Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling

The Ministry of Magic has fallen. Muggle-borns are being rounded up. Hogwarts is compulsory for all wizarding children (so long as they're pure-bloods), complete with poisonous lessons about wizard supremacy from Death Eaters. And Voldemort is hunting down the members of the Order of the Phoenix, while Harry, Hermione and Ron try desperately to find the remaining Horcruxes and destroy Voldemort for good.


Surprisingly, I didn't actually find Deathly Hallows as interminable and obnoxious as I did Half-Blood Prince and Order of the Phoenix. I have no idea why this was, because the book, although slightly shorter than its predecessors, is not exactly what you could call tightly plotted, seeing as it essentially consists of Our Heroes wandering around the countryside arguing and occasionally committing ill-advised and unlikely break-ins into key wizarding locations. It's like Lord of the Rings without the songs.


(I'm not being entirely flippant: the locket-Horcrux actually works very much like the One Ring, especially in terms of the effect it has on those bearing it.)


I think the things that made it bearable for me had nothing to do with the actual book. I found a crumb of comfort, after Brexit and Dallas and all the crappy shit that's happening in the world at the moment, in the solidarity of the Order of the Phoenix and the kindness they all continued to show to each other even in the face of the Dark Lord: I particularly enjoyed the bit where our ka-tet listen to Potterwatch on the radio, the defiance of those trying to keep themselves free.


Unfortunately, these little suggestions of ordinary bravery are entirely eclipsed by an increasingly rickety plot consisting mainly of retcon, infodump and ideological fuckery. I hate that the narrative keeps insisting on how awesome and selfless Harry is when to all intents and purposes he's just an ordinary teenager. I hate that his sacrifice (which turns out to be no sacrifice at all) means so much more than the sacrifice of all those nameless hundreds defending their families and homes and friends. By the end of book seven we still have no real sense of what exactly makes Harry so different that he alone can conquer Voldemort. And how much do I hate that ridiculous, overblown and self-congratulatory final sequence? Let me count the ways.


And: I'm sorry, this world just doesn't work. I don't usually care too much about world-building - I've never been interested in questions like "but do Balrogs have wings or not?" - because fantasy is not a mimetic genre and can tell truths without being realistic. But I think the books, especially the later ones, and all the marketing around them are explicitly asking us to read their world as an immersive and "realistic" one, when a moment of thought about any single aspect of it will reveal gaping holes. (Why do wizards need house-elves when they can do the cleaning by magic in seconds? Why?)


I love the first few HP books. They are funny and tightly-plotted and clever and satisfying. It's a huge shame that they ended up here, in a stupid and bloated mess.