Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K.Rowling
Created: Tue Mar 23 11:45:29 2010 | Last modified: Tue Mar 23 11:45:29 2010
Having read "Half-Blood Prince" recently, I was keen on rounding off the series. Sadly "Deathly Hallows" was a big let-down. I would say it's the second worst in the series after "Order of the Phoenix" because one expected a lot better from Rowling after HBP which created the right atmosphere for a fitting climax. Only nobody should have been surprised at the way things ended because Rowling has never been able to write a single great climax in the whole series.
Maybe the biggest problem with Harry Potter as a whole is that it's set-up as a battle of Harry versus Voldemort right from the start. When the final clash becomes a simple one-on-one battle to the finish, every other character, every other episode and every other possibility of reconciling the series becomes impossible. By committing herself to this finish (using the dubious Prophecy angle introduced in OOTP) Rowling drove herself into a corner. And to be honest her writing skills do not help in relieving the tedium of going through the motions of the grand finale. In the end, Voldemort is reduced to a comic, bumbling one-dimensional supervillain whose sole purpose is to destroy Harry. One has to suspend disbelief (even in this magical world) to swallow the climax. Read it to believe it!
What makes it worse is that neither Voldemort nor Harry really seem to do much in this book as the so-called War is going on. Harry just runs around the countryside in a magical tent saving himself and his companions with "protective" spells. Voldemort has taken complete control of the Ministry and yet most of Harry's sympathizers are left alone and even able to carry on the resistance against him! Case in point - the Weasley family. What? One would expect at least most of Harry's supporters to go underground and form a resistance army, but no - Arthur Weasley continues to be in the Ministry and most of his family members are free to come and go as they please. What's worse, even with all his superpowers and the resources he gets in his command, Voldemort makes no concerted effort to find and eliminate Harry throughout the story! It's Harry Potter and his two close friends who go on and on, stumbling upon clues and plodding on uncertainly until each of the problems solve themselves. I'm not kidding. It felt like the author had not prepared enough for the showdown and hence tried to circumvent the difficulties somehow. In the meantime scores of characters are killed off so casually (to prove that there's a war going on I suppose) that even Rowling stopped pretending that they mattered. There's a dialogue in this story that comes to mind: "Anybody we know died?" Ron asks casually when Hermione is reading the Newspaper and that about sums up the attitude of Rowling.
The climax was seriously lacking in tension and the epilogue was so sketchy and laughably inadequate. One would have expected the epilogue of a 7-part series like Harry Potter to give us some glimpses into what's changed in the Wizarding World after Voldemort. Instead we're treated to a soap-opera style send-off as the principal characters are now 19 years older and sending off their sons and daughters to Hogwarts. It does feel very hollow.
Rowling's writing style feels very amateurish and it's actually a throwback to book one which was very clumsy in narrative style. She has a single pace of story-telling which makes a story of this type feel very awkward in a book where action takes place in patches followed by long periods of inactivity. Certainly she could have pared down the periods of inactivity or at least opened up a different point of view of narrative by taking the focus off Harry in spite of his being the principal character. The plot devices used to resolve conflicts and to explain difficulties are so pathetic and even 13-year olds would have fared better at imagining actions and consequences. I don't have a problem with magic coming to the rescue - but even such magic devices should be consistent and believable. But Rowling is as casual about changing her rules about her magic world as she is about killing off characters. That's what annoys and irritates intelligent readers (read: not fanboys).
In the end, it's neither a fast-paced thriller nor a mystery novel. The fantasy element wore off long before "Order of the Phoenix" to be honest. The plot involving one of the Horcruxes (and particularly the effect on the wearer) is a straight rip-off from the classic "Lord of the Rings." Anybody who tells me otherwise is ignorant.
My rating? 2/5, the two points being for "well tried but could have been a lot better." Rowling stopped caring about Harry Potter and her readers as early as the beginning of OOTP and it shows.