And so the series ends. I finished the 7th book in the Harry Potter series and frankly I am sad to see them end. They were well written and for those who are fans of the genre they are great stuff. As always, those whose consciences are bothered by magical stuff should stay away (but should stay away from Barbie Fairy Princesses too!).
Find a good plot synopsis here. For my part, reading this series was for the purpose of seeing whether they are acceptable reading for my children. As of the end of the series I would say that kids who have a firm grasp on the difference between reality and fantasy, age about 12 and up (depending on the child) should be fine with these books. I also strongly encourage mom or dad to read them ahead of time and then talk through the themes and ideas in the book with their child.
POSSIBLE PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD.
This book follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione through what should be their last year at Hogwarts. Instead it is a year of trying to hunt down the remaining pieces of Voldemort’s soul so that he can be finally killed. He is dag-nasty evil and he needs to go, and Harry is the only one who can do it. There are lots of plot twists and turns in the book, but as you’d expect Harry comes out on top, Voldemort is killed once and for all, and the good guys win the day. But it is a painful and difficult victory.
There were several themes to like throughout The Deathly Hallows. First off, I was struck by how innocently and appropriately this series of books treats marriage! Fleur and Bill marry after Bill is pretty badly disfigured by a werewolf, and Fleur standing by her fiancée and marrying him is touching. Remus and Tonks getting married and having a baby is a touching story too. I thought it a nice epilogue that we get to see Harry and Ginny married with children, and Ron and Hermione in the same way. This book (and the series) really upholds the value and sanctity of marriage.
I also LOVE how the plot arc of the treatment of house elves comes to a wonderful close in this book. Harry finds out that Kreacher can go where he can’t, he treats him with respect and in return is helped immensely by Kreacher. And Hermione finally shows her feelings for Ron when he tries to help a house elf. Harry’s care for Dobby at his death is touching. A major point in favor of this book is that the treatment of others who many think are beneath them is important and has consequences, and that is a lesson every adult and every child needs.
Good ultimately triumphs in this book, and that is worth celebrating. More than that, it is very costly to Harry for win the Second Wizarding War. He loses many close friends in the Order, and several Weasleys who are nearly family to Harry are badly injured or killed. Dumbledore, Harry’s near-father figure and near-God figure, dies. He finds out that the only way to defeat Voldemort is to allow Voldemort to kill him because he is a horcrux, a recipient of a piece of Voldemort’s soul. Harry’s action in the face of great fear and even of death is quite noble.
Harry has to make a lot of decisions in this book that are costly to himself and emotionally hurt those who Harry loves. The most significant of this is that Harry really loves Ginny, but he stays away from her so that she can’t be used against him. That is selfless and loving and worth noting.
Harry and his friends go out of their way to help others, even when it is costly to them. I loved it when they infiltrated the Ministry of Magic and found themselves in a place where they could either leave or help some people who were in danger of being imprisoned falsely. They stayed at their own risk and saved many lives, and that is absolutely praiseworthy.
Last but perhaps as important as anything, there is Severus Snape. Harry HATED Snape throughout the books, and Snape is painted by the end of book 6 as a terrible traitor. When Harry finds out how wrong he was about Snape and how Snape protected him for so long and was so instrumental in his ultimate victory, and how his killing of Dumbledore was a mercy and at Dumbledore’s request, he knows the truth and has to adjust his understanding of who this man is. That is a fantastic lesson for kids to learn, in that we all have complex motives and it’s not always wise to judge a book by its cover.
There is more to like, but these are the big things.
There is death in this book. Several important characters die in it. (in this way it mimics the Lord of the Rings series in that important characters are not immune from death) None of those deaths are gruesome, but they can be emotionally intense. I think that the most intense one is actually Dobby, though Fred comes in a very close second.
Also, there is a bad but not really bad issue in the book in that Harry uses two of the unforgivable curses (The Imperius and Cruciatus curses, only Imperius here), though he does so benignly and does no harm. Further, it could be argued that they were used in a time of “war” and in a wartime act, and there are different ethics in war than in peace. So I suppose it could be a discussion for parents on just war and ethics.
There are a couple of needless curse words in the book. None of them are terrible, but they don’t add much to the plot and should not have been included. But I am a bit of a prude with that.
Harry’s view of Dumbledore goes through many, many doubts in this book. he really deconstructs the God figure and we find out at the end that Dumbledore was really flawed, like any human being. He is no God. While this could be bad, I actually think it is a positive because it reinforces that Dumbledore was not God or a God-figure, but a powerful man whose mistakes needed atonement.
Overall, this book is about a young wizard, put in a terrible and unenviable position, accepting his responsibility and despite the cost doing what it takes to carry it out. That is very good, and even though Harry Potter has its weaknesses I think that it is good. I am officially a fan. Frankly I would LOVE to see J.K. Rowling pen a new series as a prequel, perhaps with James, Lilly, Severus, and Tom Riddle. Perhaps with Dumbledore and how he became who he was. Maybe the back story with Hagrid. There are lots of angles to explore and I would read them all.