Harry Potter fights the ultimate battle

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2007

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” by J.K. Rowling. Scholastic Press. 2007. 759 pp. $34.99.By Deirdre Parker Smith
Salisbury Post
Hold on to your wand, wrap your robes tight ó you’re in for a breathtaking adventure with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
Long anticipating the final book in the series, many of us also dreaded it, with the warnings from Rowling about two characters dying.
Well, two is only a start. Three characters die in the first four chapters, and that’s only the beginning of what becomes a deadly battle that involves all of the people Harry knows and loves.
Far from being “Harry against the world,” this book becomes Harry, Ron and Hermione against the world, and then grows to encompass all the good witches and wizards, friends and family in Harry’s universe.
Thank goodness, because Voldemort has extended his power beyond the Death Eaters. Through the Imperious curse, You-Know-Who and his followers have now taken over the Ministry of Magic, and the entire world is in danger, wizards and muggles alike, right down to the grouchy trolls and the giant spiders in the Forbidden Forest.
Those who are not imprisoned or tortured, or both, for the mere suspicion of loyalty to Harry live in constant danger, necessitating protective spells, strict rules and little contact with others.
When Harry escapes the first attempt on his life and ends up with the Weasleys at the Burrow, even Bill and Fleur’s wedding is not safe from attack, despite many charms and spells.
Harry determines he has to get away from all the people who care about him in order to save their lives. Naturally, Hermione and Ron go along, as they have planned to do all summer. Harry is 17, of age, and no longer under his late mother’s protection.
Hermione, extremely well-prepared, just manages to hold on to what they need as the trio escapes into hiding.
Then follow long periods of frustration and fear. And when Harry discovers where the real locket containing one of Voldemort’s horcruxes is, their careful plan for stealing it is disastrously compromised, the three escaping only at the last possible breath.
All of the group’s attempts to find information or more of the horcruxes bring tense episodes of extreme danger, with casualties on all sides.
Voldemort, sends his minions to capture Harry each time he attempts a move, as if someone has tipped off the Death Eaters. Or is it Harry’s connection to the Dark Lord that gives them away?
His scar burns intensely as he sees, not just the wicked wizard’s actions, but through the evil one’s eyes. Harry suffers as Voldemort tortures or traps more and more people, but he learns to block him out at times, and allows the connection when he needs to know what’s happening.
The trio become very frustrated, especially Ron, who lashes out at Harry: “I thought you knew what you were doing!”
Harry, of all people, does not know what he’s doing, what or who to pursue, how or why. He begins to believe the scandalous “biography” Rita Skeeter has penned about beloved Professor Dumbledore and doubts the mission has the pure motives he once believed in.
How that is all resolved is an important and revealing part of the climax, finally answering questions Harry and his readers have had all these years.
The book slows in places as Harry tries to understand his destiny and direction, but the pace quickens in the scenes where he does act, to the point of leaving the reader with a pounding heart and gaping mouth.
The action, the battles, the near misses, the dreadful losses are written expertly, Rowling putting all her skills and heart into it. She must feel a deep kinship with these characters, and hearing her talk about how difficult this book was for her to write, one imagines Rowling pulling out hankies at the same time the readers do.
Once merely uttering the name Voldemort becomes an invitation for Snatchers, Harry and the others are well and truly caught, but manage to scrape through with new knowledge and new help.
Watching Harry transform from a lonely and resentful teen, uncomfortable with the huge task placed on his shoulders, to a selfless, brave young man who agonizes over the losses he has brought on, is moving.
By the time of the final confrontation, Harry has grown tremendously; his friends understand but fear what he must do, and his foes still see him as weak and powerless ó their greatest error.
What happens next is wonderfully written, if you can read through your tears.
But what follows is more surprising, awesome in the true sense of the word.
And deeply sad. Important people are lost in horrible ways. Death takes its toll over and over again.
Does good defeat evil?
Do the forces of light illuminate and drive out the force of pure, evil darkness?
You’ll find out.
Meanwhile, prepare for a dramatic experience.
And we’ll miss you, Harry.
Contact Deirdre Parker Smith by owl at the Salisbury Post.