Book review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling, read by Stephen Fry

Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsI read an article recently in which Stephen King described J.K. Rowling as “a terrific writer”. Which is a perfect description: J.K. may not be the best writer, but she can tell one hell of a story. (Incidentally, it was the same article in which King said that Stephenie Meyer “can’t write worth a darn”, which – no comment.)

And Deathly Hallows is one hell of a story.

Mostly by virtue of being the last book in the Harry Potter series, meaning by default it includes the thrilling climax – ie, Harry defeats Voldemort. (And I am so not putting a spoiler alert around that, because first, the book came out two-and-a-half years ago, and second, if you didn’t know that goodies always defeat baddies, you need to get out more.)

It’s only the second time I’ve read the book since it came out, and what struck me on re-reading is how little action there is in the story – sure, there’s the bits at Godric’s Hollow and Gringotts and Hogwarts, but most of the story is very dense exposition (same goes for the preceding entry, Half-Blood Prince). Since Hallows was released in 2007, several wags have commented that the book’s plot basically consists of Harry et al camping in the woods for a year. Which is true. But I kinda like all that backstory, particularly Dumbledore’s backstory. It makes the earlier books and the characters in them all the richer.

(I’m also impressed that J.K. left it till the last book to reveal the Hallows themselves, given they turn out to be one of the central tenets of the finale.)

That said, the book isn’t perfect. It needed a more thorough edit – it’s loaded with sentences like “Harry could hear…” which ought to have been replaced by “Harry heard…”, and there are superfluous weres and wases all over the place. But the most egregious offence is that syrupy epilogue. Every time, it makes me groan – it’s so sappy. I generally don’t care for stories that drag on beyond their “proper” end point, so I kinda wish that whole last chapter had just been cut.

Also, I didn’t technically read Deathly Hallows: it was read to me by Stephen Fry. Sadly, he did not read it to me in person; it was via the magic of audiobook. But if you have a lengthy road trip coming up, I highly recommend his readings of Harry Potter – he is just fantastic. You know a man is exceptionally talented when he makes an already magical world even more magical.

Lastly, I’m predicting that Deathly Hallows: Part 1 will conclude after Harry and Hermione’s ill-fated journey to Godric’s Hollow. That seems like a pretty logical end point.

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