[Seriously. This is the bit where we talk explicitly about the ending. I’m going to talk about it right now. Stop reading if you haven’t already finished Deathly Hallows.]
I had a really great, trenchant, coherent post about the end of Deathly Hallows, which I then left in my apartment, along with my copy of Deathly Hallows itself. So I’m just going to skim off some general notes, from memory, off the top of my head, as a kind of appendix to my main review. Here they are:
— if there’s one loose end I thought JKR was going to work into Deathly Hallows, it was the doorway in the basement of the Ministry, the one where Sirius died. I just figured we’d learn something more about it: why it was there, where it led, who made it. But in a way I’m glad she left it mysterious, too. Rowling is a habitual overexplainer of things, so I can live with some ambiguity around the edges.
— is it not hard cheese on Griphook — or whatever that goblin’s name was — that the Sorting Hat nicks Gryffindor’s sword at the end? Charlie really put some sweat into building up what a major deal it is when you screw a goblin on a deal. And then the Hat goes ahead and screws a goblin on a deal, and nothing happens? I don’t buy it. Sorty better watch its back. (Though how awesome is it when Neville beheads Nagini? Totally reminds me of when Eowyn beheads that Nazgul’s ride in Return of the King. How stoked is the actor who plays Neville right now? Answer: so stoked.)
— And I had it wrong: in my mental inventory of death-predictions, Neville was definitely on my list to bite it. In fact, I was pretty surprised at the way Rowling handled the many deaths of Deathly Hallows. Partly I’d been bracing myself for one of the Big Three biting it, and I was just incredibly relieved when they made it through — I guess she decided to pile up a lot of minor deaths instead of clipping one of the headliners. When Hedwig and Mad-Eye hit the skids right off the bat, and George got his ear sectumsempraed, I knew the bloodbath was on. But I found the many deaths of the last few chapters oddly underplayed. I mean, Tonks and Lupin died offstage! No death scene! Snape shuffles off pretty briskly, too. I suppose that’s the way it happens in real life. Maybe it’s because I’m a twin myself, but as it was the only one whose demise I fully felt the impact of was poor old Fred. It’s always doubly sad when a comic character turns tragic. (I should note that I was reading fast toward the end, and in an altered state — it was 7 in the morning — and it’s very very possible that when I reread Deathly Hallows the deaths will play differently. I found that to be the case with Dumbledore’s death in Half-Blood Prince.)
— Speaking of whom. I had hoped to see more of Snape in this final volume. He’s been my favorite character for a while now, and it’s always a pleasure to see him in his bad-ass double-agent capacity, as we did in the (authentically creepy) first chapter of Deathly Hallows. But he disappears from so much of the middle of the book, and I kind of wish he’d confessed his love for Lily directly to Harry at the end, instead of delivering it as a Pensievegram. I’ve always felt — and by now this is Rowling Reviewer’s Cliche #214 — that she relies on the Pensieve too much for handy exposition. Where’s Alan Rickman’s big death scene? Does JKR want to deny him his Oscar? (And I think it was Ron who charred Snape with that line about the shampoo. Nice one, Ron.)
— That fancy Elder Wand. Personally I woulda hung on to it, but I guess that’s why I’m not a boy wizard. One thing though: if Grindelwald was rockin’ the Deathstick, how did Dumbledore best him in a duel? What am I missing?
— That Epilogue. Sigh. It’s the only part of Deathly Hallows that I was really disappointed by — the only part that left me thinking, I can’t believe that’s it. I mean, we knew they would all couple off. We kinda figured they’d beget all kinds of offspring and name them after their dead friends (though it was quite charitable of Harry and Ginny to throw Severus a bone). Come on now! Is Harry an auror? Is Hermione Hogwarts’ youngest headmistress ever? Is Ron Accioing shopping carts at the local C-town and working on his magical GED? That’s all we get — the three amigos declining in suburban splendor? And what does that mean, Harry’s scar hasn’t hurt for 19 years? Of course it hasn’t! Right? Or? Now I’m full of doubts. After all the joking about it, Rowling really did kinda pull a Sopranos on us.
I realize this post comes off as kind of gripy. Which it isn’t intended to. With all pressure on her, and the bar as high as it was, Rowling stepped up and delivered a thoroughly satisfying finale, and that’s just a stunning achievement. I just don’t really want to stop talking about it, so I’m down to nitpicks. Got any more?