Old School Wednesdays presents an epic reread of The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. THIS MONTH ON THE RE-READ: we get to the last book and we say goodbye to the series and the re-read. For now.
Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?
This time, on our Old School Wednesday journey, we continue our OSW feature for the first half (ok, two-thirds) of 2016–The Epic Harry Potter Re-Read with our joint review of The Deathly Hallows.
Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK) / Scholastic (US)
Publication Date: First published 2007
Hardcover: 759 pages (!!!!!)
Harry is waiting in Privet Drive. The Order of the Phoenix is coming to escort him safely away without Voldemort and his supporters knowing – if they can. But what will Harry do then? How can he fulfil the momentous and seemingly impossible task that Professor Dumbledore has left him?
Stand alone or series: Book 7 in the Harry Potter series
How did we get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Print
Previously on the Epic Harry Potter Re-read:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
**All reviews/discussions on this re-readalong will contain inevitable spoilers–if you don’t want to be spoiled, best look away. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.**
And so the end is near, and now we face the final(ish) curtain. This is my favourite Harry Potter book of all – it is tautly written, it is tense, it is tragic, and even with its imperfections, it is still the perfect ending to this series. Stupid epilogue and all.
I will proceed to vomit my feelings all over this post now, you’re welcome.
My one and only read of this final Harry Potter novel was done on the very day it came out. I waited for the Amazon delivery by the door and when it arrived at around 8am, I took the book, I sat down and I only came up for air to leave snippets of reactions at Lost Forum because Thea and I were reading it together and we had TO SHARE our feels and we didn’t have a blog then OR even our email addresses for each other. Old times. Hours later I was done, drowning in my own tears. I admit I didn’t properly read the book, it was more like gulping, inhaling, devouring. Hence, it should be no surprise that on this re-read I realised how much stuff I missed, how many details went unremarked.
I finally realised how totally awesome Ginny Weasley is, how fantastic and reliable the adult teachers at Hogwarts are, and how much I loved the long stretch of Ron-Harry-Hermione on their own. I felt for the Malfoys (damn you, J.K. Rowling for humanizing them to this point) and unlike my first read, I was not completely in love with the Snape twist – talk about a revelation. When I first read this, I was SUCH a Snape fangirl and although I appreciate how courageous he was in being a double agent, I still think he was a horrible bully to the kids and to Harry in particular.
I had forgotten certain things: like that awful, heart-wrenching conversation between Lupin and Harry in which Harry tells Lupin off so beautifully – I think maybe that was the moment I realised that Harry was a grown man. Which is slightly fucked up because omg he was only 17. And how about the tragedy of that entire generation of kids – the one with Harry’s father and mother – that died fighting Voldermort, or had their lives destroyed in different ways? I had never realised that Lily and James Potter, as well as their best friends, were TWENTY ONE AT THE TIME. 21 YEARS OLD, GUYS. They were so young. They are all so young – Hermione gets TORTURED, Harry thinks he will die for everybody. Fuck you Voldemort, I hope you rot in hell.
I had been completely spoiled for all the deaths beforehand, by the way – I had to prepare myself for what I knew would be a bloodbath and I spent the night before the book came out searching online for The List. I KNEW there was going to be a Weasley death, I just knew because logic tells that with so many WEASLEYS, ONE WOULD HAVE TO DIE. Still knowing them beforehand, the deaths still hit me so hard. The ones that hit me the most are still Fred’s, Lupin’s and Dobby’s of course. Dobby because he saved them all, and he still died for it (why, why did Dobby had to die). Speaking of House-elves, I don’t think there was a great (or, any) resolution for the conundrum of having our heroes – the good guys – all relying on the work of enslaved peoples but the whole Kreacher/Harry/Regulus killed me. KILLED ME.
It was with this re-read that I realised that Fred’s death was worse than I remembered because just like Sirius’ death, it happened in the blink of an eye, and it came in the heels of the Percy-just-came-back-to-the-fold and two of his brothers were just there to see him die – but not George – and how fucking horrible was that.
There are no better scenes than McGonagall railing the troops to defend Hogwarts and little Neville Longbottom killing Nagini, though. MAYBE, Miss Weasley face-off with Bellatrix Lestrange. MAYBE.
But I exclusively talked about characters so far – that’s because the series is only as good as its characters and how much you care about them. And I care about them a whole lot. Enough that I almost don’t care about how the Deathly Hallows were ret-conned into the series and Deus Ex Machina’ed like a hammer hitting a glass. I loved the conceit and how this book was really good at building it but there had been no foreshadow up until this point. I really not convinced that the thing with the wands make much I really like how frustrated everybody gets with Dumbledore and how he was so shady and unforthcoming because he knew about the Hallows and should have warned the kids about it. AT THE VERY LEAST, he should have left clear instructions for people not to bury him with THE MOST POWERFUL WANT IN THE UNIVERSE. Dumbledore, YOU MAKE ME SO ANGRY.
Should I leave this review on this angry note? I think not: my last note is for Harry Potter himself, the boy who lived, twice. I love you, dude.
This is it, friends, we have reached the end of our Epic Harry Potter re-read. But just you wait: Thea and I get to SEE Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on the 14th of August. SO SOON.
Get ready for a continuation of ALL THE FEELS. I’m a little emotional today–having just finished re-reading this epic final chapter of Harry’s story, I’m feeling a little wrung out. In a good way. This was the very first time I had re-read Deathly Hallows since my first voracious reading eight years ago. (EIGHT YEARS, holy moly.)
As Ana says, we read this book together. I stayed up until midnight, got my copy at a release party at my local Borders (RIP, Borders), went home, and immediately proceeded to devour the novel whole. Anytime something big would happen, I would rush to the LOST forum on which Ana and I used to post, with a jillion “OMG ANA DID YOU READ WHAT HAPPENED TO XXX” posts. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and so so worth it. But, as with Ana’s experience, that first read was more of a sprint, trying to consume as much as possible, as quickly as possible–I needed to know what was going to happen, and I similarly missed so many things along the way. With this reread, however, all of those missing things became known–and the book is all the better, and stronger, for those things in my opinion.
In no particular order, some of the key revelations that surprised me and hit me the hardest on this first reread:
Harry Potter is SEVERAL years older than I am. I always knew that Harry’s birthday was July 31, but I somehow didn’t put together that he was born in 1980. Also, his parents were just 21 when they were killed by Voldemort. This is heartbreaking–as Ana says above the revelation of an entire generation of witches and wizards burned by Voldemort’s first reign of darkness is so powerful.
The Deathly Hallows is loooooong. It is, in fact, too long, and suffers because it is so much packed into 700+ pages. Every revelation in the book is worthwhile, in this reader’s opinion, but it could have been tightened up a bit. I simultaneously love and hate the scenes with Harry, Hermione, and Ron on the run in the wild, scrounging for food and eating disgusting mushrooms, trying to figure out where the hell they can find the next Horcrux (and how to destroy the one they have). The frustration the trio feels in Harry, in Dumbledore, in everyone else is so incredibly poignant–but it drags on for too long.
The House Elf storyline–especially with Kreacher and Regulus and that ending battle. And Dobby. I know that there is so much that is wrong with the house elves storyarc throughout the series, and I know that in this book, things are similarly problematic–but the emotional impact of Kreacher’s tale (and Dobby’s) makes me tear up. Every. Time.
Harry marching to his death. Harry accepting responsibility and trying to protect the people he loves (and those he doesn’t love) in the face of unyielding, unmistakeable evil. The resurrection stone scene makes me cry so, so much.
The fact that Lupin tried to abandon pregnant Tonks and take off on a horcrux adventure with Harry and the team–and Harry’s painful, awful, perfect reaction.
The wonder that is Minerva McGonnogal, and the other heads and staff at Hogwarts. The battle for Hogwarts.
The immediate loss of Hedwig and Alastair Moody.
The message that even the greatest and most powerful wizards, the authority figures, the leaders of magic like Albus Dumbledore are not benevolent kindly elderly figures who always know best and who have always done battle for the forces of good. The skepticism that we ALL should have in our leaders and idols and experts. The messed up, beautifully flawed hard truths of Dumbledore’s past–and how that past is discovered, piecemeal, by Harry.
The intricacies of wands, ownership, and the deathly hallows themselves.
The Malfoys and the Lovegoods, Ginny and Neville, the Weasleys.
All of it. This isn’t a perfect book–but it’s a beautiful, powerful, satisfying, and brilliant end to a beloved series. Officially, my order is: 3, 5, 7, 6, 2, 1, 4.
Ana: 9 – Damn near perfect
Thea: 9 – Ditto
About the Epic Harry Potter Re-Read:
Extending through August, we will be re-reading each book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. (We’ll also be re-watching all of the movies, but we won’t be reviewing those.) Why are we doing such a thing? Because we are nostalgic for these books that we basically grew up with; because we’ve had so much fun with re-reads over the past year, especially for Old School Wednesdays (see Percy Jackson and The Dark Tower); and most of all, because this August, we Book Smugglers are going to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London. AAAAAA!!!!
Are you also a Harry Potter fan? Are you new to the books? Do you want to join our re-read fun? Well you’re in some serious luck (and you don’t even need Felix Felicis) because here’s the full schedule.
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone – January 27
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets – February 24
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – March 23
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire – May 4
Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix – May 25
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince – June 22
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – August 3
JaniyaFebruary 5, 2018 at 3:02 pm
Your comment about Lily and James being only twenty-one at the time of their murders really stuck with me, being as I’m the same age now and I can’t imagine having a newborn baby, as well as fighting a full-blown war. What an introduction into adulthood, right? But it also got me thinking about Petunia and Vernon Dursley. Now, I despise the vile people as much as the next person, but I also figured that they can’t be too much older than James and Lily. We always view them as the spiteful older adults that they are with Harry when the story starts, but I had always gotten the impression that Lily and Petunia were only a few years apart. And if that’s the case, one has to wonder what that must have been like. Early to mid-twenties, with a baby of their own – then, suddenly learning of the death of your little sister and only living relative, followed by the sudden responsibility of having to raise another small child as your own. It certainly doesn’t excuse their physical, mental, emotional, and verbal abuse of little Harry, but it definitely gave me something else to think about, particularly regarding Petunia’s feeble attempt at decency in the final book/movie. I believe I read somewhere that in the original movie version, they had tried to have Petunia say a few kind words to Harry before he left Privet Drive for good, but that the scene had been removed before its release. All in all, I absolutely loved reading your re-read reviews of the series and you actually sparked my own journey to do the same. I’ve rewatched the movies countless time, but I can’t recall the last time I’d read a full book front to back. Cant wait!