This is arguably the most "hyped" book in history, and if J.K. Rowling had to sneak down to the kitchen for a glass of red wine to calm her nerves while writing The Goblet of Fire (as she said she did), one wonders what assuaged her while writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The collective breath of tens of millions of readers has been held for two years...and now...was it worth the wait? Did Ms. Rowling live up to the hype? (For that, amongst hundreds of questions, is really the only question that matters.)
The answer, most assuredly, is YES.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is told in a strikingly different style than the previous six books - even different from The Half Blood Prince, and, I daresay, it's a better written, better edited, tighter narrative. And while the action is lively and well paced throughout, Rowling found a way to answer most of our questions while introducing new and complex ideas. What fascinated me was this: Some people were right, with regard to who is good, who is bad, who will live, who will die - but almost nobody got the "why" part correct. I truthfully expected an exciting but rather predictable ending, but instead was thrown for a loop. We've known that Rowling is fiendishly clever for years - but I didn't think she was *this* clever.
Not since turning the final page of The Return of the King twenty-eight years ago have I felt such a keen sense of loss. My love affair (indeed, everyone's love affair, I imagine) with all things Harry began somewhere in the first three chapters of The Sorcerer's Stone, and has lasted, on this side of the Atlantic, three months shy of nine years. For all that time we have waited and wondered - was Dumbledore right to trust Snape? Will Ron and Hermione get together? What's to become of Ginny and Harry? What really happened on that tower, when Dumbledore was blasted backwards, that "blast" atypical of the Avada Kedavra curse as we've seen it when used throughout the series. So many more questions than those listed here, and so many devilishly well-hidden hints. The answers, as I hinted above, will shock and awe you.
When first we met Harry Potter, he was "The Boy Who Lived", with an address of "The Cupboard Under the Stairs". Who could help but bleed sympathy for Harry, treated abysmally - abused, really - by the only blood relatives he had, and forced to live under said stairs by those awful Muggles, the Dursleys? It was a sensationally brilliant introduction, one that ensured that our heartstrings would be plucked and enchanted to sing. He was The Boy Who Lived.
Since reading that first book, we have enjoyed Rowling's spry sense of humor - portraits that spoke, stairways that moved at any given moment, Hagrid jinxing Dudley so that a pigs tail grew from his behind, Fred and George's fantastic creations, etc, etc., etc., and more etc's. There was a sense of wonder and magic in Rowling's writing, so thoroughly captivating that the recommended age group of 9-12 in no way resembled the book's actual audience. It was common to see adults walking about with hardcover copies of the latest book, sans dust jacket (to hide the fact that they were reading a "kids" book, I suppose). It was also common to hear of eight year olds sitting down with a seven-hundred-plus page book! By themselves! If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
As for Harry, we admired him. He wasn't afraid to stand up for what he felt was right, even if he found himself in detention for it. He was brutally honest, and immensely courageous and loyal. Harry came to embody, at times, who we would like to be. He wasn't perfect, of course. He suspected Snape of being the one who was after the Sorcerer's Stone, and in The Chamber of Secrets, he thought that Malfoy was the heir of Slytherin. This didn't diminish Harry in our eyes - it made him more human, more real, and even, perhaps, more enviable.
Endless fan sites have been erected. For an adult to go to any of them, and find that thirteen year olds are having an easier time parsing out the books plots, subplots, and mysteries, was (for me at least) humbling, but yet also a testament to Rowling herself, and her remarkable creation. She encouraged an entire generation of young readers to read and to think for themselves.
But the time has come to say good-bye, for this is truly the end.
So good-bye, Harry. Good-bye Hermione, Ron, Professor Dumbledore, *Professor* Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Hagrid, Ginny, Fred, George, Neville, Dobby (and all the house elves), even Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. We will miss all of you, every character we encountered, from Muggle to Mudblood to hippogriff and owl, and everything about the world you all so vibrantly inhabit. And to Ms. Rowling: know that you have brought immeasurable joy to millions and millions of Muggles worldwide, and know that we cannot possibly thank you enough. What a tremendous gift you were given. Thank you for sharing it with us.