When comparing the Harry Potter Series in its entirety to other recent fantasy series for children, such as Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials seriesWhen comparing the Harry Potter Series in its entirety to other recent fantasy series for children, such as Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, the Harry Potter books fall short. The story told by J.K. Rowling is enchanting; the magical world she creates is marvelous and exciting. But at the same time, Rowling's imagined magical universe is like a carnival with lights and attractions that only turn on for one person: Harry Potter. From the first book, Harry, for whom the series is named, is all-important. As a stand-in for the reader, his introduction to magic is our introduction as well, but the more we learn about the world, the more it seems focused entirely on its main character, as if all it was doing was waiting for him to appear. For the first four or five books, the universe of the Harry Potter series—the giant, wonderful carnival—only seems to operate when Harry is there to experience or be affected by events. The Harry Potter universe is less like a complete world, and more like a wind-up toy. This deficiency makes Harry Potter less interesting than those series with worlds that one can imagine working and running on their own, even beyond the main character, such as Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials and Terry Pratchett's stories of Tiffany Aching.
Gladly, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (nee Philosopher's) Stone was J.K. Rowlings first novel, and Hogwarts and its associated magical countries were her first shared creation. As Rowling continued to write, her writing continuously improved. Like an almost perfect opposite to the belief that sequels are each exponentially worse than the book that came before, Rowling's Harry Potter books (minus her second offering, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) each got exponentially better.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the best of them all.
In Deathly Hallows, for the first time in the series, we get a glimpse of a world beyond Harry, with other well-developed characters—a world before Harry, and before Voldemort (whose life and works are so inextricably linked to Harry that, for his character, anything that came before is only introduction), that does not need Harry in order to operate. Though everything is eventually tied together, for the first time the reader has the impression that things in the Harry Potter world can happen WITHOUT Harry Potter—that before he appeared, other people did things beyond simply preparing for his arrival.
This is because of the magnificent story, finally told, of Dumbledore's origins and early experiences. The stories of the life and times of Albus Dumbledore are exceptional. Rowling's exploration of the Dumbledore character is thoughtful and supremely satisfying, and the reader is surprised and delighted (while Harry is confused and chagrined) to encounter a story that is not about him. Others have complained the the background story of Dumbledore and the Deathly Hallows is hardly foreshadowed in the other, Harry-centric books, that it "comes out of nowhere" in its relation to Harry. But this is the best thing about it! For once, Harry must learn about someone else, and become a part of something that does not begin and end with him. Other characters are also filled out, and their histories enriched beyond their simple involvement with the title character, and these are some of the best parts of the book and in fact the entire series.
In addition to all this, the book is a well-written and complete end to the story of Harry Potter and Voldemort that, once picked up, is difficult to put down. Loose ends are tied (though sometimes in ways fans will not be happy with). References made and stories relayed in the earlier books are made clearer. Foreshadowed events come to pass, and the truth about just about everything is finally revealed. Harry Potter grows up and comes into his own as an adult and a person, understanding and interacting with others in ways that were quite impossible for him as a young wizard. In the first five books, Harry guessed and assumed, and was almost always wrong about other people and their motivations. In the sixth book, Harry began to guess things right, and to understand the motivations of others. In Deathly Hallows Harry actively strives to understand the world around him, and to make the right decisions, and begins to become the kind of caring, thinking, slightly inscrutable wizard that his hero, Dumbledore, exemplifies. The evolution of Harry's character is the main reason we are all here, and this book does not disappoint in showing his growth and maturation.
Rowling has made so much money from the Harry Potter series, its related books, and its movie counterparts that, really, she never needs to work again. But I hope that she does—because, as she has shown with the Harry Potter books, her writing improves with practice....more