After my negative review of Inheritance, I wanted to revisit the Harry Potter series to do a bit of comparison. I really don’t hate the Eragon series, but there are so many really good fantasy series out there that Eragon was just disappointing, and I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows recently after catching the film(s) again on HBO. I started off re-reading only the chapter containing Snape’s memories just to compare it with the movie, but I wasn’t satisfied and started the whole book over. I wasn’t sure if I would do a review here, but then I felt sort of badly about the whole Eragon thing and thought this might be a good companion piece to that review.
To begin, I thought I’d give a little of my personal history with this series. My husband and I read the first Harry Potter book as an assignment for a kiddie lit. class way back when it was still fairly new on the market. To save money, we bought one copy and took turns reading it aloud to each other. We enjoyed it so much that it began a now long-running tradition of reading to each other every night and on long car trips. We read every one of the Potter books that way, and since then we’ve done the same with other series of books, like the Bartimaeus, Eragon, and even Lisbeth Salander series. Harry Potter was the only one, though, for which we had all the books on order and read them as soon as they were published, so I was sort of predisposed to either fully enjoy or to be terribly disappointed with the last novel in the series. Luckily, I found the book to completely satisfying.
Rather than trying to write a synopsis of a book that just about everyone knows, I’ll focus on some of the things that really worked in this novel/series. First, the characters are very likable and very believable. Even though Harry’s a hero, he has some significant flaws, as do his friends. Their relationships with each other also feel real. Ron struggles throughout the whole series with his jealousy of Harry and his conflicting loyalties to Harry’s cause and to his family. This novel also includes an incredibly touching scene with Hermione and her parents, who have been neglected in the other books. We also get an explanation (finally) of Severus Snape, the character I felt was most unbelievable in the other novels. I think the Snape story alone made this book one of my all-time favorites. There are also moments of fun in this book despite its very serious nature. For example, there are some funny scenes in the beginning of the novel when Harry is in disguise for Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and there are quirky little moments throughout the novel. Even though Harry’s story arc follows that of a fairly traditional hero tale, Rowling uses her creativity to build the suspense and even to surprise the reader at times. I know people have some problems with the epilogue at the end of the novel, but it didn’t really bother me.
At the risk of sounding hokey, I can say that the Harry Potter series changed my life. What started as a necessity, reading a book aloud to my husband for a class, became an integral part of our relationship. I don’t know that any other series of books would have inspired us in this way. When we recently installed floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our basement, we set aside a special spot for the Harry Potters (next to the Bartimaeus series, a close second favorite). I’ve now re-read all the books at least once, and I will pull these off the shelves and re-read them again and again. Always.