Well then. As suggested by Alex, I succumbed to the “unrelenting greatness” of the last couple hundred pages of the book and read them straight through instead of pausing to liveblog. Starting around page 550, things picked up considerably and all of my nitpicks were forgotten due to the aforementioned “unrelenting greatness.” It’s a fitting and satisfying end to the series, much more so than some other series I’ve read (*cough, cough* Dark Tower *cough*). I’m not sure it will pass Hitchcock’s infamous refrigerator test, but at this point I don’t think it matters. It’s a series of books about magic, for crying out loud. Anyway, more commentary with major spoilers beneath the fold… Maybe an additional update on Wednesday night, to see how it sank in (as I just finished now)…
- Page 503: This passage stuck out for me. Perhaps not so important to the story, but an interesting nugget of human behavior:
[Harry] could not even explain satisfactorily why he had decided against it: Every time he tried to reconstruct the internal arguments that had led to his decision, they sounded feebler to him.
I think this sort of thing happens more often than we, as humans, care to admit. We like to think we act reasonably and with careful consideration, but I think a lot of what we decide, especially when forced to do so under some sort of time constraint (as Harry was in the book), just happens instinctually. We can generally rationalize our decisions, but sometimes we’re stuck, like Harry. To use a more trivial example, I think a lot of people like or dislike movies or music (or art in general) because of some sort of initial, subconscious instinct. Again, we rationalize our choices, citing the acting or cinematography or whatever, but sometimes, even when we can find no real fault, we’re left not liking a certain movie (most recently, this happened to me after watching The Fountain). It’s a strange feeling.
- Page 560: Ah, so it was Dumbledore in the mirror, but not Albus. It was his brother, Aberforth! And now we find our more about Dumbledore’s past. Again, it is not as horrible as Skeeter had portrayed, but neither is it saintly. In other words: human.
- I don’t have much to say about the lost diadum or the battle of Hogwards, though the whole sequence from this point on was really fantastic and at some points, heartbreaking. The biggest thing that happened, to me, was the validation of Eric S. Raymond’s speculations regarding Severus Snape. It’s uncanny; he came breathtakingly close to the truth with his post. Snape, it seems, didn’t need to be redeemed (or had already redeemed himself, much earlier in his life). He’d been working for Dumbledore all along, as many had speculated. The reason for this, as not as many speculated, was his feelings for Lily Potter. The chapter “The Prince’s Tale” is among the best, and it fills in many blanks in both Snape and Dumbledore’s history in a satisfying way. It strikes me that this series is almost as much about them as it is about Harry and Voldemort. It also contains one of the biggest shocks of the series, as Harry finds out that he is destined to die. I thought for a time that Rowling was going to do it, but she didn’t, and I found myself relieved. She even managed a good enough explanation for why he did not die (and we get to talk to Dumbledore again, who gives some answers we’ve been craving, including more about his past).
- There were several deaths during the battle at Hogwarts, among them Fred Weasly, Tonks, and Lupin. These were some of my favorite characters, and it was indeed hard to see them go… Many other characters died as well (some, it seems, were not even named). Even with all of that, the death toll was perhaps not as high as I was expecting (or dreading, I should say).
- The final showdown between Harry and Voldemort was well handled and satisfying, with a proper explanation for what happened and why. Again, I’m not sure any of these explanations would stand up to close scrutiny, but that doesn’t really matter. It was well a well done and satisfying ending.
- Nineteen years later… I actually like these sorts of afterwords where we see what came of everyone, even if they’re usually unnecessary (as this one pretty much is). I’m a little surprised that Harry did not take up a position at Hogwarts (though they don’t really say what he does, other than being a father – I guess the message is clear.) but it was a fun little exercise, and a nice way to end the book and series.
Ultimately, I was very satisfied with the series. The last book drags a little at times, when it reverts back into the repetitive and whiny (and repetitive and whiny and repetitive…) tendencies of the fifth book, but it picks up towards the end and makes for a fitting end to the series.