Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I don’t usually review non-design books here–unless of course, I can somehow relate them to design. But I won’t do that to Book 7 of the Harry Potter series. And No Spoilers for those who are still reading or will wait to see the movies.

I finished the book in about 13 hours of solid reading–about 20 hours after I bought it. I seldom have such a pop-culture moment–probably not since the Star Wars Episode I (ugh) premiere or the Survivor Season 1 finale have I gotten so wound up about an event like this. It’s doubly odd since I was a late-comer to the Harry Potter train. It was really my wife and kid reading them over the last year that dragged me kicking and screaming into the books and movies. About two years ago, I had even written part of a blog post called “Put down your Harry Potter and pick up His Dark Materials instead” but I never published it. Instead, I slowly got sucked in, and here we are.

One of the marks of a good author is this: can they make you care about inanimate objects in their books? There is a horrible scene in one of the later Patrick O’Brien books when the ship’s crew has to get rid of these two particular brass cannons, tossing them overboard, that had been a part of the series for years/books. It was devastating to me. I had many of the same type of moments while reading the last Harry Potter book. J.K. Rowling is no stylist like O’Brien, but she is just as good of a storyteller, if not better.

It’s the craft behind the books that is so good, and it is particularly obvious in Deathly Hallows, as the pieces of previous books, some stretching back to the first books of the series, fit together like some massive table-sized puzzle, made up of smaller puzzled. Reading Deathly Hallows, I found myself saying, “Oh, that’s why that happened” or “that’s what was going on there” more than once. It’s really a masterful bit of plotting, and it is something the likes of which I have never seen before, except perhaps in massive comic book arcs like the Dark Phoenix Saga of my youth. One only needs to compare the heavy-handed plotting of, say, the Star Wars movies or even (blasphemy!) The Lord of the Rings, to see the achievement here.

So goodbye, Harry. I can’t wait to read you again, some 20 or 30 years from now, with my grandchildren. Or perhaps, even just by myself.

2 thoughts on “Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

  1. I just finished Book 7 this afternoon, whew! I totally agree–while I’m several hours later still absorbing the fullness of the overall impact– the craft of the storytelling in this installment of the Harry Potter saga is mesmerizing, profound, and well shaped… can you imagine creating an object model diagram or concept map of all the interweaved storylines and resolutions?! Try it! 🙂 and that’s just one book! to have multi-book arcing storylines is truly amazing.
    Nothing comes close, imho, except Tolkien’s Rings naturally, or the Dune saga (books 1 – 6). I never read Asimov’s Foundation series or all of the Ender books, but now i’m awfully tempted to if somehow to fill the void for massively arcing mythologies…

  2. Oops, meant to add that for IxD folks, the big takeaway i think from the Potter books is that JK Rowling, in pulling off the 7-book plot coherence, had to contrive and manipulate a tight, logical, internally consistent rule system and world (the wands, horcruxes, souls, bloodlines, etc.) much like IxD’s deciding coherent, logical behaviors for products 🙂

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