Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
JK Rowling

   When the Harry Potter books were first released I was a huge fan. I quickly became obsessed with them, reading them constantly, buying up the first run of merchandise, dressing as Harry himself for Halloween and eagerly awaiting any scrap of information about the upcoming film adaptation. As the series wore on however, I slowly found myself losing interest, as the wait between releases grew with each instalment I found myself getting less and less excited for the next book. I struggled through the Order of the Phoenix when it was released and during the seemingly never ending wait for the Half Blood Prince, I grew up a lot and Harry Potter just wasn’t an important part of my life anymore. I read HBP and couldn’t remember the events of the previous book, I had forgotten who all the new characters were and I just gave up with the series.
   The final instalment in the series, The Deathly Hallows was released in 2007 and I didn’t bother to pick it up. Until recently it was the only book in the series I’d never read.

    Having now finally picked it up, and finally rounded off the series I have to say, I really regret not doing it sooner. This book is epic.

   In a break from series tradition, the final book does not see Harry return to Hogwarts. Instead, it sees him on the run, hiding from the death eaters who are asserting more and more control over the wizarding world. Both the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts itself have fallen under Voldemort’s control. The dark lord has won.
   With two of the seven Horcruxes (magical artefacts that imbued with a part of Voldemort’s soul, making him immortal) destroyed, Harry, Ron and Hermione spent the remainder of the book hunting down the remaining five before taking the fight to Voldemort to decide the fate of the wizarding world once and for all.

   The tone in this book is the bleakest of the series. Right from the off there’s a sense of how massive the task Harry faces is and how impossible the task seems.
   One of the earliest scenes features the death of a pretty important character to the series. What’s so haunting about this moment is how unceremonious it is. The character dies off screen, there’s no epic battle or heroic last words, he’s a major character in the series but simply becomes another casualty of war. From that moment on Rowling’s intentions with this book are clear. This war isn’t going to be pretty, there are going to be major consequences for Harry and his friends, it’s going to be brutal.
   It’s a bleakness that never lets up, even the victories that our three main characters are immediately overshadowed by the enormity of the task that remains. Destroyed a horcrux? Great, but there’s still four more to find. Escaped the Death Eaters? Well that’s all well and good but there’s nowhere to hide, you just have to keep running.

   The book is a  massively emotive piece of writing. Having followed the last seven years of Harry’s life, to have gone through all of those experiences with him and to see the dark place that they’ve led is devastating and Rowling plays up to that feeling as much as she can. There are so many moments in this book that hit home in an immensely powerful way. Pretty much every scene, every interaction between characters, every death, every memory will have one fan crying their heart out as they read it.
   For me, the most emotional moment in the book took me by complete surprise as it happens in the opening chapter.

   As Harry gets ready to leave the Dursley’s home for the last time, he has one final confrontation with his abusive Uncle Vernon. Harry is justifiably unforgiving about his uncle and the treatment he received over his years living with him.
   As he vents his frustrations, Harry gets backup from an unexpected source, his cousin Dudley. Dudley mentions that, despite how much Harry put up with over the years, he still saved his life. He expresses his gratitude to him, says he’ll miss him and wishes him luck….then shakes his hand.
   That one small moment of recognition, of apology, regret and resolution coming from Harry’s childhood antagonist, hit me harder than any character death or high intensity moment across the whole series.
   I don’t think I’ve ever cried at a book, but Dudley shaking Harry’s hand brought me closer to tears than anything else I’ve ever read.

    As ever of course, Rowling knows how to break up the doom and gloom with enough comic relief and lighter moments to keep the pace varied. There are several funny scenes throughout the book, the groups daring break in to the ministry of magic, which sees Ron, disguised as a ministry worker, forced off mission when a higher-up gets him to perform some menial work is probably the funniest of all. These sections, coupled with some happier moments, really help break the tension and give the reader a much needed respite from the horrors that are building up around Harry.

   I won’t go much into the actual writing because, after reviewing the six previous novels, I’ve nothing much else to say. Rowling’s writing is as solid as ever and her ability to build a world that feels so fleshed out and genuine is a skill to be admired.

   The Deathly Hallows is the perfect finale to the Harry Potter series. It’s dark, epic and heartbreaking but still manages to provide enough warmth to keep you from falling into utter despair.
   I’m so glad I finally decided to return to the Harry Potter series, that I took the time to finally read Rowling’s conclusion in her own words. The experience has given me a newfound respect and love for the Harry Potter series. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same connection to these books that I felt as a child but the love I feel for them now as an adult is a different kind of love. No longer a blind obsession, I hold the Harry Potter series aloft with respect for the impressive world, engaging characters and gripping plot that Rowling created. It’s truly a remarkable achievement, one that deserves to be celebrated.
   And so, you can certainly count me, once again, among the endless ranks of the Harry Potter fandom. It’s good to be back. 

JK Rowling
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