Right, here we go. I’m sure you’re all expecting this, but it’s time to rant about Harry Potter.
That was an awful, awful book. Easily the worst in the series, and it was hard to top Order of the Phoenix. Plotless, contrived, dull and sentimental, it was an absolute disappointment and deeply unsatisfying.
So after a pretentious and unnecessary quote from The Choephoroe, our story picks up where it left off in book 6 – Harry is dropping out of school like a real role model to go to search for bits of Voldemort’s soul, while Voldemort himself is taking over the world. Except, wait, he’s not taking over the world at all, or acting in a particularly threatening way at all. He’s supposedly infiltrated the wizarding government, but is remaining hidden away and spends most of the book floating around looking for a wand. By not being there, Voldemort is being ‘clever’, since, ‘the air of mystery is creating more terror than showing himself.’ This, incidentally, is absolute bollocks. The fact is that there’s no good reason for Voldemort not to appear as a tyrant figure, publicly announce that he’s going to execute everyone close to Harry if he does not give himself up, and kill him, but that is just swept under the carpet. Bad storytelling. Not to mention how time-turners, luck charms et all could affect everything immeasurably.Those're just minor quibbles, though. The major problem with this book is its immensely dull middle section, in which the series’ central trio meander around
Rowling is good at three things. Firstly, characterisation. But this book squanders her rich cast, giving us endless Trio and very, very little of anyone else. Characters like Cho and Tonks are totally shafted; even those who die (who are all pretty inconsequential – not that death really matters, or should be such a big issue, in a world where an afterlife is assured and it’s really easy to communicate with the deceased) do it with less significance than the unwanted old line of Transformers in the 80s animated movie. The trio don’t need any more developing, and grow tiresome. New characters of note are thin on the ground and uninteresting. Lupin gets about the most development of any minor character, and that’s in about two scenes. It’s palpable how much Rowling relies on her soap opera stories, in book 6 especially. Without them as a crutch, we see how weak her storytelling really is.
Back to the things Rowling’s good at. Second: humour. This is a dull and turgid book. I won’t call it ‘dark’, since it’s not like Rowling doesn’t try to inject humour – it’s just that, surprisingly, she fails. The only time I laughed was when Mrs Weasley said a Bad Word (in caps, too!) and I thought of the angry reaction of stuffy mothers.
Lastly, she’s good at nice juicy twists, albeit almost all of them being ‘The person you thought was good…IS BAD’, or vice versa. Same here…but almost all of us figured out that Snape wasn’t a bad guy just from reading book 6, so that one falls flat, and enough fan theories about Snape loving Lily have been circulated through fandom that that one was no surprise either. As for Dumbledore, the whole attack on journalists’ biographies takes one out of the Potter world to jarringly contemplate Rowling, and his string-pulling again relies too much on coincidence, unlikely reasoning and far too many made-up rules for magical items. And why oh why, When you have a bottomless bag, keep wearing a Horcrux that, like a ring of power, makes you belligerent and unlike yourself? The one thing in this novel I didn’t expect before I’d even begun to read it is that the creature on the cover with his hand growing out of Harry’s head was not a house elf but a goblin.
And while I thought it had improved in the last two books, Rowling’s writing style was at its worst here, too. Everything seems rushed and artless – because Voldemort’s nostrils are described as slits, his eyes can’t be, but then within a few paragraphs we hear Nagini has ‘slits for eyes’. We get awful platitudes like people leaning back from Voldemort lest they be ‘scorched by the ferocity of the gaze’. Details are flawed: the date on the Potters’ grave gives us a definite timelines, meaning her previous reference to a Playstation is anachronistic, though it was always fairly obvious she has no idea what a Playstation is. And then there’s the get cringe-inducing similes – at one point not only does Rowling compare the passing of a locket bearing the soul of Voldemort to a game of pass the parcel, even that bit of imagery gets messed up – you don’t pass the parcel only when the music stops!
The ending is a mess, the epilogue is tackier than Top Gun and there’s not even irony to save it. Crap book.