After seven books and 4,175 pages, the epic adventure of Harry James Potter comes to a brilliant close with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the series' best and final chapter.
In "Hallows," author J. K. Rowling exhibits her finest and most complex writing to date, bringing 10 years of storytelling to a close with the main event, the final battle of good versus evil.
While their friends are finishing their last year of training at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Harry, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger embark on a perilous mission given them by their fallen headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
Harry and his mates must destroy several Horcruxes before a final showdown with the evil Lord Voldemort. The Horcruxes are objects which contain pieces of Voldemort's soul and must be magically demolished before the Dark Lord can be truly killed. The problem is, the trio does not know where these magical objects are, nor do they now what they look like.
The search for the Horcruxes takes the characters, and reader, to parts of the magical world never explored in earlier novels. Most notably, Harry returns to Godric's Hollow, the place where his parents where murdered.
Locations from earlier novels are also revisited to great effect. Harry's view of places like Gringotts and Hogwarts illustrates just how well Rowling has aged the character.
Rowling also reveals the origins of some major characters including Luna Lovegood and Nymphadora Tonks. In the previous novel, "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince," Harry, with Dumbledore's help, explored the past of Voldemort. In "Hallows," the tables are turned as Dumbledore's own, possibly shady, history is revealed piece by piece to Harry.
With this, for the first time, Dumbledore becomes a fully developed character. The guise of a good-natured, elderly grandfather is shattered with some shocking revelations about Dumbledore before he became the renowned and beloved headmaster of Hogwarts.
These revelations help set the tone of "Hallows," which is by far the darkest of the series. Harry, whose life has already been so tragic, is forced to accept some hard truths about those around him and the world in which he lives.
Several major characters, both good and bad, are killed in "Hallows." These deaths are tragic and occur in horrible, gut wrenching scenes which demonstrate why the Potter franchise can no longer be considered just for children.
Characters, some of them under the age of 17, are thrown into all out war against adults bent on their death. This war leads to some pretty intense action sequences, including midair duels, the destruction of several buildings and an epic, end-all battle.
One of the novel's biggest surprises is Rowling's ability to portray so flawlessly Voldemort as Hitleresque. As his regime grows, Voldemort and his Death Eaters begin to resemble the Nazis, with wizards who are not of pure blood becoming the object of their hatred.
Rowling's ability to weave intricate, yet seamless, story lines over several novels has been one of her greatest strengths as a writer. Almost every question left hanging in previous books is answered in "Hallows." Story lines going back to the series first entry, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," are renewed and explained in full.
The most rewarding of which, after years of fan speculation, is the truth about the series' most complex character, Severus Snape.
As previously mentioned, Rowling has also done a wonderful job of believably aging the series' characters. Unlike most children's series, the Potter franchise has grown with its characters. Harry is a thoroughly believable 17-year-old in "Hallows," just as he was a realistic 11-year-old in "Stone." From the way he handles situations to the foul langue he uses, Harry has truly come of age before the reader's eyes.
"Hallows" is not by any means flawless. Inconsistent pacing has often been the biggest complaint against Rowling as a writer and "Hallows" is no exception. The first few chapters are strong, with tense duels and narrow escapes, but some later passages involving the trio's adventures on the run become bogged down and repetitious.
In previous entries, Rowling was able to interject school activities to keep the characters busy while they discussed future plans and revelations. In "Hallows," they are forced to confer while repeatedly pitching, and taking down, a tent and changing out for night watch.
The sense of repetition and boredom might be done for effect, to emphasize the isolation the three characters feel, but the passages could have been half as long. But thankfully after the sluggish middle, the pace picks back up for a breathtaking ending.
Rowling saved the best for last with "Hallows," the most satisfying novel of the series. Despite its minor faults, the harrowing tale of Harry Potter could not have come to a better end.