Pages

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Reread Book Review: The Harry Potter series (books 6-7) by J.K. Rowling

Today marks the final installment of my three-part series rereading the wonderful Harry Potter books. This time I'm sharing my thoughts on the final two books in the series - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 

If you need a refresher on the rest of the series, you can find books 1-3 here, and books 4-5 here.

Just before we move on to the reviews, just a quick little reminder of what the 'reread book reviews' are all about:

Writing a book review for Harry Potter seems a bit of a pointless exercise; surely everyone must have read the books by now? That's why I've decided to document my journey through the wizarding world here. It's not like my usual book reviews. These are written with the impression that you, the reader, have also read the books. Think of it more as a recap - a reminder of why Harry Potter captured the nation's imagination and never let it go.

WARNING: There will be spoilers ahead!

Image: Lorna Holland
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In my opinion, Half-Blood Prince is the most like the first 3 books out of the later ones. We (mostly) return to the normal Hogwarts school year storyline, and it's nice to get back to having a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who isn't Professor Umbridge. Not that Snape is exactly a great DADA teacher, but anyone's got to be better than Umbridge!

Professor Slughorn is a great new character - he injects some much-needed freshness into the Hogwarts teaching staff at this point and the Potions lessons are really interesting to read about. Plus there's the memory. It shows Slughorn as more human and much more relatable than a lot of the other characters. And we can't move on without mentioning the Felix Felicis - the scene where Harry takes the potion is one of my favourite passages in the whole series, it's pure brilliance.


Of course, the real meat of this story lies with Snape, Malfoy, Dumbledore, and the Horcruxes. Malfoy's various plots to kill Dumbledore add a sense of urgency to the storyline, which, coupled with the news of Voldemort's latest killings, really starts to change the tone and shift things away from the suspense created in Order of the Phoenix.

We really get the sense that we're on the home stretch now. By the end of this book, Harry knows what he must to do finally defeat Voldemort, and we know that the final book will be devoted to this task. It's sad to leave Hogwarts behind, but we know the end is coming and either way, it will be the end of an era.

Image: Lorna Holland
Of course, without a doubt the most significant aspect of this book is Dumbledore's death, but we don't learn the true significance of the timing and situation surrounding it until Deathly Hallows. To everyone's surprise, Malfoy turns out to be cleverer than anyone thought he was, but ultimately it's Snape who drives the story here.

JK Rowling is back to her old tricks of foreshadowing again in Half-Blood Prince - for example we get a fleeting glimpse of Ravenclaw's diadem before we know its true nature. We also see that Malfoy disarms Dumbledore although it's Snape who eventually kills him - this seems trivial at the time but it's vital to the endgame in Deathly Hallows.

It's little things like this that make these books so magical, and why it's possible to discover new things you previously missed with every reread.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I remember the massive amounts of hype surrounding this when it was first released. I was on holiday, and I spent about 3 days trying to get hold of a copy because everywhere I went it was sold out. For a couple weeks after release day, everywhere you went and everywhere you looked you'd see someone with their nose in this book. Even now almost 10 years on, I've never seen a book grip a nation like this series did. 

Image: Lorna Holland
In terms of location, Deathly Hallows is different to the previous 6 Potter books because we don't go to Hogwarts. For the majority of the book the trio are on the run, which instead gives us a wider insight into the wizarding world at the time and allows for a lot of important events to take place. We learn more about Harry, Ron and Hermione in this book than the rest of the series put together. The fact that they are effectively alone together for such long periods of time, while completing a seemingly impossible and highly dangerous mission, really brings out their true nature. It's a blow when they have the big argument and Ron leaves, but the fact that he feels sorry and manages to find his way back again (using the Deluminator for this was a genius idea on Rowling's part!) really shows his depth of character and that loyalty and friendship is paramount, themes which are visited again and again throughout the entire series.

Despite the terrible events and many deaths of this book (it's definitely one of the darkest of the series) Rowling still manages to incorporate lighter, positive moments. To use one of Dumbledore's quotes,

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."

I think this quote embodies one of the most important messages in the whole series, and it's incredibly relevant in normal life too. In the book these lighter moments include Bill and Fleur's wedding at the beginning, but also the hints of romance throughout, to use just a few examples. The birth of Tonks and Lupin's son should be a happy moment, but it is made bittersweet by their deaths, yet the sad irony of Harry Potter being godfather to another orphan isn't lost.

Image: Lorna Holland
Of course, we can't talk about Deathly Hallows without mentioning the final battle. It's impressive, not only in terms of its grandeur and scale, but because it brings all the loose threads Rowling has been dangling under our noses together. Finally we see Dumbledore's grand plan, and we understand why Harry is eventually able to defeat Voldemort. It's complex, yet it's also incredibly clever and well-plotted. However, some of the most heartbreaking moments are the deaths of some of our most beloved characters. The death of Dobby is the big one (and the one that I defy you not to shed a tear at) though it was always the deaths of Hedwig and Colin Creevey that really got me. They bring home how ruthless and uncaring Voldemort is - he's willing to murder innocent animals and underage children just to get to Harry Potter. And if that's not true evil, I don't know what is.

All I can say is that Deathly Hallows is a fitting end to one of the best, and most popular, series of books ever written.

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Which book is your favourite? Chat to me about all things Potter in the comments below!

No comments:

Post a Comment