My first idea was, “Lovely.” Ambiguous, would give nothing away given that I could be either sarcastic or sincere. My second was “Amen.” Still ambiguous and giving nothing away if you haven’t read it, but a perfect summing of what I wanted to say. Then, as things went on, my reaction grew beyond a one word review, so I’ll go ahead and get specific and spoilery behind a cut.
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I should have added “Luna and Neville hook up,” to my list of spec. I remembered that it belonged there the first time Luna popped up, but since spec is supposed to be done before you start reading, didn’t think it would be fair to add. I was wrong, but it belongs on the list anyway, so it’s here.
I absolutely loved it, right up until I didn’t. I was bugged that the body at the beginning that was kept in secret for so long was a professor I’d barely noticed before. With that kind of buildup I was sure it was McGonagall, but I’m okay with McGonagall living so I won’t complain. However, I really, really need to know, who killed her? Voldemort or Snape? The line was unattributed and it could have been either, but I think it’s important to know.
Adored the bit with Dudley. And the escape. And well, with the exception of Hedwig’s death being unnecessary and silly, everything right up until Snape died before he gets redeemed. I’ve always disliked Rowling’s habit of killing a character, but doing it so quickly and coldly that the emotion of the death doesn’t come until later. The only one in the whole series she killed right was Dumbledore, and I think that was a plot-induced accident (though one I appreciate). I’m bothered by the backstory we got for Dumbledore, but I think it’s a good kind of bothered, the kind where it’s me feeling as uncomfortable with a human picture of Dumbledore as Harry. But back to Snape, I was actually moved by the sequence with his memories. Heartless, soulless. unfeeling me, moved by something that wasn’t even a surprise to me. When I say moved, I mean from disliking him as an maliciously bad teacher and therefore barely human, to wondering whether maybe I didn’t like him more than Dumbledore. Seriously, Rowling’s gone and forced me to choose between my epitome of godhood and my secret lust for guys who walk the line of morality, hop back and forth, but stay grounded on their own compass. Sure, it’s just my Odin vs Loki conflict all over again, but I’m not sure I’ve run into it before when it wasn’t actually Loki and Odin, so I’m all over pleased with it. Except that I wasn’t moved until after he was dead and gone. I should have been upset the moment I knew Voldemort had turned on him. Flapping around and going, “Jesus Christ Harry! Save Snape to keep Voldemort from mastering the wand you stupid little git,” should have had some investment in having Snape saved, not just the rather cold logic of the magic behind it. She killed him backwards, and I’m bothered by it.
But then Harry decides to die, and I’m too busy stretching between nervously checking how many pages are left to see if it can possibly actually stick, joy that Rowling’s doing things as she ought to do them, and perhaps on a ball that Snape got rolling, ready to be sorry he’s gone. And he walks into the camp, drops the ring, and I start cussing because there are too many pages left.
For a while there I was absolutely blissed that Rowling was doing interesting things with one of my favorite folklore motifs. “Neither can live while the other survives,” remember. It’s classic, and then she brings in the natural foil to it, “Neither can die while the other lives.” They’re two halves of the same coin, and the coin has to be obliterated in order for Voldemort to be defeated. Except that Rowling cheated. So the shard of Voldemort’s soul that was in Harry is destroyed by…the killing curse? The killing curse that wasn’t on the list of things they could use to destroy a horcrux earlier? It couldn’t kill Harry, but can kill the soul fragment? And then, Voldemort can die while Harry doesn’t? Where’s the protection Voldemort got from Harry’s blood? Why does Voldemort suffer from having bits of himself in Harry, but there are no negative side effects for Harry? This really isn’t just me gunning so that I can get in my other short review I wanted to write, i.e. “The Boy Who Lived, didn’t.” If his coming back and surviving made sense within the story I would have accepted it fine. After all, I did get my dead Harry, I’m not greedy. There was no logic there though. Instead, she violated the rules of the motif in order to keep from having to actually kill Harry. And while losses were heavy in the secondary cast, I’m disappointed that she went to such great lengths to preserve the primary cast in tact.
My favorite parts of of the six books prior were the epilogue style sections between Harry and Dumbledore, even the one where Dumbledore wasn’t so much alive. This was the first of the books to have a proper epilogue, and I’m just going to say it. It sucked. I learned nothing in it, except that Harry forgave Snape and Neville went on for a career in academia. It did nothing. It was boring. The kids were too cute, and we know she can write eleven year olds well because that’s how she wrapped the world around her fingers. That chapter, all by itself, will fuel every two bit critic for the rest of all time who wants to talk about how poorly written the series is and how the popularity of the series proves that literary taste is meaningless to the masses. I’m grateful that it kills any potential for a post-Voldemort Harry book, but that doesn’t make it not suck in a severely disappointing manner.
I could rail on for days and weeks about how much I loved the book right up until the last sixty or so pages, and how much I didn’t like the last sixty or so pages for just as long, but I’m going to do it in person and over IM and on the phone with half a dozen people so this is really just here as a conversation starter. I’m not screening comments since this is clearly labeled as a spoilered entry, so conversation can happen here too.