The book isn't perfect; neither is the series. But J.K. Rowling has accomplished something spectacular with them--true modern myth, a gripping adventure tale, a wise coming-of-age story, and a spell-binding personal journey. She has managed something I can only dream of doing (and have, for years): She has told a tale full of imagination, every inch her own, every struggle born from her experience and life and light, and given that to us in images and actions that we can understand and take into ourselves.
I will dare one more prediction, now that the story has ended. The Harry Potter series is going to last a long time. Fifty years from now, children and teens (and adults) will be discovering it for the first time. Families will be reading it aloud together. It will stand next to the Chronicles of Narnia in the ranks of fantasy literature.
And it deserves to be there.
I really wish I'd kept a journal of notes or something. There's so much in this book that I loved, or laughed at, or that make me tear up or nearly scream or just made me go "WOW." There's no way I'll remember it all.
A couple of general things:
Rowling has always been a clean, vivid writer, which suits the story she's telling. But in this book, as in HBP, there are some intensely beautiful and horrible scenes: descriptions (Shell Cottage), action (the fire in the Room of Requirement, the flight with seven Harrys), and gripping emotional moments (Ron's confrontation with the locket Horcrux, Harry reliving the night his parents died, Harry's reaction to the aftermath of the battle and two bodies in particular). I found myself saying, "This really needs to be read aloud."
Also, I was hoping for no "afterlife" weirdness with Harry, but "King's Cross" blew me away with its simplicity and wisdom. Nothing portentous, nothing out-of-place. Clean and clear and beautiful and perfect.
So many minor characters returned, either for a Great Moment (Percy!) or a strong piece of the plot (Kreacher! Dobby! Neville!!) or at least a mention (Oliver Wood, of all people). I found this both heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and it makes the book's single major flaw stand out in high relief: a lot of loose ends after the battle.
The most awful of which, of course, is that we never discover how Remus and Tonks died, and they are not mentioned later. Teddy is, of course, but I'd have liked a bit more. Harry seeing their bodies, after all, was a tipping point for him. It shook me enough that I put the book down for a good hour, went off and shed a few tears, called a friend, distracted myself, and only came back when I felt I could deal.
I'm sure that was what JKR was going for, because that's essentially Harry's reaction, but talk about heart-breaking. I read their names, and suddenly all the weight of Harry's grief for his parents, his thoughts about being Teddy's godfather, his lecture to Remus about being their for his son, came crashing down on me. Ouch. JKR wasn't wrong to kill them, imo, but not giving us any wrap-up was not fair.
I love the focus on the Trio in this book. It means we don't get to see much of anyone else, really, but the friendship that was shown (even in Ron's departure and return), the support, the teamwork.... Just, wow. And we got to see Harry really grow up--learn to lead, learn to trust and have faith despite appearances, learn to forgive, and learn to truly sacrifice. From the moment he and Dudley exchange friendly words and a handshake (*smooshes Dudley*) to "I am about to die", this is Harry putting away childish things and taking on his task in purity of spirit.
No, I don't think I'm overstating. And I love how Rowling can give us both mythological beauty in Harry's surrender and his walk to death, and still keep us inside his head, inside his skin, and let us experience it. Some have complained about too much talking and not enough showing in this book, and there is some of that--but not at the most important moments, imho.
There were some splendidly unexpected moments, of humor (after George's ear is cut off, the fact that the first thing he says is a terrible pun, and that Fred chastises him for not being more creative! TWINS FTW!) and of bravery (Molly Weasley! *cheers*) and of real love from characters you wouldn't think knew about it (Narcissa lying to Voldemort about Harry's death--I never thought I'd be so much on her side).
And even though this book is dark, full of death and pain and sorrow and war, the wizarding world is still a world of wonder, of magic, of Hermione's beaded purse (I want one!) and Apparition and Horcruxes and protective spells and Metamorphmagus babies and Expelliarmus (it is beyond awesome that's the curse Harry uses to defeat Voldie--"having disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them, triumphing over them through the cross [sacrifice]").
I'm rambling. I'll close with a brief (ha, I hope) list of things I didn't like so much, and things I adored/things I totally got right. :-)
Things I didn't like so much:
--Remus AND Tonks?! WTF? *weeps*
--I'm a little weirded out by the way in which Peter Pettigrew died. The life debt did come up, but he was prevented from actively helping Harry (assuming that's where his impulse of mercy would have led) by the "gift" that Voldemort gave him. I could wax verbose about crossing a point of no return, here, but I shall refrain.
--The epilogue was fine, but disappointing, really. I wanted to see a bit of what changed in the wizarding world; I wanted to hear more about the Malfoys; I wanted to know that Harry took care of Teddy, darn it. That said, I didn't even tear up when Snape died, but I totally did when Harry called his second son by his full name: Albus Severus.
--There really wasn't enough Ginny in this book, though I liked what was there. And back when HBP came out, I predicted (easy) that either she would follow Harry on his hunt, or would return to Hogwarts and restart the D.A. Which she (and Neville and Luna) totally did. *beams*
--I was strongly hoping for a reversal on the part of some of the Slytherins. While I'm quite pleased with the Malfoy subplot, it would have been much more interesting if (and frankly I was expecting) JKR had allowed that last House a more proper place in the battle. Regulus and Snape make a small dent, but that's really all.
Things I thought were excellent, surprisingly so, or that I loved:
--Dudley acknowledging that Harry saved his life, and Harry's bemused delight at same. "I'm going with these Order people."
--Snape was, indeed, Dumbledore's man through and through! *cheers* And he was good, and there was reason for Dumbledore to trust him absolutely, and yet he was still a broken and unpleasant man--all gray tones and sheer courage and passion. I loved the moment in the Pensieve when Dumbledore (in reference to Snape's courage) says "Sometimes I think we sort too young." Such a strong acknowledgment from a Gryffindor headmaster. Likewise, Snape's dry wisecrack response to Dumbledore's request that he kill him.
--I was prepared to be weirded out by the Snape/Lily potential, but I thought it worked very well, actually. I did not guess the doe was Snape's, so the whole scene with the sword had me pulling my hair out trying to guess who sent the Patronus guide and who put the sword there! LOVE that it was Snape. Of course it was.
--rj_anderson called several awesome things in her now AU fic "If We Survive," including someone voluntarily dying and thus invoking protection over Hogwarts' inhabitants.
--Ron's return to Harry and Hermione, and his struggle with the locket Horcrux. Moving, wonderful, suspenseful.
--Hedwig's death, because it was so unexpected and set the tone of the entire book; and Dobby's, which didn't make me cry, but which was nonetheless unbearably sad, as Harry digs the grave and the others give him clothes to be buried in.
--All the wandlore, and the fairy tales, and the stuff about the Deathly Hallows. I was very much hoping that not all the stuff in this book would be a wrap-up of things we already knew, and JKR delivered, with this and with the painful, rich Dumbledore backstory.
--I almost put the fact that Harry was an inadvertent Horcrux under the "dislike" category. I had strong feelings about that NOT happening, and it startled me. And yet...it works. It truly does, and I'm not sure anything else would have worked as well, and even if I want to smack Dumbledore a little for keeping secrets, I understand why he did, and I'm so, so proud of Harry for accepting the necessary burden in trust.
--Scripture verses on tombstones. I didn't expect that, especially not one as awesome as "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." *shivers*
--Harry's walk to his death, hyper-aware of life and surrounded by the beloved dead. I think the moment when he whispers to the Snitch "I am about to die" will stick with me for a long time.
--Neville confronting Voldemort and beheading Nagini with the Sword of Gryffindor! Neville is my hero!
--Molly Weasley vs. Bellatrix!
--Percy's return to the fold, and the fact that he was the one who couldn't leave Fred's body.
--McGonagall! No wonder she's head of Gryffindor House--she orchestrates a battle, runs around directing herds of desks and armor, and then goes up against Voldie himself and survives.
--The final duel between Harry and Voldemort. Love, love, love!
--The trip to Godric's Hollow and the graveyard. Unexpectedly sad, Harry standing at his parents' graves. Unexpectedly beautiful, he and Hermione supporting each other as they leave. Again, I love the Trio's relationship in this book.
--Oh! I mustn't forget Kreacher. :-)
I'm going to stop while I can, and before I simply start rehearsing the entire plot. I loved this book, despite its flaws, and shall likely re-read it soon. Meanwhile, I leave you with my favorite quote:
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"