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Classic review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

What better way to prepare for the movie than to read the book again?

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The books really stopped being for younger children sometime around "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," and I can't underscore that point strongly enough with "Deathly Hallows." (Parents, just read the opening chapter: It's chilling.)

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As he's matured, the challenges facing Harry have grown correspondingly more terrible. This time he's facing all-out war. The body count hits the double digits (including two of my favorite characters) and the Cruciatus curse is in heavy rotation.

In addition to their search for Voldemort's horcruxes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find clues that may help in the battle in fairy tales and from a distinctly nonmagical source: the New Testament.

It's the first time that I remember Rowling quoting directly from the Bible, but it's apt, since the central theme of her series can best be summed up by a verse in John: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

That's been true since Book 1, when Harry's mother, Lily, sacrificed her life to save her baby son, thereby giving him a powerful protection against the ultimate embodiment of evil. But Book 7 underlines this several times at various stages in the novel and then adds an exclamation point.

Rowling's worldview has always seemed in tune with the moral outlook of British writers such as Charles Dickens and J.R.R. Tolkien, and the finale confirms her place in that tradition.

Of course, Book 7 is also ready for its Hollywood close-up – with set pieces so cinematic, you almost don't need a camera. For folks craving action, there's plenty of it, and for fans hankering after closure, you'll get that, too.

That's not to say there aren't a few hiccups, such as a falling-out Harry has with one friend that feels manufactured. Romantic moments still aren't Rowling's strong suit and some exposition-heavy passages loom like boulders. More important, I feel as if she gives too short shrift to Severus Snape, the series' most intriguing character. But there's nothing as egregious as in Book 5, when she altered her characterization of Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, in order to kill him off. (Frankly, I'm still a little peeved about that.)

The magic of imagination

Harry and Rowling rally their troops so successfully, it's almost painful to be stuck on the sidelines. As always, Rowling's greatest strength is the ability to whisk readers away to a fully imagined world. As Dumbledore once told the boy wizard, "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

For one last time, fans will be longing to grab a wand, hop on their broom, and join the fray.

Yvonne Zipp regularly reviews fiction for the Monitor.

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