Published in The Toronto Sun, Sun Media publications, July 2007.
This story is not for the faint of heart.
Nor is it for the weak of mind, or those who don’t want to be sullied by spoilers.
Enter at your own risk. Seriously.
There. You’ve been sufficiently warned.
Deaths come fast and furious in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final instalment of J.K. Rowling’s epic series about the most famous boy wizard in literary history.
The pace is dizzying, with white-knuckle duels being fought almost every other chapter.
The book starts unexpectedly, with Lord Voldemort in all his evil glory. Rowling’s pen is merciless, killing off a character in the first chapter, setting the tone for the rest of the novel: dark, violent and bone-chilling.
We are in the thick of the war against the Dark Lord, Voldemort. When last we left Harry Potter, he was commissioned to find Horcruxes, objects or vessels that contained a part of Voldemort’s splintered soul.
But this quest takes second fiddle to a new and intriguing mission, when Harry learns of the deathly hallows — three objects which, if united, make the possessor the master of death. Rooted in an old fable, The Tale of the Three Brothers, the story is dismissed as myth at first. But soon it is realized how inextricably linked it is in the battle against evil.
In addition to finding the Horcruxes, Harry and company — best friends Ron and Hermione — take on the added burden of finding an Elder Wand and The Resurrection Stone and keeping them at bay from Voldemort. They also learn the significance of the Invisibility Cloak, the third hallow that has helped get Potter out of countless scrapes, and Potter’s own rightful connection to it.
The missions are dangerous and, as always, require intrepid thinking to solve riddles such as “I open at the close.”
The effect of one of the Horcruxes on the wearer is curiously reminiscent of the ring in The Lord of the Rings — a bit disappointing, considering how blatant the parallel. Like the bearer of the ring, one of the Horcruxes casts an ugly spell on the carrier, amplifying doubts and fears.
The mini tasks are also Indiana Jones-like, in that they require deft problem-solving skills and an eagle eye, with disastrous consequences should they fail.
Early on, the Voldemort and his supporters (called Death Eaters) have taken over the Ministry of Magic and the Daily Prophet newspaper. New species such as goblins and giants are drawn into battle as well.
Magical objects such as Polyjuice Potion, the Invisibility Cloak and Fred and George Weasley’s bag of tricks play pivotal — and ingenious — roles in helping the trio of heroes escape by the skin of their fear-chattering teeth.
Characters who seemed secondary in importance in previous books re-emerge in this last tome with surprising significance. The bar man at Hog’s Head, for instance, turns out to be Dumbledore’s brother, and a reluctant saviour for many at Hogwart’s including, of course, Harry.
We finally understand Snape’s attitude and behaviour toward Harry with a mixed bag of sympathy.
Readers also learn surprising insights not only into Dumbledore the wizard, but also the man. He was not invincible, nor infallible to temptation, and this makes him more human than perhaps Harry and we, the readers, made him out to be.
Still, even in death Dumbledore is able to dole out wisdom at its finest, advising Harry, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.”
The fighting and mounting losses — some of which are unfortunately quite close to home — take its toll on Harry. Quarrels threaten to divide friends, and sorrow threatens to weaken fighting spirits. But when Hogwarts is under siege, students such as Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood mobilize with admirable courage.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows takes quite a few detours, which slackens the plot line and buries the main mission.
In the end, the series’ subplots are all tied neatly in a bow — providing a love-will-conquer-all conclusion that takes a few blows along the way.
In true Rowling style, it leaves the reader breathless. And dismayed that there will be no more.
Spoilers for the final Harry Potter
What fate befalls Harry Potter and the other major characters in the seventh and final Harry Potter book?
Brace yourself, for here they are -- all the long-awaited answers to what happens by the end of the Harry Potter saga.
Here's the final death count, and it's not going to be pretty -- so this is your last chance to pull this page away from the mirror.
Here we go:
* In the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Lord Voldemort cavalierly kills off Charity Burbage, Hogwart's Muggle Studies teacher.
* Harry's beloved owl Hedwig dies while Harry tries to make his escape from the Dursleys'. Mad-Eye Moody also falls during this same fight.
* Ministry of Magic Minister Scrimgeour is pronounced dead at Bill and Fleur's wedding. The Ministry has fallen.
* Wormtail dies while showing Harry a bit of mercy.
* Dobby, the ever loyal house-elf dies while trying to save Potter.
* Fred Weasley dies.
* Lord Voldemort kills Severus Snape who, as it turns out, was always trying to protect Potter and was on the side of good. Snape was in love with Potter's mother, Lily.
* Lord Voldemort kills Harry, BUT Harry is resurrected from the dead and finishes off the Dark Lord in a memorable battle of wizards good and bad at Hogwarts. Tonks and Lupin have died in the battle.
* In the book's epilogue, we discover that 19 years later Harry and Ginny have three children, named James, Albus and Lily; that Ron and Hermione have married and have two kids, Rose and Hugo. The children go off to Hogwarts together.
* The last word in the book is not 'scar' as predicted. Rather, it's "well." That is, the last paragraph reads, "The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well."