Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Art by Mary GrandPré for the deluxe edition of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" -- Scholastic Press

A fully brilliant close to Rowling's
wonderful Harry Potter epic

''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows''
By J.K. Rowling
(Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 759 pages, $34.99)

Buy the regular hardback edition at Amazon.
Buy the deluxe edition at Amazon

Reviewed by John Orr
July 2007

Here are two reviews of the last book in the Harry Potter series.

 Chapter two of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is the first in which Potter appears, and its first words are "Harry was bleeding."

A dire but appropriate warning for fans of author J.K. Rowling - the next 759 pages of the book are not going to be a pleasure cruise for "The boy who lived." He has all those horcruxes to find, the most powerful dark wizard in history and plenty of other bad people to battle, and soon learns he may also have to find things called "Hallows," which will play a part in the final fight with Voldemort.

Along the way Harry will be cut, burned, nearly choked to death in freezing water, dropped from great height from a flying motorcycle and flushed down a grotty public toilet into the Ministry of Magic.

True, Harry has some happy moments -- including another great kiss with Ginny Weasley.

But he is also to see a lot of his dearest friends be tortured, maimed and killed, along with dozens of others, as the full-out wizards war continues in Great Britain.

It is as fully brilliant as its fans could have hoped, this last book, this last 759 pages of the 4,100 pages spread across ten years and seven books by Rowling in her enormously popular epic story of Harry Potter.

Part of the fun for fans will be how many of their theories are borne out in this book - but more so, how many surprises the enormously creative Rowling has managed.

A modest early surprise was Harry's farewell to the Dursley family. In this world upturned by the wizarding war, Harry is to stay at 4 Privet Drive (at least briefly) while the Dursleys are whisked away by members of the Order of the Phoenix, to be hidden in a protected place.

When Harry turns 17 on July 31, the magical protection invoked by Albus Dumbledore 16 years previously will disappear, and Harry and the Dursleys will both be in danger. It is Dudley who tells his parents they must leave - and who - shockingly - shakes Harry's hand with gratitude.

The first appeal to tear ducts occurs when Hermione Granger - cleverest witch of her age - explains what she has done to protect her parents from Voldemort. Amazing, touching, beautiful.

But soon Harry, Hermione and Ron Weasley are off on their own, away from Hogwarts, away from the Order of the Phoenix and - hopefully -- hidden from Voldermort's Death Eaters.

Living in tents in cold forests, the trio - armed with Harry's impressive invisibility cloak (which proves to be more special than previously known) and a vial of Polyjuice Potion - undertake a series of desperate adventures to find Voldemort's Horcruxes, which must all be destroyed if Voldemort is to be defeated.

Sirius Black's broken mirror plays a role, as Harry sometimes seems to see a blue eye looking back at him from it, an eye he thinks might be that of the dead Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. And help sometimes comes from mysterious places, such as when a doe-shaped Patronus leads both Harry and Ron - who had been separated - to the same frozen pond in a snow-covered forest.

Neville Longbottom - as fans predicted -- plays a heroic role in destroying one Horcrux, and in one of Rowling's many brilliant ironies, Voldemort himself destroys another.

And as always in this series, the heroics undertaken for the greater good are left to Harry's choice. He always has the freedom to run from the battle, or to bear out the courageous legacy of the House of Gryffindor.

 It's been a week and a day since the release of the most anticipated and most purchased novel in history, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," capstone of J.K. Rowling's brilliant and magical series, and already many millons more people have read it than ever pick up the average novel.

A commonly heard comment among teens at bookstores on July 20, as fans lined up to get their copies of the book, was "Reading this book will mean the end to my childhood. I grew up reading Harry Potter books."

Among the many remarkable qualities of Rowling's astounding series is that it grew up with its readers.

The first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," was easily accessible even to younger minds. Any child who had ever felt put upon by his or her parents could identify with the young boy who'd had a horrible life with his cruel aunt and uncle.

When the boy escapes his relatives and finds a new life and family at the world's coolest school of wizardry and witchcraft, it was a great fantasy getaway.

There are deaths and danger even in that first book, but it was played rather softly - certainly no harsher, say, than the childhood tales we'd heard before, such as Cinderella, wherein a good girl is abused by her stepmother, or Sleeping Beauty, in which another good girl is nearly destroyed by an evil witch.

And the first book and especially the next three in the series were tempered by huge amounts of wit and charm. Laugh-out-loud jokes and sweet, touching moments of love between friends and families.

But as the series has progressed, the seriousness of Rowling's main topics became more apparent: In this direction we find adulthood, in this direction we find personal responsibility, in this direction we find horrors such as racism, bigotry, power-mongering, torture and murder.

Rowling's heroes - Harry Potter and his friends Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley and others - always have the choice to just accept those societal evils, or to put themselves in danger by fighting the good fight.

They always choose to fight the good fight.

In "Deathly Hallows," the wizards war has grown very grim, and the bad guys are winning. Rowling's great metaphor for all the racism and bigotry that has stained the history of humanity is this battle of "pure-blood" magical people versus magical people who have non-magical forbears.

People who are not magical at all - muggles - are less than dirt to the pure-blood fanatics.

When Harry and his friends - in disguise -- sneak into the Ministry of Magic after it has been taken over by minions of the evil Lord Voldemort, they find "a gigantic statue of black stone … rather frightening … a vast sculpture of a witch and a wizard sitting on ornately carved thrones. " Engraved at the base of the statue are the words "MAGIC IS MIGHT."

When they look more closely, Harry, Ron and Hermione are horrified to see that the thrones are actually "mounds of carved humans; hundreds and hundreds of naked bodies, men, women, and children, all with rather stupid, ugly faces, twisted and pressed together to support the weight of the handsomely robed wizards.''

""Muggles,' whispered Hermione. 'In their rightful place.'' Hermione -- born of muggle parents, says that with full irony, of course.

The trio - who would be captured, tortured and killed by Voldemort and the Death Eaters if caught - continue their mission and even manage to save a few people from "The Muggle-Born Registration Commission,'' which is taking people not deemed of pure blood and torturing them or imprisoning them at Azkaban.

Shades of Joseph Goebbels, Adolph Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan, Sunnis vs. Shiites and Abu Ghraib. Shades of "The Greatest Generation," shades of the Underground Railway, shades of the people who stand up against racism whenever it is found.

There are only a few opportunities for humor in this last Harry Potter tale, which is pretty much a non-stop, desperate roller coaster ride through battle after battle between good magical people and Voldemort's evil Death Eaters, from an attack by 30 bad guys on only 14 good guys as Harry leaves his aunt and uncle's house for the last time, to the last, grand battle at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy.

Throughout the book, though, Rowling continues to sound her main points: That love produces a magic that evil cannot understand of overcome; that bureaucracies such as the Ministry of Magic are not to be trusted; that we have to be very careful in this tricky world; and that it is not the conditions of our births that matter, but what we choose to do with our lives.

Rowling's writing is full of depth and irony. Harry Potter's final choices during the battle at Hogwarts - between life and death - are poetic indeed. And the very last words of the novel are all Harry Potter's millions of fans could wish.