The extra star (my fairly rare fourth star) for this last item in the Harry Potter series reflects my satisfaction at a successful wrap-up of what had become by the end an exceedingly complicated multigenerational tangle of motives and magic. Just as we had the explication of Voldemort's past in Half-Blood Prince, we had a lot of visits to the past lives of Dumbledore and Snape here. However, I thought these inset narratives were a bit more gracefully handled in this novel.
That said, I'm not entirely convinced it was necessary to introduce an entire counterquest (the "search for 3" - the 3 Deathly Hallows artifacts that conquer death) in addition to the completion of the main quest (the "search for 7" - the 7 Horcruxes, including Harry himself, which contain the evil which must be killed). Just as Harry's self-immolation seems a bit redundant when we've already had Dumbledore's on the same altar, so too the extra quest seems rather heavy freight just for the sake of reinforcing the theme of the novel - that evil, not death, is the ultimate enemy.
That said, the King's Cross Station out-of-world vision was well worth it - quite probably the most affecting scene in the entire series.
Rowling takes us back to ground zero, Hogwarts, for the final battle between good and evil. I resented this slightly - as I had already been doing in some degree since Order of the Phoenix - as Hogwarts' safety and impregnability crumbled completely. There's something very distressing about a school that's not safe, especially when you have an author who, like Rowling, doesn't flinch at killing off her secondary leads.
Even had we not had Rowling's later clarification in an interview, I would have suspected that Dumbledore's infatuation with the evil wizard Grindelwald had a sexual element to it. But this comes from someone with a half a century of gleeful subtext detection under their belt.
I found Ron's desertion of Harry and Hermione when they were doing their enforced and very bleak on-the-run camping trip a bit under-motivated, but I was glad to see him return in a blaze of quasi-heroic glory, rescuing Harry from strangulation by a magical nasty in an icy pond. If there's a character-based summary for this novel, "Ron grows up a bit at last" might be it. I don't have problems with the Ron/Hermione pairing, but I am a little surprised that Rowling chose to pair Harry off as well (with anybody at all). I'd expect him to be noble and single, as Dumbledore was. Nonetheless, for me, the much-maligned epilogue was a matter for a shrug; why not give the main characters a mundane domestic future as a reward for surviving all that trauma?
It fascinates me what a massive influence this series has had on the popular culture of a generation a couple of decades behind mine. I was trying to think of a similar phenomenon for my own generation, but even "Star Trek", with all its well-known characters and catch-phrases, doesn't seem to me to have penetrated into all corners quite the way Harry Potter has with the millennials. I enjoyed the reading of this series purely for its own sake - I hope I've made that abundantly clear - but I also think I'm now going to reap the ancillary benefits of understanding what is almost a second language of allusion and emotional shorthand.
I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this experience (or not in the same way) if it had been spread across the decade of the original publications, with a new thick book every so often. Having it all focused into a few weeks, and through the rather sensually barren medium of an e-reader to boot, was, I think, the right way for me. Definitely one my most delightful reading projects of the last few years.
Of all the books in the series so far, this is by far the one with the unhappiest, and least satisfying, ending. It seems to me that it is in fact the first half of a two-book arc rather than a closed tale in itself, which is not in any way uncommon in fantasy fiction, but took me slightly by surprise in this series because the other novels have been so self-contained.
Spoilers ahead for the two or three people on the planet who have not yet read the books/seen the films/absorbed the gist from the general cultural soup. The biggest surprise to me in this novel was the death of Dumbledore, not because I wasn't expecting it (if ever there were a sacrificial king-figure set up to be replaced by the younger, stronger king, it is he), but because I was expecting it in the last book, not here. I was therefore slightly stunned and spent the fairly lengthy denouement of the story vaguely hoping that there would be some magical resurrection. I rather admire Rowling for not falling into that temptation. Dumbledore is not Aslan, Christ or Gandalf, it seems.
That Snape is a double agent being set up for redemption in the last book seemed to me also reasonably clear as I was reading this volume. That being the case, it was necessary to give him some very pressing reason to commit the ultimate treason - the murder of his leader - and that reason was the preservation of the nasty child (but still a child) Draco Malfoy from the consequences of being forced into that same act. I would have been happier if we had seen Snape make his irremediable vow to Dumbledore himself, rather than to Draco's mother. However, introducing the "mother's protective love" element resonates with Harry's story, I suppose.
Unusually, I found the unfolding of this novel a bit clunky - the long flashbacks to Voldemort's past seemed very expository. Perhaps this is because I was not terribly interested in having Voldemort's character fleshed out, preferring to have him as a featureless monster. I know for a fact that my other complaint of tedium is entirely my own bias: I am simply not interested in angsty teenage romance, which drives much of the Harry, Hermione and Ron part of the plot. The obligatory new professor (this time a pompous social climber named Slugworth) wasn't terribly memorable, either - but at least he wasn't Dolores!
All that said, tedium here is a relative concept. I still found this novel a page-turner, and I liked the nice clear metaphysical problem laid out (the soul divided in seven, each part enclosed in an object to be destroyed, the last object being Voldemort himself). The fact that that particular task is not completed by the end of the novel was enough to drive me forward quickly into the last instalment.
Great. Another Harry Potter cover.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan. I worship these series. But the releasing of yet another cover? This has to stop at some point, right?
Wrong. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the first book, aka 'The Philosopher's Stone', will be released with a brand new cover featuring your favorite house.
Are you a Gryffindor, a Slytherin, a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff?
According to Pottermore, the Gryffindor red on the covers is meant to signify military strength, a unicorn is for purity and courage, and the antlers are for strength and agility.
In the Hufflepuff crest, there are beech leaves to symbolize tolerance and a little lamb to show gentleness. In heraldry, gold or yellow is seen to represent generosity.
The crescent in the Slytherin crest represents glory and honour, and has been used in several coats of arms throughout history. Slytherin green is for endurance and the dragon-like cockatrice suggests Slytherins are fierce warriors.
Lastly, the Ravenclaw crest gets a parchment scroll to symbolise academic achievement, an owl for wisdom, a spearhead for sharpness of wit and a book for knowledge.
The idea is pretty neat to be honest - I am a proud Ravenclaw myself. BUT I hate having mixed editions of a series, and this one dominates my shelves: I have in greek the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th books (I was too young to read them in english) and the original UK edition of the 6th and 7th books. I had been looking online to complete my english collection- in first editions preferably, when Jim Kay started his gorgeous work.
Now I'm buyin' the illustrated ones which are truly breathtaking and they do add something new on the inside too (although if you have seen Jim Kay's work something is an understatement).
I got the american edition of "The Chamber of Secrets" by mistake, which doesn't match the english edition of book one - something that will bug until the end of time. So instead of a neat pair like the one above I now have this:
Look at the font difference for crying out loud! why would they do that?
Now this is something I might consider:
as I don't own "The Cursed Child" (yet). Actually scratch that because google tells me that these are a part of a boxed set that is pretty expensive. I'll pass. I have to start saving for the 3rd illustrated edition anyways.