Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
[WARNING: PLOT SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS REVIEW.]
I first met Harry Potter when my grandmother was dying.
On New Years Day 1999, she had a massive stroke from which she would never recover. Not wanting her to die alone, we took turns sitting by her bedside, round the clock. The night I spent with her, I brought along my Bible, the biggest cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee I could find, and a new novel, picked up from the bookstore on the way to the hospital: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Both the Bible and the "Boy Who Lived" proved good company during the watches of the night. Both pointed the way to hope in the face of death.
And there was at least one echo from the Scriptures in the Sorcerer's Stone: Lord Voldemort, the Hitleresque dark wizard in J.K. Rowling's fictional works, was defeated not by power but by loveby a young mother who sacrificed her life to save her young son. In Rowling's world, that kind of love is stronger than any magic. It can even conquer death.
By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens, however, it seems that death finally has the upper hand. Albus Dumbledore, Voldemort's greatest enemy, lies buried on the ground of Hogwarts. Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters have launched a reign of terror and are on the verge of replacing the Ministry of Magic with a Nazi-style government that will enslave muggles and "mudbloods" alike. Anyone who stands in their way will be eliminated.
The body count starts earlyon page 12, to be exactand the hunt for Harry and his friends doesn't let up for the next 700 pages.
A master storyteller
(Warning, spoilers approaching).
Rowling may not be as elegant or precise a writer as C.S. Lewis, or have a mythology as elaborate as J.R.R. Tolkien's, but she is a world-class storyteller. And what a yarn she spins. There are midair broomstick chases, last-minute escapes from Voldemort's clutches, a daring break-in at Gringotts, the goblin bank, and a siege at Hogwarts involving just about everyone from the previous six books. From Harry's departure from No. 4 Privet Drive to his final showdown with Voldemort, the action rarely stops. When Rowling does pause for breath, she reveals a secret that advances the plot.
And once in a while, she sneaks in a magical moment that made at least this reader set aside the book, as there were too many tears to see through. Those moments usually come between a parent and child: when Molly Weasley stands between a death eater and her children; when Narcissa Malfoy risks her master's wrath for her son's sake. There's even a moment, much like the closing graveyard scene of the Goblet of Fire, when Lilly and James Potter speak to their son: "We are so proud of you."
Then there are all of Harry's friends. Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, and even Luna Lovegood all acquit themselves nobly in the Deathly Hallows. They will not be silent or turn aside in the face of evil. They remain loyal to Harry, even when such loyalty threatens their own lives. They are mercifulonly one side in this war uses killing curses. And they are brave beyond measure, especially Neville, who does his parents proud in the Deathly Hallows. If my children grow up to have friends like themor be such friendstheir lives will be immensely rich.