'Deathly Hallows' makes for a great read and strong ending

Jeffrey Weiss
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

(SPOILER ALERT: This review doesn't give away any major plot points but does refer to some of the earlier books. Exceptionally devout Harry Potter readers may wish to look the other way.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a fit end to the seven-book series. The final volume is J.K. Rowling's ultimate battle of Good vs. Evil, with the good guys suffering terrible sacrifices as they strive to survive.

If you haven't read all six of the previous books, though, don't bother with this one. If you aren't familiar with quidditch, horcruxes, Muggles or Imperius Curses, you won't have a clue what's going on. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to re-read the end of book six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, before starting the final volume. (If you are a Potterhead, you might like to know that the version of the book famously leaked online as a series of photos was the Real Deal.)

The same strengths and weakness you'll find in Ms. Rowling's earlier books are in this one.

Her writing reminds me of an old-time wooden-frame roller coaster: Sometimes it's slow, creaky and rough. But when Ms. Rowling gets rolling, it's a thrill ride.

On the other hand, when she has her characters sitting around and explaining stuff to each other, it reminds me of some of the least-readable exposition passages of The Da Vinci Code.

For example, in one scene, our magically hidden heroes listen to a couple of wizards and a goblin natter on about life for seven full pages. That had me figuratively checking my watch. Yeah, the conversation reveals some crucial information. But I predict this scene will not make it into the movie.

The books have gotten progressively darker and less fun since the first volume, and this is the darkest and least fun yet. The first deaths of familiar characters happen before a reader fairly settles in. And all of the characters that Potter fans love best will suffer wounds, pain and despair -- if not death -- at least once before the final battle ends.

But there are also feats of heroism from characters you probably won't expect and some wonderful battle scenes that will look great on the big screen.

Rowling has said she had the series plotted out before she started writing the first book. If so, she planned for a broad canvas to comment on free will, the role of every person in the battle against evil, the oppressive terrors of bureaucracy, and the redeeming power of sacrificial love. In this book, that last theme is presented in an unusually Christian way for a series that has seemed adamantly nonreligious.

The evil Lord Voldemort turns even nastier in this final volume, if that's possible, becoming a Hitler-like figure who treats magic-less Muggles and mudblood wizards and witches the way the Nazis treated Jews. And he wants to indoctrinate every pureblood wizard child into a magical version of the Hitler Youth. So the stakes are very high for Harry and his friends.

Not every loose end gets nearly tied up in the final book, though. What is magic, really? What happens to souls when people die, and how do those magical talking paintings work? Why is there no magical replacement for eyeglasses? What exactly does that flayed, crying child near the end of the book represent? Trust me, you'll wonder, too.

Rowling seems to be leaving some elements intentionally vague. But others are explained in the sort of hard-to-follow detail you might find in a technical manual.

But she makes enough emotionally satisfying details perfectly clear. We learn whether Snape is a good guy or a bad guy. We find out what made Dumbledore tick (Harry's wizardly mentor is still dead, but that doesn't prevent him from moving the plot along.) We get the exact story about how Harry's mom and dad died. And we watch the no-kidding, final battle between Harry and Tom Riddle (Voldemort's real name).

Transformation is a major theme in the series, and nobody changes more than Harry. For much of the long saga, he's a boy who depends on pluck, luck and strength of character to survive forces beyond his control. But by the end of Deathly Hallows, he's a man in full control of his moral and magical choices.

By the time this literary roller coaster glides to a stop, after a brief epilogue that offers a glimpse into the adult lives of some key characters, most fans will probably feel they got their money's worth.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.