Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
by J. K. Rowling
Cover Artist: Mary GrandPré
Review by Paul Haggerty
Arthur A. Levine Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780545010221
Date: 21 July 2007 List Price $34.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
For six years, the fates of Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort have been circling each other. For as the prophecy says: "Neither can live while the other survives". Of course, Harry is no longer an infant, or even a helpless eleven year old. Nor is he alone. In the past he had no choice but to react to the schemes of others, lacking experience and critical, need-to-know, information. But this time, he has a plan, he as allies, and he has the advantage of surprise on his side. Unfortunately, the wizarding world is collapsing all around them as Voldemort presses his advantage, and safety is harder and harder to find. Will Harry, Ron, and Hermione be able to follow the clues left by the late Albus Dumbledore, while hiding from Voldemort and his Death Eaters in a county that is quickly falling into chaos and terror?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the darkest of the books to date, and all the bleak events of the previous books have been leading inexorably here. Voldemort lost his last bid to rule the world by a fluke, an unforeseen hiccup that he has no intention of letting happen again. Since his return, he's been continuing his campaign of terror and dark promises, and mind control. And since he came so close last time, he has the momentum of the past to build on. People fear him so much they can't say his name. Even a hint of his presence sends people running. Every noise, every movement caught out of the corner of an eye, is attributed to him. People are simply terrified. And that is the problem. When people are scared, they either act, or they freeze. Unfortunately, more freeze than act. There's the forlorn hope that things will get better if they can just keep their heads down and ride it out. But when good people let bad things happen, it just inspires more bad people to do more bad things.
That philosophy underlies the whole theme of the books. As Dumbledore said in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
"Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort."People prefer to take the easy path, and justify it to themselves after the fact. And this is why Voldemort can go so far, so quickly. That and the fact that power does corrupt, and normally good people can become despots given power and a push in the wrong direction.
Now, the fate of the world rests in the hands of 17 year old boy and his two companions. Having finally come of age in the wizarding world, and therefore allowed to use magic outside of school, Harry is keen to get on the trail of the Horcruxes, evil magical containers that hold pieces of Voldemort's soul and bind him to life. If Harry is going to be able to defeat him, he must find and destroy all of them. It's just a pity that he only has a few meager clues to go on. But the race is on, and there's no silver medal for coming in second.
This is a very bleak book in many ways. There are deaths beyond belief. Good people, bad people, innocent, and guilty. Some strike more deeply than others, but I doubt anyone will get through this book without encountering the dread of losing a cherished friend. But the world in Harry Potter's universe is at war, and the bad guys have no respect for life. It's this taste that gives the flavor of what the world under Voldemort will be like: A return to Pure-Blood mania, persecution of those that disagree, and enslavement of anyone the ruling class as ruled inferior.
There are laughs to be found here to, and bravery, and daring-do. The heroes are heroes (though they still bicker like teenagers). While the situation is bleak, those of good heart refuse to give up and we have to hope that perseverance and rightness of purpose will carry the day. Of course, success is never without its costs, and the survival of any given member of the cast is never assured. One can still win and lose at the same time, or by losing, win. J.K. Rowling's world isn't simple, and it's not just the addition of magic spells and fantastic creatures. She's created a world where there is no good and evil, where good people do horrible things, and bad people can surprise you. After all, it's not the powers you're born with; it's what you choose to do with them. And those choices are remade on a daily basis.
So the questions on everyone's lips: Is Snape friend or foe? Does Harry live or die? Will Ron and Hermione ever admit they like each other? What does Hermione see in Ron anyway? Pick up the book and get reading. It's only a little less than 800 pages. You'll know all the answers in no time.