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.
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