“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling (Book 7)

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I know many fans find Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows disappointing. In one sense, I understand the feeling. The book differs drastically from its predecessors in both structure and tone. This is not simply “year seven” at boarding school. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have left Hogwarts to embark upon a more traditional epic fantasy quest to find magical artifacts.

Although Deathly Hallows probably could never have satisfied the fevered expectations of fans in 2007, the book does suffer from introducing too much plot too late in the series. Almost everything the heroes needed to do in order to defeat Voldemort they learn and accomplish in this book. It makes the book and the series as a whole feel unbalanced.

Continue reading ““Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling (Book 7)”

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“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling (Book 6)

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince should have been called Harry Potter and You-Know-Who because the primary plot gives Harry – and the readers – a glimpse into Voldemort’s backstory. Dumbledore schedules private lessons in which he uses the Pensieve to show Harry memories from key moments in Voldemort’s life.

Up to this point, the Harry Potter series had primarily presented Voldemort as an ominous threat. Other wizards so fear him that they dare not speak his name. For the first time, Half-Blood Prince shows Voldemort as an actual character. However, this doesn’t necessarily humanize him. On the contrary, it demonstrates a different facet of Voldemort’s inhumane evil.  Continue reading ““Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling (Book 6)”

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling (Book 5)

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In some ways, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix marks the true beginning of Harry’s maturation as a character and as a person. As I noted in my review of Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore misrepresented the nature of Harry’s character arc by focusing on moral choices. Even in this book, Harry is never confronted with a choice between good and evil, much less to join Voldemort’s Death Eaters.

Order of the Phoenix does three crucial things for Harry’s character. First, the book forces him to confront his emotions. Second, it challenges his preconceptions about friendship. Finally, it forces him to confront death.

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“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling (Book 4)

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I’ve always liked the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, if largely for the sheer spectacle of the Triwizard Tournament. Unlike its predecessors, the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is very different from the book – necessitated in part because the book is almost twice the length of Prisoner of Azkaban.

Goblet of Fire contains an entire subplot about House-elf rights not even referenced in the films. It’s an interesting social commentary and adds another layer of moral complexity to the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, the characters’ responses to the House-elves plight puzzles me, to say the least.

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“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling (Book 3)

Harry_Potter_and_the_Prisoner_of_Azkaban_(US_cover)In my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I suggested that the structure of the Harry Potter series mirrors the process of children maturing into adulthood. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban continues the process by introducing layers of complexity and shades of grey. The book challenges Harry’s – and readers’ – preconceptions about Harry’s world.

In the previous Harry Potter books, adults were at best distant authority figures, like Dumbledore, and at worst arbitrary bullies, like Vernon Dursley. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets began to demystify adult authority figures by deconstructing the celebrity Gilderoy Lockhart and proving Hagrid’s innocence. Prisoner of Azkaban allows Harry to develop meaningful relationships with adult characters and to see them as friends.  Continue reading ““Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling (Book 3)”