Sunday, 29 July 2007
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (No Spoilers!)
It was ten years ago that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in the United Kingdom. Since that time the Harry Potter series has become an outright phenomenon, one to match Star Wars and The Beatles. There haven't just been the books themselves and the movies based on the books, but scores of merchandise. Even a casual search on the Internet will reveal literally thousands of web sites, blogs, message boards, and so on dedicated to the Harry Potter series. It should be no surprise, then, that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 11 million copies in the United Kingdom and United States in its first day. Indeed, worldwide it became the fastest selling book of all time.
Given this, the pertinent question might be, "Is the book worth all the furore surrounding it? For me, at least, the answer is, "Yes." Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is definitely the best book in a series that some already consider a classic, alongside L. Frank Baum's Oz books and the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Whether the series is truly a classic is something that only time will tell. For myself, however, the series is not only truly entertaining, but outright riveting. What is more, for books written for young adults (that's librarian for "adolescents"), they possess a surprising amount of depth in terms of the characters and the world they inhabit. In being the best of the Harry Potter series, then, it can be argued that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the best of the best.
While it is the best book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows also stands apart from the rest of the series to a degree. In many respects Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows reads like an action-adventure novel, with some very intense action scenes occurring regularly throughout the novel. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read the past six books. After all, Voldemort has finally returned and the wizarding world is at war. This makes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a very exciting novel and one that is hard to put down. What sets Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows apart is J. K. Rowling's gift for character development. In the final Harry Potter book, the characters we have known so long have a depth and complexity never seen before in the series, a series whose popularity grew in part out of its three dimensional characters.
All of this having been said, for fans like myself Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows can be a very difficult book to read. The novel has a considerable body count, and it is not just the bad guys who die. This is a natural outgrowth of Rowling's gift for realistic characters--she lets the characters drive the plot rather than the plot drive the characters. A lesser writer might be tempted to spare popular characters in hopes of appeasing their readership. Not Rowling, she lets the personalities of the characters and the logical progression of events determine who lives and who dies. And while this makes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows all the more enjoyable, it also makes painful at times to read.
Ultimately, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a satisfying conclusion to what may be the most popular book series of our time. It cannot have been easy for Rowling to have produced a book that not only ties up all the loose ends, but also entertains and does so in a logical manner as well. That she has done so is a tribute to her talent as a writer. Other series of books have sometimes simply petered out. Fortunately, the Harry Potter series has ended on a high note.