Readers beware. The brilliant, breathtaking conclusion to J.K. Rowling's spellbinding series
is not for the faint of heart--such revelations, battles, and betrayals await in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
that no fan will make it to the end unscathed. Luckily, Rowling has prepped loyal readers for the end of her series by doling out increasingly dark and dangerous tales of magic and mystery, shot through with lessons about honor and contempt, love and loss, and right and wrong. Fear not, you will find no spoilers in our review--to tell the plot would ruin the journey, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
is an odyssey the likes of which Rowling's fans have not yet seen, and are not likely to forget. But we would be remiss if we did not offer one small suggestion before you embark on your final adventure with Harry--bring plenty of tissues.
The heart of Book 7 is a hero's mission--not just in Harry's quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man--and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore's warning about making the choice between "what is right and what is easy," and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling's skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.
A spectacular finish to a phenomenal series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bittersweet read for fans. The journey is hard, filled with events both tragic and triumphant, the battlefield littered with the bodies of the dearest and despised, but the final chapter is as brilliant and blinding as a phoenix's flame, and fans and skeptics alike will emerge from the confines of the story with full but heavy hearts, giddy and grateful for the experience. --Daphne Durham
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Begin at the Beginning
There are plenty of reasons to love Rowling's wildly popular series--no doubt you have several dozen of your own. Our list features favorite moments, characters, and artifacts from the first five books. Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive (what we love about Harry could fill ten books!) and does not include any of the spectacular revelatory moments that would spoil the books for those (few) who have not read them. Enjoy.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
| ||* Harry's first trip to the zoo with the Dursleys, when a boa constrictor winks at him. |
* When the Dursleys' house is suddenly besieged by letters for Harry from Hogwarts. Readers learn how much the Dursleys have been keeping from Harry. Rowling does a wonderful job in displaying the lengths to which Uncle Vernon will go to deny that magic exists.
* Harry's first visit to Diagon Alley with Hagrid. Full of curiosities and rich with magic and marvel, Harry's first trip includes a trip to Gringotts and Ollivanders, where Harry gets his wand (holly and phoenix feather) and discovers yet another connection to He-Who-Must-No-Be-Named. This moment is the reader's first full introduction to Rowling's world of witchcraft and wizards.
* Harry's experience with the Sorting Hat.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
| ||* The de-gnoming of the Weasleys' garden. Harry discovers that even wizards have chores--gnomes must be grabbed (ignoring angry protests "Gerroff me! Gerroff me!"), swung about (to make them too dizzy to come back), and tossed out of the garden--this delightful scene highlights Rowling's clever and witty genius. |
* Harry's first experience with a Howler, sent to Ron by his mother.
* The Dueling Club battle between Harry and Malfoy. Gilderoy Lockhart starts the Dueling Club to help students practice spells on each other, but he is not prepared for the intensity of the animosity between Harry and Draco. Since they are still young, their minibattle is innocent enough, including tickling and dancing charms.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
| ||* Ron's attempt to use a telephone to call Harry at the Dursleys'. |
* Harry's first encounter with a Dementor on the train (and just about any other encounter with Dementors). Harry's brush with the Dementors is terrifying and prepares Potter fans for a darker, scarier book.
* Harry, Ron, and Hermione's behavior in Professor Trelawney's Divination class. Some of the best moments in Rowling's books occur when she reminds us that the wizards-in-training at Hogwarts are, after all, just children. Clearly, even at a school of witchcraft and wizardry, classes can be boring and seem pointless to children.
* The Boggart lesson in Professor Lupin's classroom.
* Harry, Ron, and Hermione's knock-down confrontation with Snape.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
| ||* Hermione's disgust at the reception for the veela (Bulgarian National Team Mascots) at the Quidditch World Cup. Rowling's fourth book addresses issues about growing up--the dynamic between the boys and girls at Hogwarts starts to change. Nowhere is this more plain than the hilarious scene in which magical cheerleaders nearly convince Harry and Ron to jump from the stands to impress them. |
* Viktor Krum's crush on Hermione--and Ron's objection to it.
* Malfoy's "Potter Stinks" badge.
* Hermione's creation of S.P.E.W., the intolerant bigotry of the Death Eaters, and the danger of the Triwizard Tournament. Add in the changing dynamics between girls and boys at Hogwarts, and suddenly Rowling's fourth book has a weight and seriousness not as present in early books in the series. Candy and tickle spells are left behind as the students tackle darker, more serious issues and take on larger responsibilities, including the knowledge of illegal curses.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
| ||* Harry's outburst to his friends at No. 12 Grimmauld Place. A combination of frustration over being kept in the dark and fear that he will be expelled fuels much of Harry's anger, and it all comes out at once, directly aimed at Ron and Hermione. Rowling perfectly portrays Harry's frustration at being too old to shirk responsibility, but too young to be accepted as part of the fight that he knows is coming. |
* Harry's detention with Professor Umbridge. Rowling shows her darker side, leading readers to believe that Hogwarts is no longer a safe haven for young wizards. Dolores represents a bureaucratic tyrant capable of real evil, and Harry is forced to endure their private battle of wills alone.
* Harry and Cho's painfully awkward interactions. Rowling clearly remembers what it was like to be a teenager.
* Harry's Occlumency lessons with Snape.
* Dumbledore's confession to Harry.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
| ||* The introduction of the Horcrux. |
* Molly Weasley asking Arthur Weasley about his "dearest ambition." Rowling has always been great at revealing little intriguing bits about her characters at a time, and Arthurs answer "to find out how airplanes stay up" reminds us about his obsession with Muggles.
* Harry's private lessons with Dumbledore, and more time spent with the fascinating and dangerous pensieve, arguably one of Rowlings most ingenious inventions.
* Fred and George Weasleys Joke Shop, and the slogan: "Why Are You Worrying About You-Know-Who? You Should Be Worrying About U-NO-POO--the Constipation Sensation That's Gripping the Nation!"
* Luna's Quidditch commentary. Rowling created scores of Luna Lovegood fans with hilarious and bizarre commentary from the most unlikely Quidditch commentator.
* The effects of Felix Felicis.
Magic, Mystery, and Mayhem: A Conversation with J.K. Rowling
"I am an extraordinarily lucky person, doing what I love best in the world. Im sure that I will always be a writer. It was wonderful enough just to be published. The greatest reward is the enthusiasm of the readers." --J.K. Rowling
Find out more about Harry's creator in our exclusive interview with J.K. Rowling.
Did You Know?
A Few Words from Mary GrandPré
"When I illustrate a cover or a book, I draw upon what the author tells me; that's how I see my responsibility as an illustrator. J.K. Rowling is very descriptive in her writing--she gives an illustrator a lot to work with. Each story is packed full of rich visual descriptions of the atmosphere, the mood, the setting, and all the different creatures and people. She makes it easy for me. The images just develop as I sketch and retrace until it feels right and matches her vision." Check out more Harry Potter art from illustrator Mary GrandPré.
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Potter fans, relax—this review packs no spoilers. Instead, we're taking advantage of our public platform to praise Rowling for the excellence of her plotting. We can't think of anyone else who has sustained such an intricate, endlessly inventive plot over seven thick volumes and so constantly surprised us with twists, well-laid traps and Purloined Letter
-style tricks. Hallows
continues the tradition, both with sly feats of legerdemain and with several altogether new, unexpected elements. Perhaps some of the surprises in Hallows
don't have quite the punch as those of earlier books, but that may be because of the thoroughness and consistency with which Rowling has created her magical universe, and because we've so raptly absorbed its rules.
We're also seizing the occasion to wish out loud that her editors had done their jobs more actively. It's hard to escape the notion that the first three volumes were more carefully edited than the last four. Hallows doesn't contain the extraneous scenes found in, say, Goblet of Fire, but the momentum is uneven. Rowling is much better at comedy than at fight scenes, and no reader of the sixth book will be startled to hear that Hallows has little humor or that its characters engage in more than a few fights. Surely her editors could have helped her find other methods of building suspense besides the use of ellipses and dashes? And craft fight dialogue that sounds a bit less like it belongs in a comic book? Okay, we're quibbling. We know these minor nuisances won't dent readers' enjoyment, at least not this generation of readers; we couldn't put Hallows down ourselves. But we believe Rowling, and future readers, deserved even better. Ages 9-12. (July)
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