Following the lead of its six preceding episodes this one may be sprawling, untidy and, particularly in its treatment of...


From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 7

The epic adventure ends where, and as, it should in this long-awaited heart- (and, predictably, door-) stopping closer. With the entire tale now laid out, it easier to see the themes and qualities that not only bind it into one coherent, humongous saga, but have also so strongly bound millions of readers to its decade-long unfolding.

Many of those themes—the Hero’s Journey, the wonder of magic-working, the cluelessness of grown-ups, the sweet confusion of adolescence—are standard fare in stories for young readers (or readers who remember being young), but Rowling has shown uncommon skill in playing them with and against each other, and also woven them into a darn good bildungsroman, populated by memorable characters and infused with a saving, irrepressible sense of fun. In The Deathly Hallows, she opens with a vintage, riveting escape scene, then sends Harry, Ron and Hermione into a months-long flight from the ascendant and hotly pursuing forces of Lord Voldemort—this journey also becomes a desperate search for the remaining horcruxes that make him unkillable. Allies both known and unexpected gather to help, but it is strength of spirit and character that, particularly in Harry’s case, blossom here after developing throughout the series, carrying these “three teenagers in a tent whose only achievement was not, yet, to be dead,” past hopelessness, sharp divisions and other challenges to a decisive faceoff against a seemingly unconquerable adversary. There is a slow stretch toward the middle as the trio, having passed through a succession of refuges, hides out in the wilderness for some soul searching, but Rowling kicks up the pace in the second half. Strewing the plot with dueling spells, narrow squeaks and multiple corpses, lightening the load with well-placed humor and casting a sharp light on the flaws and graces of her characters, she builds to a suitably huge, compelling and, like illustrator Mary GrandPré’s chapter-head vignettes, stylish climactic battle on the grounds of Hogwarts.

Following the lead of its six preceding episodes this one may be sprawling, untidy and, particularly in its treatment of race and class issues, sometimes disturbingly simplistic—but, taken as a whole, it gives the author’s brilliantly imagined fantasy the grand finish it merits. And along with her recent suggestion that she may, someday, produce a sort of  “Hogmarillion” to tie up all the loose ends, a provocatively sketchy epilogue (presumably a version of that Final Chapter that she claims to have written at the very beginning) here hints that she may not be ready to let go of her creations, just yet.

Pub Date: July 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-545-01022-1

Page Count: 759

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

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It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school.


From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 1

In a rousing first novel, already an award-winner in England, Harry is just a baby when his magical parents are done in by Voldemort, a wizard so dastardly other wizards are scared to mention his name.

So Harry is brought up by his mean Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley, and picked on by his horrid cousin Dudley. He knows nothing about his magical birthright until ten years later, when he learns he’s to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is a lot like English boarding school, except that instead of classes in math and grammar, the curriculum features courses in Transfiguration, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry becomes the star player of Quidditch, a sort of mid-air ball game. With the help of his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry solves a mystery involving a sorcerer’s stone that ultimately takes him to the evil Voldemort. This hugely enjoyable fantasy is filled with imaginative details, from oddly flavored jelly beans to dragons’ eggs hatched on the hearth.

It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-590-35340-3

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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Sophie is caught between a powerful witch and wizard who are terrorizing the magical land of Ingary. Living a humdrum life as a hatter till the malicious Witch of the Waste casts a spell turning her into an old woman, Sophie seeks refuge as cleaning woman to Wizard Howl (although he's rumored to eat the hearts of young girls) in his castle, which moves at will about the countryside. Actually, Howl is a brash young man whose only vice is womanizing. He is a gifted wizard but the despair of his inept apprentice and of Calcifer, a humorously petulant fire demon, because of such human faults as messiness and spending too long in the bath. As in her memorable Archer's Goon, Jones has a plethora of characters who are seldom what they seem and an intricate plot which may dazzle with its complexity or delight by the hilarious common-sense consequences of its preposterous premises. Sophie is a dauntless heroine; when she regains her youth and wins Howl, the odds are this is only the beginning of a tempestuous romance. Great fun.

Pub Date: April 14, 1986

ISBN: 0061478784

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1986

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