It's a little after 8:30 AM on Saturday morning, and I finished reading J.K. Rowling's tale of Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows maybe 20 minutes ago. I didn't stand in line; I waited until Friday night to do my regular grocery shopping and picked it up there, as I've picked up the last three books, and then stayed up all night to read it.
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Like many others, I saw spoilers online. They were hard to avoid, and I wasn't able to manage it. I had friends who downloaded the photographed novel (and seriously! Who has that kind of time to take all those pictures?!). I thought I knew what to expect.
At the end of the 6th book in the series, Harry is left with a decision: return to Hogwarts to finish his education or leave to fight Voldemort, who has returned. He is without his most trusted advisor. He has seen someone he thought he could trust, albeit reluctantly, turn to the side of evil.
As every Harry Potter book begins, we meet Harry at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at the home of his aunt and uncle on Privet Drive. He has already made his decision, and within the first few chapters, we see where everyone has aligned themselves, and catch up with most of the characters we are looking for.
I'm not going to give away one bit of the plot; I know that reviews will follow later today and over the coming weeks that will go into more detail. Many of them will discuss the lack of editing (seriously, at what point did Scholastic allow Rowling to jettison her editor?). They'll also discuss parts of the book that seem to drag on or fly in the face of previous plot points or skip over time too quickly. There are parts of the book that seem crammed in; that Rowling was trying to tie up every conceivable plot point to ensure that this would truly end the series.
I'm sure when I reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as I've done with all the others, I'll focus more on those points as well. But the first reading is the one where you focus on the book as a whole, the one where the story makes its impact, and you sort through the details later.
Yes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has flaws, some of which I've mentioned above. But at the heart of it, Rowling gives the story of Harry Potter the ending it deserves. It may not be the ending you want. It probably isn't the ending you expect. And if you've read many of the spoilers, you'll know that they didn't have much of it right at all. At one point or another, you will doubt many of the characters you thought you could rely on, sometimes rightly, and sometimes wrongly.
Harry does not have a perfect ending; to be real, this story couldn't have a perfect ending. There have been times over the course of the series where I've even gotten to dislike Harry, feeling that he was no longer the boy we met in the first book. But Rowling brings us full circle, merging the boy with the man, explaining things we always wondered about and assumed would never get answered, and ends the Harry Potter series exactly the way it SHOULD have been ended. Of that, I have no doubt.
Yes, I cried at the end. And I bet you will too. Not so much because it has a sad ending, but because we are saying goodbye to a world we felt we lived in, even for a short time. In the course of seven books, Rowling reintroduced a love of the printed word, united continents over the story of a not-very-ordinary boy. That sense of camaraderie may end as well. She does justice, though, to the power she's wielded with this story, and I think most, if not all, will be satisfied.