Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

It’s my 500th review. Hooray! It’s taken me a long time to get here but thank-you so much to those who have read my reviews, offered suggestions and even submitted your own novels for my perusal. I’m looking forward to what the next 500 reviews will bring!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was written by J.K. Rowling and first published in 2007. It forms the final part of the main Harry Potter series, following on directly from Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (1997), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003) and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2005). The series has since been followed by a number of other additions that further extend the universe, including short-stories, films and even a stage play. Please note that this review is going to contain some pretty major spoilers, as this book is now over ten years old and I expect that most of you are already familiar with it.

For the first time, Harry Potter will not be returning to Hogwarts. Following the death of his mentor, he knows that he needs to honour Dumbledore’s final request. With the help of Ron and Hermione, he must locate and destroy all of Voldemort’s horcruxes. This is the only way to render the Dark Lord mortal and ensure that he can be permanently defeated. Trouble is, Harry has no idea where to start. He does not even know what form two of the horcruxes will take, let alone how to find them.

Harry starts to have further doubts about their quest as he learns disquieting things about Dumbledore’s past. Although famed for his compassion, rumours have emerged about a wild youth filled with dark magic, duels and death. Although Harry had placed his trust in the elderly wizard, Harry now realised that Dumbledore had revealed very little to him and begins to feel resentful. Why should he risk everything, when Dumbledore did so little to prepare him?

Yet, as muggle-born wizards are ostracised from society and people close to Harry are hurt and killed, he realises that Voldemort needs to be stopped. His mission takes him all over the wizarding world – from the halls of the Ministry of Magic to the vaults of Gringotts. However, even Harry does not realise the full severity of his mission. If he wishes to defeat Voldemort, he must be prepared to sacrifice everything…

This is a really difficult review to write, purely due to my sheer love of the series. Although it has had its ups and downs (I have already discussed my strong feelings regarding felix felicis and portkeys at length), I still love it to death. They are books that I could just read over and over, and it’s impossible to deny the fact that they have shaped the way that people view children’s literature over the last twenty years. However, I must admit that I do not think that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the strongest entry in the series. Let me tell you why.

My first issue with this book can be found in its very title. You can summarise this story quite easily without making a single reference to the Deathly Hallows. While each of these legendary artefacts do appear over the course of the story, they felt a little shoehorned in to the proceedings. While Voldemort does seek out the elder wand, he only knows it as a powerful weapon and does not look for it due to its legendary significance. The invisibility cloak has been used by Harry throughout the series, and knowing that it is special adds nothing to the story. The fact that it is more effective than any other invisibility cloak has never been eluded to previously, which felt like something of an oversight. Yet the most pointless of the three items is the resurrection stone.

This item is used once over the course of the stories and not for the purpose you would have thought. The Tale of the Three Brothers speaks of its ability to restore the dead back to life, and exposits that this is not a good thing as they inevitably come back wrong. However, when Harry uses the stone it allows him to speak to his deceased parents. While this is a heartfelt scene, it didn’t make a lot of sense. Why would Dumbledore leave the stone for him? Why was the effect so different? Why were there no reports of others trying to use the stone? Why did Ron not clock its odd similarity to the philosopher’s stone at any point, when they had actually encountered another stone with the ability to prolong life years before. I’m not sure why this frustrates me so much, but I would have liked for the Deathly Hallows to have been more central to the tale. Ultimately, their inclusion felt like a bit of a plot cul-de-sac.

The story also boasts more deaths than ever before, even going so far as to open to the prolonged torture and murder of a never before seen member of the Hogwarts faculty. While there have been deaths in Harry Potter books in the past, this time the gloves are off and many beloved secondary characters meet their ends at the hands of the Death Eaters. While this added an incredible amount of tension to the story, I was disappointed that many of the more significant deaths occur off-page. Lupin, Tonks and Mad-Eye Moody in particular are all very popular characters who are particularly close to Harry. Due to this, I was disappointed to find that their deaths were just reported after the fact.

As with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, this novel also suffers from an unfortunate lack of plot. While the direction that this novel would take – the search of the remaining four horcruxes – was determined in the previous book, it quickly becomes apparent that this route has a lot of dead ends. Harry does not actually know where any of these horcruxes are. In fact, he only knows for certain what one of them looks like. Because of this, there are vast sections of the novel where the cast just sit around (sometimes for months at a time) and wait for the plot to find them. And find them it does. In one scene, they are staying in a magically concealed tent in the middle of nowhere and yet somehow still manage to overhear a plot important conversation between three minor characters – including one of their classmates from Hogwarts – who happen to be hiding five feet away from their randomly chosen location. Yeah, there’s no way that I can really defend that…

It may seem like I am picking a lot of holes in this story and for that I am sorry. While these things do annoy me, I’m certainly not trying to imply that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bad book. I actually rather liked the fact that it was a break from the norm. As it is the only book in which the characters do not return to Hogwarts (at least, not until the climax), it means that they are therefore free to travel the wizarding world and see how things have changed now that Voldemort has seized control. Although there are a lot of scenes of filler in this story, when it does find its focus it is excellent. The chapters in which Harry infiltrates the Ministry of Magic and Gringotts bank are utterly thrilling, clearly contrasting the earlier whimsical scenes set at these locations in a way that truly shows off how talented Rowling is as a writer.

Yet, as the action comes to a head during the Battle of Hogwarts, I started to realise that the story was not doing a fantastic job of tying things up. One of my biggest issues with the novel is that the explanations given for why Voldemort is so hilariously weak against Harry are deeply unsatisfying. Lily Potter’s sacrifice has become a bit of a deus ex machina in the series, covering Harry in an armour of plot convenience. In his arrogance, Voldemort will not allow anyone else to hurt Harry, yet Harry eventually proves to be even immune to direct killing curses cast by the Dark Lord. The reason for this is finally exposited by Dumbledore’s spirit during the very weird scene at Kings Cross station, yet I personally find this to be both too saccharine and overly convenient to be satisfying.

The final duel against Voldemort is surprisingly brief, which was a bit disappointing after so much build up. Harry ultimately isn’t even the one to actually kill Voldemort, as the prophecy is fulfilled a few chapters earlier when Harry is “killed” by the Dark Lord’s spell. I was also shocked by how quickly the novel wraps up after the final battle. The epilogue, set nineteen years after this, just felt unsatisfying. It was too neat, showing that virtually all of the primary characters wound up married to their childhood sweethearts and with children. While is cute, it tells the reader little about what happened to them in the aftermath of the battle, what careers they decided to pursue, or what became of many of the other secondary characters.

In terms of characterisation, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was also a bit of mixed bag. The story makes a strong final instalment for Harry, forcing him to confront is mixed feelings towards Dumbledore and embrace his destiny as the only one capable of defeating Voldemort. Yet Harry’s two best friends do not fare so well. The great sacrifice that Hermione has made to ensure that her family will be safe is glossed over and we never see if she does manage to get her parents back (or learn what has become of Crookshanks). Ron is treated worse still, seeming to take two steps backwards in development and returning to the petulant, whiny child that he was in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The rest of the enormous cast do not receive as much focus now, appearing as little more than extended cameos. The most interesting of these was probably the development given to Snape, as the reveal of his love for Lily and regret for his actions as a young man add incredible depth to all his previous interactions with Harry. While it would have been nice if he could have told Harry all of this directly, the flashback of his time at Hogwarts was very touching and certainly made him one of the most sympathetic characters in the series.

Yet the windows into Dumbledore’s youth are more problematic. While I have made quite clear my dislike of him in my previous reviews, these late stage reveals made him seem worse still. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we finally see the extent to which he was grooming Harry, preparing him to die on the basis that Dumbledore had a hunch that everything would turn out well. Given how badly some of Dumbledore’s other decisions have turned out in the series, this seems like a phenomenally stupid way to behave. Way to risk the fate of the work (and the lives of countless muggles) on the toss of a coin, Dumbledore…

Anyhow, I really could talk about this book all night but I think I’ve covered everything. All in all, I did not think that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a very strong finale to the series, but I would certainly still recommend reading these books as a whole. The Harry Potter series is truly special, containing beautiful world-building, memorable moments and strong characters. It is certainly worth its reputation as it is an essential read for fantasy fans of all ages.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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