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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Full Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Full Review

by JK Rowling

The Harry Potter series reaches its climax with a dark, sinister shadow cast over the future of England. There is no point in pretending that Deathly Hallows, with all its torture, scenes of humiliation, death, and destruction is a pleasant read. Anything but. But in many ways it is the finest of the Harry Potter novels.

The style of writing is brave, ambitious. In substance, the plot is equally daring.

There are problems too. A very unfortunate use of the pensieve - a magical memory device - to resolve certain aspects of the plot, and which amounts to little more than a series of poorly constructed flashbacks.

And even more problematic, the chapter King's Cross - a surreal confessional scene that stands out as being unquestionably the worst chapter in the series. The narrative style here is mechanistic, lacking in emotional intensity and is an unconvincing way to resolve certain important plot lines and even more unforgivably to prepare the reader for the conclusion to the novel.

That said what remains of the novel is impressive. There is not one main storyline, but three. Each intricately interwoven with the others: the two stories of two individuals seeking to fulfill the same prophecy and the story of the quest for the Deathly Hallows - objects that provide the possessor with the means to worse Death.


This is as much a novel about Albus Dumbledore's life story, as it is about Harry Potter's quest. It is a story that links Dumbledore and Potter and the Dark Lord, Voldemort in a quite unexpected fashion - each responding very differently to the same temptation; each motivated in the same quest for immortality by quite different instincts.

The quest for the Deathly Hallows is perhaps the most intriguing of the developments in this novel and whilst being the basis of the novel's ingenious title - it is one that is not really fully explored in the story.

When Potter is presented with temptation he responds quite differently from either Dumbledore or Voldemort, both of whom pay a price for their greed.

Potter is not tempted to seek immortality for his own sake, but for the sake of what it may permit him. For the sake of the task he must complete...

Let Potter fail in that task, and Voldemort may exercise an eternal reign of terror over all the country - and perhaps over all the world.

Neither can live while the other survives. Voldemort must perish if Potter is to survive. Is that the meaning of the prophecy? Does the prophecy indeed hold any truth?

Voldemort believes in the prophecy and is driven by it. Consequently, he losses to some extent his freedom of will: he acts as a robot might. But robots respond to clear and unambiguous instruction. The prophecy is anything but clear and unambiguous; nonetheless, casually Voldemort destroys lives as he seeks its fulfillment.

By his very actions - actions that cry out for a response - he makes the prophecy come alive, and its fulfillment as much a concern for others as it is for himself.

Dumbledore's motivations are revealed in the novel to be something complex and in spite of the attempt to clear up some of these question marks in the awful King's Cross chapter, there is still a profound air of mystery about the Hogwarts stalwart even as the novel concludes.

Severus Snape's story achieves some resolution in the clumsy pensieve scene referred to earlier. Here the closure is more complete but in spite of some access into the workings of Snape's mind, there remains an even greater sense of mystery and wonder about his actions than in the case of Dumbledore. Snape is a character with whom the reader is not intended to relate emotionally.


The aspect of Rowling's writing that works best here is the curious narrative style that allows Voldemort's latest quest - a quest that ties in with Potter's quest for the Deathly Hallows - to be presented right alongside Potter's own storyline.

This is done through the curious connection of mind that Potter shares with Voldemort. The effect, somewhat paradoxically, is to bring an immediacy to Voldemort's actions that a change in point-of-view could not achieve.

Potter's sudden, swooping insights into Voldemort's activities provide the story with a fresh momentum resulting from the simple fact that Potter must react to these insights the moment he sees them - this may mean changing his own schemes, trying to assess Voldemort's motivations, or trying to convince his critical ally, Hermione that he is not foolish to give weight to these possibly dangerous visions.

The second and perhaps more important impact of these insights is to provide the reader with an opportunity to contrast the wide differences in Potter's and Voldemort's personalities.


Potter is presented with discoveries that must surely challenge his most firmly held beliefs, sap his courage and emotional strength and challenge his very balance of mind. He responds with determination, self-believe and resourcefulness and not a little compassion.

Voldemort's responses on the other hand suggest that he lacks equilibrium of mind, ability to trust, and ability to live with disappointment. He lacks compassion. In short Voldemort lacks that which must be evident in a true leader.

Potter is also more capable of withstanding temptation than Voldemort. The lure of immortality does not destabilize him: the quest for immortality consumes Voldemort. In spite of Potter's not infrequent rashness, when this one great temptation is dangled in front of him, he is able to take a step back and to see the matter in it's proper perspective.

Perhaps the understanding that his mother embraced death that he might live plays a role in his thinking on this matter. The title of the novel is, after all, very well chosen.

Bloomsbury Publishing

Unabridged Audio CD Edition – 2007

Read by Stephen Fry

Litrev Rating

Overall 5______

Suspense 5______
Characters 5______
Plot 5______
Audio 5______
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