Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Published in 2007
Genre: Fantasy, magical realism
“The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”
Dumbledore is dead and has set Harry on a quest to destroy the seven Horcruxes, items imbued with parts of Voldemort’s soul, in order to defeat the Dark Lord and bring order to the world. He is not alone in his quest, Hermione and Ron are with him through the tough times though each has their misgivings in the pursuit of their goal. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows marks the ending of an era in the world of storytelling. The stakes are at their highest while nothing is certain but death and the end of the story for our heroes.
Death comes in an instant for many characters in The Deathly Hallows. By the end of the book, characters that have become friends not only to Harry but to us as readers meet their end. Death plays a significant part in the final book because all of the threats of violence and possibilities of a world in which Voldemort is allowed to run free come to fruition. Voldemort is obsessed with beating death and is willing to dole it out in droves in order to create the Horcruxes, one of which is unknowingly made out of the Resurrection Stone.
Rowling delves into the mythology and history of the wizarding world once again with the inclusion of the Deathly Hallows and the Tale of the Three Brothers. The story goes that there were three wizards who cheated death and were gifted the Deathly Hallows: the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility cloak. It is revealed in the story that the cloak Harry received from his father through Dumbledore is the same in the fairy tale. The cloak was passed down from generation to generation from Ignotus Peverell, the third wizard in the Tale of the Three Brothers. As I have said before, one of my favorite aspects to the series is the richness of history and lore that Rowling has invested her time in developing and I believe the Tale of the Three Brothers and how it weaves into the narrative is best example of this.
Along with what is real and what is simply fiction, quite a bit comes into question regarding one of the most beloved characters of the series. Dumbledore has been a source of strength and wisdom for Harry since he began studying at Hogwarts. Advice and paternal love were ever present when the two shared time together. However, in The Deathly Hallows, all of this is put to the test by the statements of those who knew him best, or at least claimed to.
As with the death of any celebrity, multiple accounts both venerating and scalding come about. Elphias Doge, a wizard friend who knew Dumbledore from Hogwarts, writes an obituary that was very complimentary to the deceased. Rita Skeeter, on the other hand, publishes a biography that touted tabloid gossip and speculation that was barely routed in fact. The closest truth comes from Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, who reveals the actual events of their childhood together and why they fell out. Due to these varying opinions regarding his hero, Harry spends much of the book wondering, as we do, if he really knew Dumbledore at all.
The other character that is misunderstood up until the moments following his death is Severus Snape. Throughout the series, Snape has been presented as an antagonist. He constantly hounds Harry in potions classes, takes points away from Gryffindor whenever possible, and insults Harry’s father and his fame. It is not until Snape is killed by Voldemort and gives Harry a collection of memories that has been prepared in advance that we and Harry see how wrong we were. Snape was only ever a boy in love who became a man consumed by the grief and guilt he felt in the death of the woman he loved: Lily Evans.
The flashback shows their early friendship in childhood, how they grew up together and were separated at Hogwarts. Lily went on to marry James Potter and while Snape despised Harry’s father, he always loved Lily. His Patronus is a doe, like Lily’s, and it is revealed how many times Snape has aided Harry throughout the series. The true tragedy in the Harry Potter series comes in the form of Severus Snape: the only man Dumbledore trusted enough to confide in about his plan to defeat Voldemort.
In order to succeed, Harry must sacrifice himself so that Voldemort can be defeated. He goes to his death with the ghosts of those he loves and does so with the certainty that he is doing the right thing. Though Dumbledore didn’t reveal the entire plan to him, Harry trusts in him enough still that this is what must be done so that the world can live in peace and without fear of Voldemort. Harry has accepted the needs of others over his own survival, and in doing so, fulfills his purpose.
The epic tale of The-Boy-Who-Lived has reached its end. Though victory over Voldemort is not without sacrifice, the future of the world is secure from his evil and the survivors of the Battle of Hogwarts will go on to lead full and happy lives. I have to say that I have never before been so enthralled in a book while simultaneously dreading its end. Rowling has created a masterpiece of story telling in her Harry Potter series and I believe that it will go on for generations as an example of creative storytelling to be aspired to.
Verdict: 5 chills down my spine reading Snape’s line, “Always.” out of 5
Recommended for: People who have read the previous books, all of us, most of us, some of us, and fans. Just read it. It’s so good.
Not recommended for: Severus Snape, “Mad Eye” Moody, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Dobby the House Elf, Fred Weasley, Voldemort, Draco Malfoy (you’ve had a hell of a ride, kid), or anyone who wants to remain in the wizarding world indefinitely.