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Originally published July 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 21, 2007 at 7:30 AM

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Editor's Note: While the following review is spoiler-free, don't read on if you prefer to know nothing about the last "Harry Potter" novel before its release on Saturday.

Book review

"Potter" series end makes sense

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" J. K. Rowling Arthur A. Levine Books, 784 pp., $34.99 When you have read the last sentence on the...

The Baltimore Sun


When you have read the last sentence on the last page of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" — no, we're not going to reveal any plot twists — you will say, "Of course."

That's how inevitable the conclusion to the seven-book series seems. And it's a tribute to author J.K. Rowling's skill that, once you have finished "Hallows," no other ending seems possible.

The ending incorporates so many of the speculations, many opposing, that have been rampant on the Web for years.

Taken as a whole, the Harry Potter series is a classic bildungsroman, a coming-of-age tale about the title character. In each of the six previous books, Harry has learned one important valuable life lesson — about the importance of choosing well, about the importance of learning to trust others, about the importance of recognizing the humanity in enemies.

Book 7, which goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, is about coming to terms with death. (I read the book in advance.) As she attempts to grapple with the inevitable, Rowling evokes everything from learning to accept and even embrace that eventuality, to Christian notions of resurrection and redemption.

At the start of this final book, Harry and his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, set out to complete the task they set for themselves at the end of the sixth book: to find and destroy the remaining magical objects, called "horcruxes," that contain the soul of Lord Voldemort, who is seeking world domination.

But the trio soon learns of another trio of magical objects that are equally mysterious — the "deathly hallows" of the title: a sword, a ring and a cloak, said to have the ability to defeat death.

Through it all, the friends struggle to evade the determined efforts of the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters to capture them.

Although it makes for engrossing reading, this book lacks much of the charm and humor that distinguished Rowling's earliest books. Even the writing is more prosaic.

But how could it be otherwise?

In her earlier books, Rowling was busy building a world. Her characters were still children, and much of the enjoyment of the books came from watching them struggle to master powers they did not fully possess. So, for instance, a boy or girl mounted a flying broomstick — and it promptly bucked the child off.

Following the travails of the young witches and wizards at Hogwarts as they learned to swoop through the air, defeat dragons and cast spells wasn't unlike watching real-life children learn to walk or read — activities that, if you think about it, are no less magical, even if we've come to take them for granted.

But by this final book, Harry, Hermione and Ron are grown. They have as many skills as they ever will have. Rowling no longer has to create a magical world, with portraits that travel from picture frame to picture frame, or in which weeding a garden means clearing it of gnomes. Instead, her characters fully occupy that world. It has fewer surprises for them — and by extension, for us.

If there's a theme that runs through all seven books, it's the saving grace of a parent's love — in particular, of motherly love. It's hard not to imagine that in writing this book, Rowling is drawing on her experiences, both of her mother's premature death and of the author's love for her children.

That theme is repeated again and again in "Deathly Hallows." It's examined not only in Harry's relationship with his mother, but in Luna Lovegood's bond with her father, and even the nasty Draco Malfoy's connection with his malevolent mother, Narcissa. So strong is that bond that it can redeem even the most seemingly evil characters.

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