Well, that's it. It took 6.5 months to complete the journey, but here we are. I began this series in August, reading at a frantic pace at first. Over the course of the series, my reading slowed down as things and life and other dumb stuff began to pick up (I won't bore you with the details). I actually finished this book two weeks ago and I'm just now writing this. It's strange to think that this book came out nearly ten years ago. Heck, the film adaptation(s) are five years old themselves, and I just found out how the whole thing ended. Now when people drop references to the series, I'll finally understand them! Seriously, it's been keeping me from being a part of society for decades.
I want to talk about the book itself first, then mention some overall thoughts on the series. Then I'll share a few random thoughts that didn't really fit anywhere else.
This will be a long post.
First, the book itself. I'd have to say that I rather preferred the first half to the second - with a few exceptions. Coincidentally, the final film is the only one I've never seen. But we're talking about the books. I figured I'd just put my thoughts in list order, rather than spew a meandering stream of consciousness. Nobody wants that. We'd all drown in boredom (if you haven't already).
1. The Journey Aspect. I've always enjoyed the "quest" narrative. Frodo has to cross Middle-Earth to destroy the One Ring, Mario has to save every princess ever, and I have to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night without stepping on any dog toys. There's a very clear beginning and ending, with obstacles keeping the hero from the end goal/boss fight. Nobody needs a watered down explanation of this idea, because we all went to school. I just wanted to mention that I'm partial to the whole idea of the hero having to go on some sort of journey to obtain something that will help them overcome the ultimate evil. In this case, Harry's mission is to find all of the Horcruxes. Perhaps the most compelling part of it is that it's not made out to be some glorious cross-country adventure. These kids are hiding in a tent, going from one random forest to another. They bicker often and have trouble finding food. It doesn't seem fun at all, and they start to wear on each other. Speaking of which...
2. Ron's Departure. Honestly, with all of the crap this guy has had to put up with over the course of the series, I'm surprised he didn't peace out earlier. There were stretches where he wasn't talking to Harry or times when Hermione wasn't speaking to him, but nothing so severe that would prompt him to leave his friends for good. The dude broke his leg, got knocked out by a giant chess piece, barfed up slugs, etc - not to mention his constantly having to live in Harry's shadow while growing up in relative poverty. Actually, Ron kind of gets the crappy end of a lot of deals in the series. His frustrations, coupled with the tension that wearing the locket brings, finally culminates in his abandoning of Harry and Hermione. That's when the "quest" sort of hit a low point. He does find redemption in the end, in a fantastic way.
3. The Horcruxes. Count me as a fan of this plot device. Finding all the stars/pieces of the Triforce/ancient weapons can be a repetitive trope, but when a dude splits his soul into seven pieces and your goal is to find and kill those soul remnants, it sounds much cooler. What made this more interesting was the addition of the Hallows themselves. Suddenly, Harry finds himself deep in internal conflict. Should he pursue the Horcruxes and the original mission as Dumbledore intended him to? Or should he put his faith in an old legend and prevent his mortal enemy from acquiring a powerful weapon? This conflict lands him in trouble several times, creating a rift between him and his friends. In the end, Harry's choice to continue his initial mission gave Voldemort access to the Elder Wand, which was a monumental sacrifice to make.
4. The Ending. This list isn't really in any chronological order, so it may seem like I'm getting ahead of myself. Sadly, I must say that I found the ending a little anticlimactic. What's more is that I didn't feel this way immediately, but from the time I finished the book to the writing of this post, I can't shake the notion that I am underwhelmed at how it all played out. When you're telling a seven-book story and the main villain is established early on, revived halfway through, and assumes full power 3/4 of the way through, it's pretty clear that he's going to be killed by the hero in the end. There's nothing wrong with that - the good guys have been winning since the art of telling stories was invented. I suppose it's the manner in which Voldemort was defeated. We knew it had to be Harry or him to die - and that it would most likely be him, because nobody wants to read seven books and see the bad guy win (most of us, I'd assume). I guess the image of Voldemort and Harry circling each other, taunting one another, basically spelling out how one bested the other to the reader, followed by a one spell battle - and Voldemort dies in the same way he almost died all those years back - just wasn't the most exciting ending to me. The Dumbledore/Voldemort battle was way cooler, and that happened in my least favorite book. Heck, the graveyard scene in book four between Harry and Voldemort was more exciting. Perhaps Rowling wanted to avoid a drawn-out ten page battle between the two, but I just feel a little ripped off. Couldn't Harry lose an arm or something? Then he'd have to cope with being a one-armed wizard the rest of his life, and maybe Ginny wouldn't have married him because she prefers a two-armed wizard. This brings me to my next point...
5. The Real Ending. I'm probably just being crotchety here, but the final chapter (the 19 years later part) seemed gratuitous. Everyone ended up marrying exactly who we thought they would marry, giving their kids predictable names, sending them off to the same school, etc. There's a majority of readers who need that kind of closure to give them warm feelings, but that's not my thing. Most of us could have assumed that all that would eventually happen without being hit on the nose with it. I also 100% didn't get the King's Cross chapter, but that's something else entirely.
6. Snape. What I 100% was on board with was the handling of Snape's character. As I've made plain in most of my entries, I've seen almost every film in the franchise. I knew about most of the big events and deaths. I didn't know what would become of Snape. I wasn't sure if he would actually even live. I made it clear in my last post that I was holding out hope for Snape. All signs pointed to him being pretty much the worst person ever, which we were made to believe from the very beginning. I was greatly relieved when he ended up being Dumbledore's man through and through, right to the very end. Personally, I found Snape's death to be the most moving - even more so than Dumbledore's. This guy hated Harry for the entirety of the series, but he was so furiously in love with Lily Potter that this love compelled him to remain at Dumbledore's side throughout the books. Most of us can't fathom a love that intense, and Snape did not provide any opportunity for Harry to believe that there was any good in him until his absolute last dying breaths. Harry's subsequent journey through Snape's memory in the Pensieve is probably the most poignant series of events in the books. It revealed so much more to a character who was never meant to be likeable or noble, when in truth he was nobler than 95% of the rest of them. Long live Severus.
7. Brief Thoughts. Griphook was the worst. It was good to see Neville grow into such a strong character. I did not expect Lupin to die. His death occurring off-screen was even worse. Lame. Molly Weasley said 'bitch' and it was awesome.
As for my thoughts on the series as a whole, it was a glorious journey. It's easy to see why the books are so well-loved. Anyone who can't understand that is just being a contrarian pill or flat-out can't read. I pretty much knew about most of the major events. I knew Fred, Dumbledore, Dobby, Sirius, and even Harry (in a way) all died at some point. That definitely didn't detract from the overall story, which is the mark of a good storyteller. Even when things were obvious from a mile away story-wise, walking that last mile was still a fantastic experience. It takes a lot to tell that kind of tale. The not-so-subtle exposition bothered me at points, but that's no big deal. We've all been taught to "show and not tell" in our writing, but we can't all follow the rules. We can't all create such a wondrous world, much less populate it with characters worth following around for hundreds of pages.
If I had to rank the books, it'd probably look like this: 6, 3, 4, 7, 2 & 1 (tied), 5. I reserve the right to be absolutely wrong about that.
One final thought. In my last post I alluded to a silly theory I had about the story in relation to Dumbledore's death, Snape's act of killing him, and Horcruxes in general. You see, even with my staunch belief that Snape would end up being a good guy after his killing of Dumbledore, I needed a reason to reinforce that idea. Here is that reasoning: Snape knew about the Horcruxes, and Dumbledore himself was a Horcrux! So obviously Dumbledore needed to die at some point in order for Harry to defeat Voldemort for good. It didn't necessarily have to be at the hands of Snape, but they found themselves in a situation where that was the best decision at hand. Isn't that crazy?? Don't ask me about the logistics of getting a part of a person's soul into another person, it's magic. You can't explain that. Good thing I didn't write these books!
Harry Potter was a remarkable journey. I feel like it was the last great obstacle preventing me from functioning like a normal adult. Sure, I've never read Shakespeare and I can't tie knots, but that's far beneath the importance of knowing what a Muggle is, right? Right, guys? Please tell me I'm right.
I guess I'll have to go on reading other books now. I mean, I've already started - but there's no attachment yet. The wizarding world still has its grip on me.
Who knows when it will let go?