As I had intended, I stayed up all night Saturday night reading the final Harry Potter book.
Wow. I’m not going to spoil any plot stuff here, just want to comment on the overall quality of the book and some general, non-spoilery stuff (added–I do mention whether good or evil eventually wins later, so if you truly consider that a spoiler, read no further.) The dialogue was excellent as always, and the pacing was a bit better than the last installment. The resolution was handled particularly well, I thought.
Too often in a “good versus evil” tale, the writer spends 99% of the story setting up how invincible the villain is, and then spends 1% of the story letting the hero or heroine defeat the villain. And often, you feel cheated because it turns out that this villain’s mortal weakness is lemon juice, and the hero just happens to have a glass of sweet tea handy, and boom, one squirt and it’s over. I’m a huge fan of Anne Rice, but I agree with Chris that she spent far too much of Queen of the Damned setting up an invincible villain in Akasha, to then kill her off with an accident, essentially, and one that was disappointingly prosaic.
That is not the case with this book.
Yes, Rowling makes the stakes and the consequences of failure abundantly clear. Much of the book is set in a world where evil has already won and is doing what evil does openly and with very little resistence. It’s somewhat similar to Revenge of the Sith in that it points out how evil can take over governments and societies without so much as a cry of alarm being raised.
However, what I think Rowling’s real strength in this tale (and I think we have to consider the whole series as one tale) is that her characters, for all the supernatural and fantasy that is inherent in her world, are very realistic. While Voldemort is truly evil in the same way that some real people in history have been truly, deeply evil, and while he’s portrayed as intimidatingly powerful, as many of those real-world evildoers were immensely powerful, he’s never been portrayed as invincible or without his own weaknesses.
During World War II, there were probably many people who gave up hope that Hitler could be stopped. His utter ruthlessness and powerbase probably made it easy for some to choose to do nothing, feeling that nothing they could do as individuals could possibly matter or bring down this juggernaut. But as history proves, Hitler was stoppable, and was stopped by the actions of many ordinary people who were brave enough to do what they could.
And that is why the resolution for the Harry Potter stories is so much more satisfying than so many other “epic” tales I’ve read or watched. In the end, the villain isn’t felled by coincidence or fate or chance, or even truly, by one great Hero. In the end, Voldemort falls because of the actions of many people who are brave enough and willing to do what they can.