Saturday, February 23, 2008

Books Review: Harry Potter (I-VII)

Warning: Here There Be Spoilers!

So I managed to get myself to avoid reading the last Harry Potter book until about a month ago. That was important because, like G, I get a little obsessive about books I'm reading. Since I couldn't afford to blow a week perpetually distracted from work because I wasn't reading at that exact moment, I decided to hold off until the hype settled down. I also told myself I would read no more than one chapter a day. That worked. Sorta. A little. OK, I was really good except for the day I had jury duty and when I realized it was Friday night and I only had six chapters left.

Anyway I liked the series and since you missed G and I's (G tells me this is grammatically incorrect but I think it sounds right anyway, and she thinks this comment should come after the word discussions but she's not writing this post is she?) discussions of books 1-6 I'll throw those in here as well.

So lets start with the good stuff. Kids actually read these books. I figure in a day where pokemon passes as good television, as long as it isn't hate crime propaganda who cares what it is as long as kids read it. But this series goes beyond that. It really is about good and evil and it hits pretty close to home most of the time. It's about family and friends and love and hate and hits those nails right on the head.

It's well written and engaging. JK (cause we're on a first initial basis) manages (mostly) to avoid letting the Harry Potter universe become the story. The magic isn't the story, it's just there because you need it to tell the story. She also manages to make a story about a boy thrown into a magical world where there's a lunatic monster that keeps un-dying funny most of the time. The characters and places are endearing.

JK also had the guts to do what had to be done. In a story like this somebody has to die. Actually lots of people have to die. And they do. I liked most of them but you can't have a scary group of bad guys who just run around saying "Boo" a lot (like Scott does).

Of course JK forgot to consult with me on several of the books so there are some things that could have been done better. For example Books 4,5 and 7 should have been 1/2 to 2/3 the length they were. Book 6 could have lost a little weight too. I suspect she could have done better with more time. Writing very concisely takes time (which I clearly haven't put into this post).

I have to admit, I've read more fantasy that is probably healthy for me along the way and Voldemort is one creepy dude. I mean really, splitting your soul up to live forever? Besides wouldn't all your soul pieces die of old age eventually anyway? Whatever. Weird.

Also, the last book didn't really make a whole lot of sense to me. I still don't know what the deathly hallows had to do with anything. I was under the impression Harry could come back from the brink of death because his mother died for him and Voldemort used his blood to come back to life. What does the stupid invisibility cloak have to do with anything?

My biggest complaint revolves around Severus Snape. For all the time JK spent propping up the "Snape is a mean guy" straw man she just didn't spend enough time tearing it down. I was looking for him to be a good guy for at least a third of book 7. I also think he died a little too ignominiously for someone with his skill as a wizard. This guy was inventing magic while he was at school. The only other characters that did that are Dumbledore and Riddle. When Dumbledore runs afoul of Voldemort's protections on the Perevel ring who does he go to? Who's the best potions man we've ever seen? Severus. But somehow this guy dies from a snake bite to the neck? From a snake large enough it has to be a constrictor and therefore wouldn't bite people to kill them anyway? Sorry, I'm not buying it JK.

A book by book synopsis, M style:

Book 1: Harry's a wizard. He goes to a school for freaks wizards where he meets his two new best friends. They play games on brooms where people get hurt. Harry is good with a broom just like his dad. He looks like his dad but he has his mother's eyes. Voldemort is back and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. This Dumbledore guy seems to have things pretty well under control. No one believes Harry.

Book 2: People are dying and no one knows why. Harry hears voices. Harry can talk to snakes. Harry finds a weird diary that talks back to you. It turns out there's a weird room under Hogwarts. Voldemort made the diary to control people and he's really the one killing people. No one believes Harry.

Book 3: There are weird ghosty things that make you sad and steal you soul. Harry has a godfather who betrayed his parents is an awesome guy. Ron's rat is really an old guy who was a great guy betrayed Harry's parents. You can travel through time. No one believes Harry.

Book 4: There is a weird cup that shoots fire and student names out like some kind of twisted roman candle. Harry's name comes out which means he has to do a lot of dangerous stuff. Harry can see into Voldemort's head sometimes (weird). Voldemort uses Harry to come back to life (weird). No one believes Harry.

Book 5: Some weird old lady prophesied that Harry and Voldemort would never be at peace while they were both alive. Severus Snape was responsible for Voldemort finding out about Harry. Dumbeldore says Severus felt bad when Harry's parents died (this is actually important).

Book 6: Voldemort has split his soul up and captured pieces of it in objects so he won't really die till they find and destroy them (extra creepy). Severus Snape is not a greasy haired two bit hack, he is a greasy haired ridiculously talented wizard. Severus kills Dumbledore in a way that makes it ambiguous whether that is good or not.

Book 7: Harry et al camp in the woods a lot. No really, a lot. There's a rock, a wand, and an invisibility cloak and if you have all three you are master over death or something like that. These appear to be nearly irrelevant to the actual story. Harry finds out about Severus's past, that he was in love w/ Harry's mom, and Dumbledore told Severus to kill him. Harry lets Voldemort kill him, has a nice chat with dead Dumbeldore, and for reasons still not clear to me comes back to life. Voldemort dies dueling Harry and there is much rejoicing.

Bonus Material: M's alternate ending:
Severus is devastated by the loss of Lily. He doesn't need convincing from Dumbledore to join the fight against Voldemort because he has seen the bitterness that comes from being like Voldemort. He agrees to work on the inside to bring down Voldemort knowing that Harry is the only one who can do so. In book seven he shows up, kidnaps Harry and takes him back to spinners end. Harry of course is not powerful enough to do anything about it at first. Severus begins to teach his deep defense against the dark arts knowledge to Harry. Legellimancy (You might be thinking this is misspelled. And you may be right. Why don't you go look it up... freak) and Occlumency are part of the training and eventually Harry manages to get inside Severus's head enough to see what is really going on. Harry is forced to reconcile his bad feelings towards Severus. As reluctant partners they search out and destroy the remaining horcruxes. At the pivotal confrontation Severus dies protecting Harry which gives him the protection he needs to finish Voldemort off. This is artistically paralleled to Lilly's death and accentuates the fact that Severus is finishing the job Lilly started. Man, I should be an author.


Janssen said...

Great post! M, you are an excellent writer.

azufelt said...

So what you are saying is that books 5,6, & 7 people believe Harry?

I haven't read 7 yet, so I can't comment on that part of the review.

Nice work.

West Family said...

I hadno idea you had a blog! I am so glad I found it!