Saturday, June 23, 2012
100 Books #58 - J. K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS
Without having seen them yet, mind, I can certainly see why the powers that be decided that this book needed to be divided into two films.
It's really two different books sort of awkwardly pasted together, an opposite number to the awkward cleaving of George R.R. Martin's last two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Only one of them is good, though. Rowling saved the best for last.
To get to the good stuff, though, much must be endured. The training wheels are finally off for Harry, Ron and Hermione (and presumably for everyone else as well, but we don't get to see that), and they sort of wobble around for rather a shockingly long time before anything interesting is allowed to happen (apart from more contrived back-story exposition. I still say I'd rather have read the previous generation's adventures first-hand than watched their kids traipse around the countryside collecting bits of the story second- or third-hand). It was perhaps a daring thing for Dame Judith to have tried, to show what it would be like in the real world (if the real world had Magic Wands and Beaded Clutches of Holding and swords being distributed in farcical aquatic ceremonies) to have a responsibility to save it without the first clue as to how; to be sent on a treasure hunt without a map and no idea what the clues might be. Daring but dull; as has so often been the case* lots of really interesting stuff is happening elsewhere and to people I like better, but it's all Trio, all the time, for most of the first half of Deathly Hallows. The other really interesting stuff all gets related after the fact, in infodumps, second hand.
But then there's the second half. And the second half is a bit glorious. Once the plot brings everyone back together again, the author can't help but let us see what's going on with everyone we've come to enjoy, not just the Wonderful Weasley Twins and the rest of their lovable family, but Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood (and her dad!) and all the Quidditch jocks and nutty professors and what's left of the Order, all mixing it up together and against the enemy together at last! We got a tiny taste of this at the end of Order of the Phoenix, but just a taste. This time we get one of Hagrid's giant pewter tankards full. Smack your lips and say "ah."
Pretty satisfying. Even if there's a bit of a Battlestar Galactica-esque turd near the very end. Well, not quite that bad. But still. Cough.**
After seven books and a good two weeks and change of immersion in the world of Harry Potter, I'm pretty much equal parts wistful to see it end and relieved to move on to something else, which pretty much reflects how I've felt throughout these thousands of pages -- about equal parts cheering and tooth-gnashing. I am grateful, at any rate, that Dame Judith managed to wrap things up well and to send the Hogwarts crew off into the (unwritten) future with some style and leave me with a cheer instead of a jeer.
So, I shan't completely dismiss Hogwarts as a silly Camelot place among young adult books. Were I recommending some neato books to some fresh young readers, Harry Potter might well make the list -- if the kid really nags me for a long one, but these still, for my money, rank well after the Oz books (even the "non-canonical" ones), the Chronicles of Narnia, the Chronicles of Prydain (which are, I think, underappreciated these days, perhaps? I certainly don't see them mentioned much, but I loved them as a young'un and still love them), His Dark Materials, or The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.
Speaking of which, hey, it's June 23. I gotta motor if I'm gonna make that Unexpected Party.
*Cough. Barty Crouch Jr. not even being introduced until the end of Goblet of Fire. Cough. Draco's dastardly deeds all being detailed only second hand at the end of Half-Blood Prince, Scooby-Doo style. Cough.
**And also, the Snape resolution. Cough. Because really? Seriously? Remusly? If you were madly in love with a kid's mother since you were both little kids, would you really have a big hate-on for her son just because she married someone you hated? The stuff with Snape and Dumbledore I buy and found kind of cool but the being in love with Lily all his life? Pure, badly mixed retcon. ARGH.