Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane."

Courtesy of goodreads.com
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final installment in the series that captivated the world and changed children's literature forever.  By this point, the movies had been smash hits, the series had reached rock star levels of fame, with the midnight book premier being more of parties and celebrations than just a book release. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at universal Studios in Orlando, Florida was already being rumored (it was true!) and the last book was heavily guarded, with only two people in the world knowing the exact reasons for everything (JK Rowling herself squealed to British actor who played Severus Snape, Alan Rickman).  The world was hooked.  The Harry Potter series had become so real for so many people that it was hard to imagine a book that would not only satisfy the masses, but that would wrap up everything that had happen in the last six books.  Yet, Rowling delivered. 

Deathly Hallows encompasses all that made the series great: action, mystery, suspense, love, wit, and an ever present sense of hope.  It is needless to say that this book is dark; Voldemort has taken over and the good guys are running out of time (and people) to find the way to defeat him. Rowling creates the deathly hallows, a mystical fable of objects that would overcome death (seriously, the movie version of this part is better than the book).  These objects,  along with another set of darker, more evil objects, drive the story forward. This is the book that, in my opinion, finally showcases Rowling's ability as a fantasy writer.  She has created her own canon of magic, not borrowed and tweaked previously known items; she solidified a new idea of magic in literature.  Deathly Hallows is difficult to classify.  It is not the best book out of the series; there are parts that seem choppy and out of sorts, almost like Rowling was postponing the end herself.  Nonetheless, this is the book that makes the series, that makes the world black and white, and illustrates to the reader Rowling's overall message in the series: redemption, forgiveness, love, and honor will triumph even in the face of the darkest foes.  
Chapter 33 "The Prince's Tale"

There are several things simply wrong with this book.  Several  things made readers cry, rage, throw the book down in disgust.  Things that broke our hearts.  Things that were paramount to reveal the ugliness of war, the brokenness of evil, and the heartache that accompanies taken the hard road, the righteous road.  Rowling did not make a mistake with this book, despite what readers still debate.  The things that seemed wrong, seemed awful, were realistic and relevant.  War and death are not rational, which Rowling stressed to point out.  She took a war (wars are not all that different, even in a magical world) and showed us that divided along good and evil, people die, places get destroyed, lives are changed forever, and things that people dread can happen. Yet, in this book, in life, good triumphs.  There will always be someone to stand up for what is right,  even in the face of death.  Those least likely will be the heroes.  Love conquers all. Always. 

"All was well,"

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

“It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting along in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.”

Straight from the get-go, Harry  Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is probably the most entertaining and most mesmerizing book of the series.  The other books build up the story, enticing you to keep reading to find out what happens next and to continue the journey to the climax of the story;  Half-Blood Prince draws you in by sheer force of storytelling, by the way Rowling weaves the story in a way that you are in the moment, not wondering how this is all going to come together, not wondering what is going to happen next,  but just simply interested in the story plot at hand.  Everything has lead up to this book; all the unanswered questions, not yet solved problems, and the gray areas of loyalty are all made painfully clear in this book.

The book opens with one of the most realistic, most darkly enjoyable  scenes of the series.  The Muggle Prime Minster is in a near panic from all the inexplicable disasters occurring in Great Britain. While in a state, he is visited by the recently sacked Minister of Magic, who explains that all the disasters are related to the revitalized power of the most powerful dark wizard of all time.  This meeting does not go well. Yet, this opening leaves reader caught up with the events since Voldemort's going public at the Ministry of Magic.  We meet Harry once again at Privet Drive; the Dursleys haven not changed much, but Harry sure has.  Quiet, often brooding, and still simmering with the agony of Sirius's death, Harry is quite startled to be relieved of his time at Privet Drive by Dumbledore himself.  A whirlwind manipulation of a former teacher later, Harry is reunited with his friends and they off to Hogwarts for harder classes, complex love affairs, general shenanigans, and to be faced with a plot so simple, so driven with fear, that it entirely changes the course of Hogwarts and of the mission to defeat Voldemort.

Chapter 27-
"The Lightening-Struck Tower"
There are several points of humor in this book (which is turn led to a highly entertaining movie) that balance out the dark forces that are simmering under the surface. The dialogue is more natural and more mature.  For the first time in the series, Rowling finally makes use of flashbacks; however, it is not your typical flashback, since the scenes are memories stored in a Pensive (most useful item in the series after wands!)  When not written correctly, flashbacks can seem campy, unnecessary, or can throw the plot off completely.  This is not the case for Half-Blood Prince; some of Rowling's best writing in the series are these scenes.  They are almost separate narratives in a story, all contributing to the present day situation.  Rowling weaves in tragedy, determination, evil, madness, beauty, and mystery throughout the stories.  The flashbacks propel the narrative forward, revealing Voldemort's past, present, and future. Rowling writes her more mature teen characters with witty dialogue, amusingly accurate portrayals of love, angst, and everything in between, and, most importantly, a near-complete revealing of what exactly is going on.  Why does Harry have to return to the horrid Dursleys every year, what happened to Dumbledore's hand, how was Voldemort able to cling to life, and much, much more, including the revealing of several characters' true intentions.

As I said in the third post about this series, this is the second best book, in my opinion.  It has the elements that made this series great; ingenuity, adventure, fantasy, family, love, great dialogue, and historical intrigue.  This is the most heart-pounding book in the series, the book that ushers readers to the beginning of the end.  The beauty of Half-Blood Prince is that it leaves you sad, hopeful, and completely immersed from beginning to end.  You question gray areas of characters and sitautions: what would you do?  That is the question Harry is asking himself in the beginning; by the end, he has his answers and is preparing to face his greatest foe.

“His hand closed automatically around the fake Horcrux, but in spite of everything, in spite of the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, in spite of the final meeting with Voldemort he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.”

The end is coming. Wands ready!