in the end (although I would have preferred Luna, personally. Even though she's weird, she seems to have more things in common with Harry). It always seemed like all the other Weasleys were so much more developed than Ginny- even Percy and Bill. But, oh well.
Lupin used to be one of my favorite characters, but I was a little disappointed in him in this book. The way he tried to escape Tonks and his baby seemed so cowardly and despicable, I was glad Harry put him in his place. His and Tonks' deaths were also a letdown. They seemed almost like an afterthought, while I really felt sad for Fred's death. I also didn't like how Tonks' role was reduced. She pops out a kid and then spends the rest of the book looking for Lupin and then dies. Great.
But onto Snape, my favorite character of all. I know everyone expected him to be redeemed. After all, so much of the book is about redemption. But, call me gullible, I honestly did fear that Snape would turn out to be an evil, flawed character after all, if anything, just to screw with the fans. I left the last book feeling optimistic that he was still on Dumbledore's side, and that everything was planned. But from the first chapters of this book, when he told Voldemort the true date of Harry's departure, and cut off George's ear, I really feared there was no hope for him. And when he took over as headmaster and the school seemed to turn into some sort of concentration camp, I was even further convinced that he was, indeed, on the Dark Side. Furthermore, seeing that Dumbledore wasn't as perfect as he seemed, I also found it easier to believe that he might have been wrong about Snape all along.
I did have a sense that Snape might, at the end, show a flicker of doubt or regret, or that he'd be unable to pull the final trigger on Harry, so to speak. But I honestly did think he was overtaken by evil. This thought depressed me so much that I was convinced that I would hate the book - and even the series if he was not redeemed. To me, that was more important than anything else, even Harry's fate. I needed Snape to be redeemed in order to appreciate any of the books. A little extreme? Perhaps.
I was sad when Snape died and bummed that he didn't exactly die fighting, or die in a blaze of noble glory. But I was so, so relieved to hear the truth behind his actions. I was so glad to realize that all along, he was, indeed, faithful to Dumbledore. His love for Lily kept him true all along. Instead of resenting her and hating her for spurning his affections, his love for her was his anchor. I was so moved to realize his patronis was a doe, and that despite disliking the James in Harry, he also loved the Lily in Harry. For me, this was the most tragic part of the story and I was more affected by this than anything else in the book. But then, like I said, I'm a complete Snape-fanatic. ^_^;;
As for the ending, it was epic and exciting. I liked the coming-of-age moment when Harry realized he had to die in order to kill Voldemort. I liked his stoic acceptance, but also appreciated his fear, and that he was suddenly conscious of what it meant to be alive, and how he had only so many heart-beats left, so many breaths... It made him that much more real.
I sometimes thought that I would be fine with an ending where Harry died, sacrificing himself for the greater good. But I realize now that that would have gone against the whole premise of the series, of redemption, of second chances. And that he is the Boy Who Lived. It was more important that he made the choice to die, than actually dying itself - in the same way that it was more important that he made the choice of Horcruxes over Hallows. The whole Jesus-undertones didn't go unnoticed by me, but even though I usually dislike overt Christian themes in literature (one reason I could never fully enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia), this didn't bother me. Perhaps because it's not so much a Christian theme as it is an archetypal theme. In the way that Osiris rose from the dead, or the way that Persephone and Inanna willingly entered the world of the dead only to return again. The Phoenix which has played so much of a role in Harry Potter, is also symbolic of this same concept. Even the presence of ghosts and talking/moving portraits in Harry Potter indicates a belief that death is never truly final.
I was really satisfied with the book overall, and the way it really tied in all the loose threads and further explained events that took place in earlier volumes. I was disappointed with the epilogue. It seemed too cutesy, so much like a neat little package tied up with a bow. Look, everyone's happy! Everyone's been neatly paired off and has little mini Harry Potters and Hermiones and Rons that are off to Hogwarts too! I mean, we could all have easily assumed that Ron and Hermione were going to get married and have kids someday, the same with Harry and Ginny (though I still don't see why, hehe). Although maybe this was J.K Rowling's point. That life (and death) are cyclical and that it's time for these new children to start their lives at Hogwarts and have their own adventures. (Which, I assume, the publisher is praying for!)
So, I guess it isn't so much this ending that bothers me. It's more the tone of it, which is cutesy, compared to the serious, dark mood of the rest of the book. I mean, just 19 years prior, the magic world had its own sort of Holocaust against Muggle-borns. Wouldn't this still affect the present climate? Did Hermione ever become an Auror? What about some of the other important, supporting characters like Luna and Professor McGonagall? I know there are too many characters to cover, but a little more information besides who-married-who, and who's-kids were named after who so-and-so would have been nice.
Anyway, years ago, I remember resisting the urge to get into Harry Potter when the hype first began, because that's all I thought it was - hype. But now I see it really is a complex, epic, touching story and I'm happy to say I was wrong about the series and that you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover!