I Evoke Brow XXV: Enough Reviews to Fill Out a MLB Roster (and the worst subtitle yet)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Wow. What a marvelous book. I thought the series was improving with each sequel (with the possible exception of The Order of the Phoenix, which seemed less, oh, full than it’s predecessor) and the final installment continues the trend. I didn’t think there was any chance it would live up to my expectations but in many ways it exceeded them.

Equal parts action and mysteries, battles and puzzles, it both kept me racing through the pages and surprised me at many turns–a rare and treasured combination. The action and enthralling fantasy world I knew Rowling could pull off; that the overarching riddles of the series would be cleverly and plausibly solved, that new puzzles would appear and seamlessly mesh with the storyline, that the story could be wrapped up, neat and tidy, without pandering overly much–these were wonderful surprises.

The quality of the tale even works retroactively. I was a bit bitter with the way the Snape plot played out in the last book. Now order is restored, without resorting to any out of left field revelations. Well, maybe that’s being too lenient–the secret love Snape concealed rang hollow, at least a little, but you can’t say Dumbledore didn’t drop hints.

With the series complete, it’s time for the inevitable comparisons to Lord of the Rings (funny that’s they’re both British, though English versus Scottish if you wan’t to be picky). LOTR is certainly deeper and more literary, valuable qualities, in my opinion. In many ways, Potter is LOTR’s inverse, and yet nearly as great in it’s own way. Where LOTR is complex, Potter is accessible; where Tolkein is literary, Rowling is riviting. The simplicity of the writing has allowed Potter to have such widespread success, which I couldn’t give a damn about, but it’s silly to discriminate against the work just because it’s easy (Beware: This Way Be Postmodernists). The simplicity of the writing is a refreshing change from the more complicated stuff I usually wade through (and the large font of the hardcovers is easy on my eyes–criminy, I’m old before my time). Anyway, in the end I don’t care whether a work is literary or not (assuming that the term even means something.) It’s far more important that, as a reader, you care for the characters and that the themes have merit–and here Rowling succeeds. And because Rowling’s world is less fantastic, more recognizable as our own, we feel much closer to Harry than we ever can to Frodo, we grieve for Dumbledore’s fall even more than we do Gandalf’s.

That said, I’ll go ahead and undermine the argument I just made–there is value to LOTR’s depth and Potter does come up short in comparison. It’s possible to enjoy the LOTR saga without being aware of it ( I certainly did the first time through), but part of what makes LOTR greater than the sum of its parts is its internal consistency. There is an underlying architecture to Tolkein’s world that Potter lacks. I feel that if you look too carefully at Rowling’s world, it doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny. LOTR, on the other hand, in similar fashion to the great works of Science Fiction, is rigorously coherent. No matter how fanciful or far fetched the world of the story, within that world there are no shortcuts, no inconsistency, no deus ex machina. On that basis, I say LOTR keeps it’s crown, if only by a hair’s breadth.


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