A friend of mine sent me her copy, I received yesterday afternoon and finished it this morning. I can finally surf the internet again without fear!
some mega-spoileresque commentary below the fold.
All in all, the book was solid, though if I were to describe it in broad brush terms, it started out with wanton carnage (Hedwig, Mad-Eye, even George’s ear!), dragged on excruciatingly through the middle, and then ended magnificently at Hogwarts, where the story came full circle. The trip to Godric’s Hollow was, to be honest, a huge disappointment, and we got a much better look at Grimmauld Place in Book Six. But once Ron returned, they found the sword, and launched their foray upon Gringott’s I was quite hooked.
As for the major revelations:
– what/where are the Horcruxes? there was some speculation that Harry was a Horcrux, and in hindsight that was the main message of the Prophecy. As soon as we learned about Horcruxes in book Six I knew that the locket and the tiara were candidates, given that so much detail was lavished upon these objects. Nagini too was well known, given her prominence – though that should have been a major clue for Harry being one (namely, that living creatures as well as objects can host the soul pieces). And the golden cup was also pretty much outed in the last book, given Voldy’s intent to use items of significance. Overall, the main mystery was how Harry would get to the remaining objects, not what they were, and in this regard the story flowed smoothly in my opinion. The destruction of Nagini was brilliant – and how fitting it would be Neville, using the sword!
– Snape, friend or foe? I think I don’t know anyone who was convinced Snape was genuinely a traitor, especially given the focus on him in Book 6. But the main question was, how would he be redeemed? How could Rowlings dig him out from the incriminating evidence she’d laid upon him? Again, brilliant. Making Dumbledore doomed anyway due to the curse on his hand, the significance of Dumbledore’s last plea to Snape as an exhortation to proceed rather than a plea to restrain, pretty much the entire chapter “The Prince’s Tale” – it was just perfect.
– Who dies and who lives? Despite my feeling going in that Harry would survive, Rowlings again pulled it off by making me believe he was doomed after all. Ron and Hermione also survived, which surprised me, but then in hindsight killing one would have ruined the other’s life too, and killing both would have been .. ahem.. overkill. Of the rest, I guess one of the twins was disposable; I never thought of them as two separate characters anyway. I don’t think any of the actual deaths in Hallows really impacted as much a Sirius’ death or Dumbledore’s.
– the Hallows themselves: I am not sure what to think. Harry faced down death and submitted himself to Voldemort’s spell expecting to die, which made him the master of death as Dumbledore explained. But were the Hallows a part of that? I don’t see how. He used the cloak and the stone to get in close, but ultimately faced death alone. Overall I am not sure why the Hallows really mattered, except perhaps as a vehicle upon which to add dimension to Dumbledore.
overall, a great book and a fitting end to the series. The Epilouge was a nice touch, but the most significant part to me was the name of Harry’s youngest, Albus Severus Potter. Rowlings did reveal some additional details in an interview:
Rowling said the world was a sunnier, happier place after the seventh book and the death of Voldemort.
Harry Potter, who always voiced a desire to become an Auror, or someone who fights dark wizards, was named head of the Auror Department under the new wizarding government headed by his friend and ally, Kingsley Shacklebolt.
His wife, Ginny Weasley, stuck with her athletic career, playing for the Holyhead Harpies, the all-female Quidditch team. Eventually, Ginny left the team to raise their three children — James, Albus and Lily — while writing as the senior Quidditch correspondent for the wizarding newspaper, the Daily Prophet.
Harry’s best friend Ron Weasley joined his brother, George, as a partner at their successful joke shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Hermione Granger, Ron’s wife and the third person of the series’ dark wizard fighting trio, furthered the rights of subjugated creatures, such as house elves, in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures before joining the magical law enforcement squad. The couple had two children — Rose and Hugo.
Luna Lovegood, Harry’s airily distracted friend with a love for imaginary animals who joins the fight against Voldemort in the Order of the Phoenix, becomes a famous wizarding naturalist who eventually marries the grandson of Newt Scamander, author of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
I was hoping Luna would hook up with Neville, but that’s a minor quibble if ever there was one.
Also, Mark had blogged while reading, and has a lot of commentary.