La Shawn Barber

Warning: This review contains MAJOR spoilers. Do NOT read if you don't want to know how the Harry Potter series will end, who will die, and who will survive.

J.K. Rowling’s epic tale about an orphan boy who discovers he’s a wizard at age 11 comes to an end in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The seventh and final book in the series sold a reported 11 million copies in the first 24 hours on sale, which broke the record for fastest-selling book. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince held the previous record at nine million.

The seven-book series has sold more than 325 million copies worldwide. The first five books have been made into top-grossing movies, and Rowling has been named one of the richest people in the world.

Not bad for a former divorced welfare mother who nursed cold cups of coffee in a café while writing the first book.

Love it or hate it, Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon. The series has produced a collection of books, research papers, blogs, podcasts, fan fiction, and fan conferences devoted to analyzing the text, positing theories, dissecting clues, and pouring over minutiae. The long tail of Harry Potter is so vibrant, even fans have fans.

Over seven books, Rowling has done a stellar job capturing our imaginations and immersing us in a wondrous world of magic, where the universal struggle between good and evil unfolds. Choice, loyalty, forgiveness, love, and sacrifice are major themes in the books. At the ripe middle age of 40, I’m not the least bit abashed to confess my affection for these “children’s” tales and for the way Rowling presents these themes in an engaging context.

The first 500 pages of Deathly Hallows are a hardcore Potter fan’s dream. Rowling superbly sets the novel’s tone in the first chapter, bringing on stage Severus Snape, arguably the most intriguing character in the entire series, though we don’t see nearly enough of him in the 759-page book.

After a heart-pounding airborne battle at the start, where two characters meet their demise, Rowling takes her time acquainting the reader with a setting that lacks the structure of a typical school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Ministry of Magic has fallen to Lord Voldemort, the minister is dead, the Death Eaters are on the move, and 17-year-old Harry, Ron, and Hermione are on the run. No more Quidditch matches or treacle tart.

La Shawn Barber

Freelance writer La Shawn Barber blogs at the American Civil Rights Institute blog.