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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by William P. Young


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final of the Harry Potter novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The book was released on 21 July 2007, ending the series that began in 1997 with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. This book chronicles the events directly following Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and leads to the long-awaited final confrontation between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury Publishing, in the United States by Scholastic, in Canada by Raincoast Books, and in Australia and New Zealand by Allen & Unwin. Released globally in ninety-three countries, Deathly Hallows broke sales records as the fastest-selling book ever. It sold 15 million copies in the first twenty-four hours following its release, including more than 11 million in the U.S. and U.K. alone. The previous record, nine million in its first day, had been held by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The novel has also been translated into numerous languages, including Ukrainian, Swedish, Polish and Hindi.

Several awards were given to the novel, including the 2008 Colorado Blue Spruce Book Award, and it was listed as a "Best Book for Young Adults" by the American Library Association. Reception to the book was generally positive, although one reviewer found the conclusion to be "hollow." A two part film based on the novel is planned with part one's release date in November 2010.

Synopsis

Plot introduction

Throughout the six previous novels in the Harry Potter series, the main character, Harry Potter, has struggled with the difficulties that come with growing up and the added challenge of being a famous wizard. When Harry was a baby, Voldemort, the most powerful evil wizard in living memory, killed Harry's parents but mysteriously vanished after trying to kill Harry. This results in Harry's immediate fame, and his being placed in the care of his muggle, or non-magical, relatives Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon.

Harry enters the wizarding world at the age of 11, enrolling in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He makes friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and is confronted by Lord Voldemort trying to regain power. After returning to the school after summer break, several attacks on students take place at Hogwarts after the legendary "Chamber of Secrets" is opened. Harry ends the attacks by killing a basilisk and defeating another attempt by Lord Voldemort to return to full strength. The following year, Harry learns that he has been targeted by escaped murderer Sirius Black. Despite stringent security measures at Hogwarts, Harry is confronted by Black at the end of his third year of schooling and Harry learns that Black was framed and is actually Harry's godfather. Harry's fourth year of school sees him entered in a dangerous magical competition called the Triwizard tournament. At the conclusion of the tournament, Harry witnesses the return of Lord Voldemort to full strength. When the next school year begins, the Ministry of Magic appoints Dolores Umbridge as the new High Inquisitor of Hogwarts. After forming an underground student group in opposition to Umbridge, Harry and several of his friends face off against Voldemort's Death Eaters, or followers, and narrowly defeat them. In Harry's sixth year of school, he learns that Voldemort has been using horcruxes to become immortal. Horcruxes are fragments of the soul that are placed within an object so that when the body dies, a part of the soul remains and the person can come back to life. When returning from a mission to discover a horcrux, Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of the school and Harry's mentor, is killed by Snape, a teacher at the school with whom Harry is consistently at odds with and who Harry has suspected of being a Death Eater (a follower of Voldermort). At the conclusion of the book, Harry pledges not to return to school the following year and to search for horcruxes instead.

Plot summary

Following Dumbledore's death, Voldemort has completed his ascension to power and gains control of the Ministry of Magic. Harry, Ron, and Hermione drop out of school so that they can find and destroy Voldemort's remaining three horcruxes. They are forced to isolate themselves to ensure the safety of their family and friends. All that they know about the horcruxes are that two are likely objects that belonged to the Hogwarts founders Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff, and that the third is Voldemort's snake familiar. The locations of the two founders' objects are unknown, and the snake is presumed to be with Voldemort himself. As they search for the horcruxes, the trio learn details about Dumbledore's past, as well as Snape's true motives.

The trio recovers the first of Voldemort's horcruxes, a locket, by infiltrating the Ministry of Magic. They recover the Sword of Godric Gryffindor; it is one of a few objects that can be used to destroy horcruxes, and they use it destroy the locket. In their travels the trio come across a strange symbol, which an eccentric wizard named Xenophilius Lovegood tells them represents the mythical Deathly Hallows. The Hallows are revealed to be three sacred objects: the Resurrection Stone, a stone with the power to bring others back to life; the Elder Wand, an unbeatable wand; and an infallible Invisibility Cloak. Harry learns that Voldemort is after the Elder Wand, but the trio decides that discovering Voldemort's horcruxes is more important than procuring the wand for themselves. They break into a vault at the wizarding bank Gringotts to recover another horcrux, the cup of Helga Hufflepuff. Harry learns that another horcrux is hidden in Hogwarts, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione enter the school. They find the horcrux, the Diadem of Ravenclaw, and destroy both.

The book culminates in the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, in conjunction with students and members of the wizarding world opposed to the rise of Voldemort, defend Hogwarts from Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and various magical creatures. Several major characters are killed in the first wave of the battle. In an effort to save the survivors, Harry surrenders himself to Voldemort, who attempts to kill Harry. The battle resumes, and with the last horcrux destroyed, Harry is able to defeat Voldemort. An epilogue describes the lives of the surviving characters and implies that peace has returned to the wizarding world.

Background

Choice of title

Shortly before releasing the title, J. K. Rowling announced that she had considered three titles for the book. The final title, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released to the public on 21 December 2006 via a special Christmas-themed hangman puzzle on Rowling's website, confirmed shortly afterwards by the book's publishers. Asked during a live chat as to the other titles she had been considering, Rowling mentioned Harry Potter and the Elder Wand and Harry Potter and the Peverell Quest.

Rowling on finishing the book

Rowling completed the book while staying at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh in January 2007, and left a signed statement on a marble bust of Hermes in her room which read: "J. K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11 January 2007". In a statement on her website, she said, "I've never felt such a mixture of extreme emotions in my life, never dreamed I could feel simultaneously heartbroken and euphoric." She compared her mixed feelings to those expressed by Charles Dickens in the preface of the 1850 edition of David Copperfield, "a two-years' imaginative task." "To which," she added, "I can only sigh, try seventeen years, Charles..." She ended her message, "Deathly Hallows is my favourite, and that is the most wonderful way to finish the series."

When asked before publication about the forthcoming book, Rowling stated that she could not change the ending even if she wanted. "These books have been plotted for such a long time, and for six books now, that they're all leading a certain direction. So, I really can't." She also commented that the final volume related closely to the previous book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, "almost as though they are two halves of the same novel." She has said that the last chapter of the book was written "in something like 1990", as part of her earliest work on the series.

Spoiler embargo

Rowling made a public request that anyone with information about the content of the last book should keep it to themselves, in order to avoid spoiling the experience for other readers. To this end, Bloomsbury invested GB£10 million in an attempt to keep the book's contents secure until the 21 July release date. Arthur Levine, U.S. editor of the Harry Potter series, denied distributing any copies of Deathly Hallows in advance for press review, but two U.S. papers published early reviews anyway. There was speculation that some shops would break the embargo and distribute copies of the book early, as the penalty imposed for previous instalments—that the distributor would not be supplied with any further copies of the series—would no longer be a deterrent.

Publication and reception

Critical response

The Baltimore Sun's critic, Mary Carole McCauley, praised the series as "a classic bildungsroman, or coming-of-age tale." She noted that "[book seven... lacks much of the charm and humor that distinguished the earlier novels. Even the writing is more prosaic", but then observed that given the book's darker subject matter, "how could it be otherwise?" Furthermore, reviewer Alice Fordham from The Times writes that "Rowling’s genius is not just her total realisation of a fantasy world, but the quieter skill of creating characters that bounce off the page, real and flawed and brave and lovable." Fordham concludes, "We have been a long way together, and neither Rowling nor Harry let us down in the end." New York Times writer Michiko Kakutani agrees, stating, "It is Ms. Rowling’s achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar adolescent — coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating — and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spider-Man and Luke Skywalker."

Time magazine's Lev Grossman named it one of the Top 10 Fiction Books of 2007, ranking it at #8, and praising Rowling for proving that books can still be a global mass medium. Opining that the book is "dense with Rowling's ruling themes: love and death", Grossman compared the novel to the earlier books in the series thus: "This isn't the most elegant of the Potter volumes, but it feels like an ending, the final iteration of Rowling's abiding thematic concern: the overwhelming importance of continuing to love in the face of death." Novelist Elizabeth Hand agreed that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows caps off the series, but also made the criticism that "...the spectacularly complex interplay of narrative and character often reads as though an entire trilogy's worth of summing-up has been crammed into one volume."

In contrast, Jenny Sawyer of the Christian Science Monitor says that while "There is much to love about the Harry Potter series, from its brilliantly realised magical world to its multilayered narrative," however, "A story is about someone who changes. And, puberty aside, Harry doesn't change much. As envisioned by Rowling, he walks the path of good so unwaveringly that his final victory over Voldemort feels, not just inevitable, but hollow." In the 12 August 2007 New York Times, Christopher Hitchens compared the series to World War Two-era English boarding school stories, and while he wrote that "Rowling has won imperishable renown" for the series as a whole, he also opined that her "repeated tactic of deus ex machina has a deplorable effect on both the plot and the dialogue", that the mid-book camping chapters are "abysmally long" and that Voldemort "becomes more tiresome than an Ian Fleming villain."

Stephen King criticised the reactions of some reviewers to the books, including McCauley, for jumping too quickly to surface conclusions of the work. He felt this was inevitable, because of the extreme secrecy before launch which did not allow reviewers time to read and consider the book, but meant that many early reviews lacked depth. Rather than finding the writing style disappointing, he felt it had matured and improved. He acknowledged that the subject matter of the books had become more adult, and that Rowling had clearly been writing with the adult audience firmly in mind since the middle of the series. He compared the works in this respect to Huckleberry Finn and Alice in Wonderland which achieved success and have become established classics, in part by appealing to the adult audience as well as children.

Sales

Sales for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were record setting. The initial U.S. print run for Deathly Hallows was 12 million copies, and more than a million were pre-ordered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. On 12 April 2007, Barnes & Noble declared that Deathly Hallows had broken its pre-order record, with more than 500,000 copies pre-ordered through its site. On opening day, a record 8.3 million copies were sold in the United States, and 2.65 million copies in the United Kingdom. At WH Smith, sales reportedly reached a rate of 15 books sold per second. By June of 2008, nearly a year after it was published, worldwide sales were reportedly around 44 million.

Awards and honours

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has won several awards. In 2007, the book was named one New York Times 100 Notable Books, and one of its Notable Children's Books. Publishers Weekly also listed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows among their Best Books of 2007. In 2008, the American Library Association named the novel one of its Best Books for Young Adults, and also listed it as a Notable Children's Book. Furthermore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows received the 2008 Colorado Blue Spruce Book Award.

Rowling's commentary and supplement

In an interview, online chat, the Wizard of the Month section of her website, and during her 2007 U.S. Open Book Tour, Rowling revealed additional character information that she chose not to include in the book. The first bits of information were about the trio and their families, starting with Harry.

She said that Harry became an Auror for the Ministry of Magic, and was later appointed head of the department. She also said that Ginny Weasley, Harry's love interest in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, played for the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team for a time, then left to establish a family with Harry, and later became the lead Quidditch correspondent for the Daily Prophet. Ron Weasley worked at George's store for a time, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, and then joined Harry as an Auror. Hermione found her parents in Australia, and removed the memory modification charm she had put on them for safety. Initially, she worked for the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, greatly improving life for house elves. She later moved to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and assisted in eradicating oppressive, pro-pureblood laws. She was also the only member of the trio to go back and complete her seventh year at Hogwarts. Rowling then went on to reveal that "Dumbledore is gay, actually". Next, Rowling revealed the fate of Voldemort. After his death, he was forced to exist in the stunted form Harry witnessed in the King's Cross limbo, as his crimes were too severe for him to become a ghost.

Rowling also revealed further transformations in the wider wizarding world as follows. Kingsley Shacklebolt, a minor character introduced in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, became the permanent Minister of Magic, with Percy Weasley, Ron's brother, working under him as a high official. Among the reforms introduced by Shacklebolt, Azkaban, the wizarding prison, no longer used Dementors. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were also instrumental in reforming the Ministry. Harry also is said to come to the Defence Against the Dark Arts class at Hogwarts to lecture several times a year. Lastly, Rowling says that a portrait of Snape, who briefly served as Hogwarts Headmaster, had not appeared in the headmaster's office, as he had abandoned his post. Harry then ensures the addition of Snape's portrait, and publicly reveals Snape's true allegiance.

Film adaptations

A two-part film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is planned, with David Yates directing both parts. Part I is slated for release on 19 November 2010, and Part II on 15 July 2011. The script was delayed as Steve Kloves was not able to start working on it until the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike had ended. Filming began in February 2009 and will last for a year. John Williams, who composed the scores to the first three films, has expressed interest in returning to score the films.

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