Initial Deathly Hallows thoughts

22 Jul


It took me a day and a half (on a weekend) to read the book through. I’m a fairly slow reader, because descriptions sometimes fail me and I have to read them twice to understand them, or I’ll forget the details of a plot point that arises later in the book and (especially when it involves magic metaphysics) will have to pause to find the explanation for it earlier before I can continue. Also, my chronic insomnia problems demand I at least try to get a decent night’s sleep every night, so no staying up late reading.

I’ll definitely need to re-read the book when I get my Brit version next week, just to find some plot points I wanted to go back to for understanding purposes but couldn’t re-find.

Books really need a search-and-find function.

Right, then.

The not so good: on-the-lam Harry, and the subsequent lack of Hogwarts. OK, yeah, I know–I knew two hundred pages in–that Hogwarts would be the scene of the grand finale, but it’s more than a setting, it’s more than a character in the book in its own right, it’s the back bone of each book, the skeleton upon which the meaty plot of each book is built.

I remember back while reading book 5 being disappointed that the war hadn’t started (the overt war, anyway); that Rowling had sent Harry back to school and not to the fight. But then I realized he had to be sent back to school. The books, I realized, are about Harry Potter’s school years. Seven years, seven books, one book for each year.

So I found book 7 extremely disorienting after September first came and went and there was no Hogwarts. Rowling found a way to send Harry back to school in book 5, harassed though he was. I think she should have found a way to do it in book 7–taking his classes, defending his muggle-born classmates, and slipping off-campus from time to time to go on missions to find the Horocruxes.

‘Cause you know, he needs to complete his seventh year and officially graduate. And if Rowling isn’t bothering with that, well, it felt like she was hinting he *had* no future.

So this worried me as I read the book. And, let’s face it, I shared Ron’s frustration with how slow the horocrux hunt was proceeding. It gave the action a clumsy, meandering pace, and sometimes brought it to a halt, as Harry bungled along not really knowing what his next move should be.

You had to have patience, patience to find out what’s up with Dumbledore’s apparent bad planning for Harry’s journey without him, patience to find out what was going on with characters other than the trio (such as Harry’s friends and Draco and the others back at Hogwarts), none of which we’re allowed to see due to Rowling’s narrative choice throughout all seven books of sticking strictly to Harry’s POV.

The I’m-not-so-sure-about: Rocks fall, everybody dies. Rowling was not afraid to kill characters as ruthlessly as Joss Whedon. On the one hand, I hate the deaths of beloved characters (OMG! Fred! Hedwig!!!), especially when they serve no narrative purpose (I’m not saying any failed this in the book, I’m only saying this in general). On the other hand, it created a fear that if so-and-so could go, *anyone* could, and who would be next? Which is good, because then you’re engaged.

Of course, I knew Harry was a likely death; anyone with half a brain deduced he was a horocrux in book 6. But there was also a chance Rowling would find a way to get rid of the horocrux without killing Harry (which she did, satisfactorily), and so killing other characters right and left made me genuinely believe she’d have no gumption killing Harry.

The good: Rowling has her metaphysics worked out. Elegant plot devices established in early books work together to support a very complex narrative structure.

It’s annoying that sometimes Rowling has to have a Dumbledore-explains-it-all scene near the end of a book to give the proper exposition on it, but the metaphysics *are* thought through, and that will make or break my willing suspension of disbelief. So, high marks there.

High marks also on the story arc of one of her most complex characters–Severus Snape.

I was deeply worried about Harry’s death in the book, and would have felt a vague disappointment with the series as a whole if Harry had died ridding the world of Voldemort (as in “what’s the point of a long story arc of him learning and growing and becoming a decent man if he’s gonna be slaughtered like a dog? (::cough::Cordelia Chase::cough::)

However, it would have utterly ruined the entire series for me if Snape had ended up a two-dimensional Death Eater. I believed strongly (but not completely) that Snape was working on the side of Dumbledore at the end of book 6, but to Rowling’s credit, she had me convinced even 3/4ths of the way through book 7 that Snape was going to end up a two-dimensional villain. I was really disappointed with her. So it was a relief to find out he was not.

One last not-so-good thing. I didn’t need that afterward part 19 years later. It was an author’s self-indulgence. I’m going to ignore it. Who’s with me?

Reading progress notes

A Wizard of Earthsea”, Ursula Le Guin
“Proven Guilty”, Jim Butcher
“Dreamchild”, Hilary Hemingway and Jeffry P. Lindsay
“Guilty Pleasures”, Laurell K. Hamilton
“The War for the Oaks,” Emma Bull
“Shifter,” by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
“Neverwhere,” by Neil Gaiman
“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
“Eye of the Daemon” by Camille Bacon-Smith
“The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett
“Waking the Moon” by Elizabeth Hand
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling

27 Responses to “Initial Deathly Hallows thoughts”

  1. lafemmedarla July 22, 2007 at 10:40 pm #

    There was an epilogue?
    Epilogues are filthy people! *spits* And we shall speak of it no more!

  2. neshaffer July 22, 2007 at 10:53 pm #

    I don’t remember any epilogue. That would have been lame, had there been one.
    *shrugs*

  3. cactuswatcher July 22, 2007 at 10:57 pm #

    I agree with you about on-the-lam Harry. I think Rowling was out of her element away from Hogwarts. I found most of the first half of the book slow going if not out and out tedious. I had to put it down and do other things yesterday, because I was constantly muttering to myself about Rowling needing a good editor!
    Rowling is a bit careless with her characters. You know she wanted to show how awful war is. But frankly, I think her tendency to blither off on trivialities cheapened that effect. Perhaps that was too soften the blows to the younger readers though.
    I was surprised by what happen to Harry. (Yes, ignored all the speculation from others). But the business with Snape was exactly what I expected, not in detail but in substance, including the clincher in the epilogue (which if Rowling had had a bold editor wouldn’t have meandered on for seven pages!) ;o)

  4. neshaffer July 22, 2007 at 11:02 pm #

    I found that whole thing about Harry praising Snape as “the bravest man he ever met” in the epilogue the whole reason the epilogue was awful. It basically turned Harry into a Mary Sue who had no flaws at all. After all, his blind spot with Snape was one of his major flaws, and a little of lingering resentment would not have been amiss.

  5. cactuswatcher July 22, 2007 at 11:09 pm #

    No, it was the one thing Harry needed to do to complete his growth into adulthood and thus end the cycle- to acknowledge how much Snape had tried to do for him, not simply just forgive him. The wording may have been a bit much, but the idea was something Harry needed to say.

  6. neshaffer July 22, 2007 at 11:11 pm #

    No, I agree, he definitely needed to get past the hate. But the way Rowling did it was overblown.

  7. neshaffer July 22, 2007 at 11:13 pm #

    So what do you reckon? McGonnegal gave him an honorary degree, or made him come back for his seventh year afterwards?

  8. neshaffer July 22, 2007 at 11:41 pm #

    Exactly! I started reading the epilogue to hear about Harry’s great career as an auror! Who gives a **** who ends up with who (it should have been Cho OMG) and how many babies they have?

  9. neshaffer July 22, 2007 at 11:49 pm #

    The reveal with Snape did come late, which is why I got convinced it wasn’t going to happen. In the end, I’d prefer it later rather than any earlier than it appeared. However, her exposition with the penseive broke up the action at a point that wasn’t so great.

  10. cactuswatcher July 23, 2007 at 12:05 am #

    I didn’t mind the placement of the pensieve scenes, but you have a point. I did kind of laugh when the kindly Voldemort stopped the battle to give Harry time for it.

  11. atpolittlebit July 23, 2007 at 12:12 am #

    Harry and Ron went to the special summer school for those students who couldn’t go to Hogwarts because it wasn’t safe, got their N.E.W.T.s, graduated, became aurors and hunted down Umbridge.
    Hermione simply took the N.E.W.T.s and the exams and after changing the Ministry office of Muggle Relations to one of Non-Wizard relations and revolutionizing the treatment of non-humans, takes McGonagall’s position when Minerva retires, eventually becoming Headmistress of Hogwarts and she and Ron had a huge row when she appoints Viktor Krum as DADA teacher.
    Neville and Luna hooked up and she continually introduced him to new plants that had been considered imaginary up to then.
    Hagrid and Olympe got together and Hagrid was ecstatically happy about raising his gigantic half-giant baby boy Dumblydore who grew up playing with the spawn of Beaky.
    Draco wed because it was up to him to continue the family name, but he never gave up his special friendship with Goyle.
    Dudley went on to compete in the Olympics as a heavyweight boxer and thanked his “cousin Harry ’cause without him I wouldn’t be here.” Petunia fainted.
    George continued on with the joke shop, but never created anything new again.
    Percy remained a prat and a git, and his family never let the chance to tell him so pass them by, but Percy came to learn that it was their way of expressing affection. Except Molly, who yelled at them whenever they did it in their hearing.

  12. cactuswatcher July 23, 2007 at 12:26 am #

    I figured Hermione would take up MCGonagall’s post, as well. That way Ron could replaced the retired Filch as the witless caretaker. I can’t see him passing N.E.W.T.s

  13. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 1:00 am #

    Exactly my point!
    LOL

  14. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 1:12 am #

    Agree with all except Ron. He didn’t have the OWLs to become an auror, and ended up a working stiff at the Ministry of Magic like his father, only narrowing avoiding working in the department that his wife was head of.

  15. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 1:19 am #

    This is why the epilogue annoyed me. That part–what came after Harry’s triumphant victory over Voldemort–should have been a excercise Rowling left to each reader. Sort of a gift. But she hogged it for herself, which is her right as the author, yet it felt like she was thumbing her nose at the fans who interpreted her story in different ways than she did.

  16. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 1:20 am #

    If I hadn’t been enamored of his crush on her in books 4 and 5, I would have been by the time the films came out. The actress was just so sweet.

  17. atpolittlebit July 23, 2007 at 1:33 am #

    If what I’ve read is accurate, and it’s been very consistent, the epilogue was written by JKR when she started the series and it wasn’t significantly changed from the original. (It rather reminded me of the ending for Little Women in which the lives are briefly summed up many years later).

  18. chaos_by_design July 23, 2007 at 4:55 am #

    Damn, you were much more satisfied with the book than I was.
    I never thought it was possible for Harry to be a Horcrux, and was always annoyed with that theory because it never made sense to me that Harry could actually house a piece of Voldemort’s soul. At the end of book five, they showed that Harry and Voldemort’s souls were so incompatible that he was basically immune to V possessing him, so how could he carry a piece of his soul all along?
    Uh, well it turns out everyone else was right and I was wrong. What annoyed me about this book is that everyone’s theories about it were right, even cheesy ones like Snape loving Lily. I did like that she made Snape into a truly complex character, but certain things bugged.
    Also, how she brought Harry back from the dead? I thought that was just plain confusing. Oh well.

  19. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 12:36 pm #

    Harry never died in the dark forest to begin with. He was protected from dying by the fact that his magically-protected mother’s blood was still alive in someone else–Voldemort. That scene in King’s Cross was more of a moral crossroads, or a near-death experience, where the person who is not dead but near death needs to decide whether to move on or recover and live.

  20. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    Hermione only becomes Headmistress of Hogwarts after many years in the Ministry as Minister to the non-Wizard Liaison Office.

  21. ponygirl2000 July 23, 2007 at 3:32 pm #

    A much better epilogue!
    And Ginny turned pro Quidditch player causing Ron to have even more jealousy issues. Kreacher founded a militant wing of the elf liberation movement which caused considerable headaches for Hermione and the Ministry. Lavender Brown came to terms with her new werewolf condition and turned out to be surprisingly thoughtful and deep; Ron never failed to get a bit nervous around the full moon though.

  22. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 4:25 pm #

    I can see there is going to be a lot of “What Epilogue?” fan fic!

  23. atpolittlebit July 23, 2007 at 10:03 pm #

    After Ginny retired from Quidditch, she put her skills at Charms to use as Ollivander’s apprentice, becoming quite skilled at wand-making though she left Ollivander’s name on the shop when he left it to her in his will because she felt that if she called it “Potter’s” people would be constantly looking for cookware.
    Kreacher was able to finally bring Winky out of her deep depression and they became the first romantic coupling that non-elves were ever aware of.

  24. neshaffer July 23, 2007 at 10:10 pm #

    Kreacher was able to finally bring Winky out of her deep depression and they became the first romantic coupling that non-elves were ever aware of.
    Oh, I’m *so* not going to go there. But my mind just went there. It was a scary place.
    ; D

  25. neshaffer July 24, 2007 at 1:36 am #

    she left Ollivander’s name on the shop when he left it to her in his will because she felt that if she called it “Potter’s” people would be constantly looking for cookware.
    And “Weasley’s” was already taken by her brother George’s joke shop, which he kept open despite the fact that most of the stuff he sold after his twin’s death wasn’t quite so much fun anymore.

  26. its_art July 25, 2007 at 8:16 pm #

    I have so many thoughts on the whole book, it’s hard to really put them all out there coherantly.
    The epilogue is the only thing that really grated me. It’s the only thing that I think really grated everyone. It was just so pointless and sappy. It just… No. Even the most hardcore of hardcore canon thumpers seem to have a problem with it. I think I’ve met one person who really, really liked it. It was just… No. I think 95% of HP fandom is ignoring as hard as they can.

  27. neshaffer July 25, 2007 at 8:18 pm #

    This only scratches the surfaces of my thoughts as well. Just some initial stuff I wanted to get out there before I read anyone else’s comments.
    I’m sure there will be a lot of thoughts by a lot of people for a couple months to come as we slowly digest….

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