2007 Bloomsbury Press
spoiler information carried in this book review. Harry is in hiding, initially at his Muggle home with the Dursleys, his repulsive Muggle foster family, though Harry persuades them to go off into hiding. He is surprised as they go to find that their son has actually begun to like him after Harry saved his life during a Dementor attack in the previous book. Now Harry’s friends, knowing evil Voldermort and his Death-eaters are closing in to get Harry. The allies launch desperate escape attempt, using Polyjice potions to make themselves look like Harry, to escape to a new safe-house (that of the Weasleys). Voldermort seems to find Harry too easily, and some characters perish, including Hedvig the owl and Mad-Eye Moody. This convinces Harry and other attacks that there could be a traitor among his friends, but Voldermort has actually jinxed his own name to be able to magically home in on any who dare to utter it. He knows that only his fiercest opponents are daring to do so anyway. Harry, Hermione Grainger, and Ron Weasley travel around Britain by Apparation (jaunting) and use a luxury tent to camp out in the woods as they track down a series of Horcruxes – (items in which Voldermort has secreted sections of his soul for safe keeping). This is the quest bestowed on them by Dumbledore before his death. However, Harry becomes increasingly aware of a conflicting quest – that of the Deathly Hallows – these are three powerful wizarding artefacts – a cloak of invisibility – one Harry already has used through the whole series, a wand of extreme wizarding power, and a stone capable of resurrecting the dead. Harry also finds his reverence for Dumbledore shaken by a series of shocking propaganda claims by Voldermort’s press, through Paparazzi sensation-seeker Rita Skeeter. Harry senses that some of her scandals are true – Dumbledore seems to have caused his family considerable grief and many who he has helped, including Harry, have ended up worse off than they might have been had he left them alone. Harry and his friends learn that Snape, (Dumbledore’s apparent killer) is in charge of the Hogworts School, and that the Death-eaters are rounding up all known mud-bloods (wizards with Muggle-blood) in their veins. The heroes get insights into a resistance battle waging defiantly against an insidious fascist regime – the parallels with resistance to Hitler in WW2 are startling. Harry gets the Horcruxes, one by one, which puts him in regular peril He is captured by the Malloys, and rescued by Dobby, but the house-elf dies in the attempt. Harry has a very touching scene where he buries the elf, digging the grave by hand, rather than the easy way (with magic). His friends see him struggling and help out, also without use of magic). There is a daring Mission Impossible spoof attack on the Gringotts Bank (the MI team never faced dragons and treasure jinxed to turn into molten lava).
Only after this does Harry head for Hogworts. This is unprecedented in the books, which have generally involved Harry going to the wizard-witch school and spreading the action over the academic year. Harry warns the school that Voldermort is coming to attack it, resulting in a stunning siege that is genuinely exciting reading, veering from the humour of Hagrid being thrown in through a window by a giant, to Harry seeing the spiders climbing up the walls. The school, now run mostly by McGonagall, evacuate the younger students, while older ones stay to fight, and bring their parents in to join the fray too. Snape, the official headmaster, flees. Harry finds and destroys a horcrux hidden in the school, and sets off to confront Voldermort and his snake (itself a horcrux). Harry is shocked to see Voldermort’s snake kill Snape, but as Snape dies he gives Harry a means to see the truth about him in the pensieve – (Dumbledore’s magical memory preserver). Harry is taken on a Scrooge like vision of the past. Snape loved Lily, Harry’s Mum, and swore to protect both her and Harry. He also made an uneasy euthanasia pact with the already dying Dumbledore, to kill him as an act of mercy. He had done this to convince Voldermort of his loyalty and serve as a double agent. Harry now knows that the most despised of his teachers was really on his side, and now he goes to take on Voldermort personally, suspecting, in keeping with a prophesy, that he will die himself too. In fact, due to a complex series of wand switches, and Harry having absorbed part pat of Voldermort’s soul (in effect becoming a surrogate horcrux himself), Harry survives the final conflict that seems to kill Voldermort once and for all. After a mixture of celebration and mourning, the story concludes with events 19 years later when the heroes (and possibly the villains in the form of the Malloy family) send their own children off to Hogworts. We are not told what Harry is now doing for a living. It is a lovely conclusion to a terrific, groundbreaking series of books. The larger books in the middle tended to be over-written and stretched, but the final one keeps a door-stop size but retains the pace and tension of the earlier work – a very fitting conclusion to a wonderful body of work.