I’ve finally finished reading the Harry Potter Saga – finishing a full week before the last movie was released! I’d lost interest after reading book five, and I’m not entirely sure why. Order of the Phoenix was great and I wanted to leap into book six… but then I didn’t. And I didn’t. And time passed, and I still didn’t.
Finally, I saw a trailer for this most recent movie. And that was it: I was awed. Time to finish the books.
(I have an anal tendency to never see a movie if I know it’s based on a specific book until after I’ve read the original.)
So, I raced through books six and seven in the matter of a week. Yes, I know, I’m terrible for not finishing them in a mere forty-eight hours or whatever your reading speed was for Rowling’s Epic. Please forgive me. Reading a novel in the course of a week, particularly ones as lengthy as those, is nothing short of miraculous for me.
And I have to say: overall I’m pleased. I enjoyed the ending, and Rowling did her level best to tie up loose ends. Harry got his happy ending, Hogwart’s survived to teach another day, and through appropriate hardships, the good guys triumphed.
Spoilers follow. Go read the book if you haven’t, and then come back. No, watching the movie does not count. Watching the movie never counts. It’s just good fun, that’s all.
Throughout the previous six volumes, Rowling amped up the conflict between Draco and Harry. At the end of the Halfblood Prince, we get a wonderful confrontation as the youngest Malfoy attempts to kill Dumbledore. (How odd that Microsoft recognizes Dumbledore as a word!)
That confrontation lays amazing groundwork. Albus calmly tells Draco that he is no murderer. All this, after Harry has attempted to catch his foil in evil antics for hundreds of pages! We see an amazing amping up of conflict: Draco does not want to kill. Perhaps he is a Death Eater; perhaps he is forced to be so because of his parents’ position. I don’t think Draco’s position is ever fully revealed.
And that is the first part of Rowling’s failure in my book. Where do Draco’s loyalties truly lie? Do we ever find out?
We have a chapter near the end of the Deathly Hallows that, in my opinion, breaks all the forward momentum of the Battle of Hogwarts, and ruins it by showing us that Snape isn’t that bad after all. I will fully grant that the chapter, taken by itself, makes for great drama. The place for it is not in the middle of a battle! Did we really need all those scenes at that point in time?
Rowling devotes an entire chapter to exonerating Snape. Good. We all knew he was a good guy, anyway. Anything else would have been far too predictable. But what about Malfoy? Where does Draco land?
Rowling set up a marvelous confrontation. How does Harry react to the boy who failed to kill Dumbledore? After years of brewing conflict, will the two finally explode at each other while a greater battle rages, or will they set aside their differences as Malfoy finally realizes that Voldemort must be confronted?
Oh, never mind. Malfoy hardly appears in Deathly Hallows. He has a fun brief action scene in the Room of Requirement, chasing down a horcrux, but after that… yeah, pretty sure a few throwaway sentences in the epilogue.
I wish that Rowling had used Malfoy after the action scene in the Room of Requirement. Have him suddenly turn and join with Harry as a grudging ally. How does Harry react? Must he struggle with emotions that push him to shoot Draco in the back? Do the Malfoys then reject Draco as their son or embrace him all the more?
If Rowling had wanted to amp the epic-ness of the saga (not that it was needed!), she could have Harry ask Draco to give the killing shot, destroying the last Horcrux. Not entirely sure it would have worked in that system of magic, but it would have added some nice symmetry: Snape serving Dumbledore by killing him, while Draco serves Harry (and spites Voldemort) by killing him.
Either that, or a pre-Voldemort-Harry fight between Harry and Draco. It was needed after all the build-up. I think it would have been less dramatic than a team-up, but still far more satisfying than what we got:
A scene where Goyle (if memory serves) releases some fire, causing Harry to save Draco AGAIN. Oh, and those life-saving moments never build to anything. Just… nothing.
Then again, maybe I’m underestimating Rowling. Maybe this is actually simply set-up for a new set of novels focusing on Draco and Potter facing off later in life.
I really don’t think that’s going to happen, though.
What I’m getting at: this is a specific example of an author failing to use the tension that had built deliciously over the course of hundreds – thousands? – of pages. Authors of the world, use the tension you’ve created. Can you save it for later? Sure, but only if there’s a “later” in which to use it! Rowling couldn’t stuff more into Deathly Hallows – meaning, in my opinion, something should have been removed to allow this last, greatest confrontation between Harry and Draco.
Maybe remove some camping scenes. I could have lived with that.