Book Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

Finished off reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday itself. Had not pre-ordered it thinking I will borrow it from someone to read (well, I am not an avid HP fan!!). But then, having read the last six books, it was a big temptation to see Deathly Hallows looking at me from the windows of Crossword. Plus, the realization that I will be on a bus to Pune for the next 3-4 hours. Decision made. Target closed. Book picked up!

 

So, what do I think of the book? It’s a good read. But I would still rate it as a hyped book banking on the media revolution of modern times, and the fact that it’s the seventh book of a seven book series (hmph). And you can read on, I have no plans of spilling the much closely guarded secrets! [Its funny how the book leak has led to a set of blog articles around what does security mean in the modern world! – Link 1, Link 2]

 

What’s right with the book? It is similar to the previous six books in narration style. Simple for everyone to comprehend, lucid to keep flowing, too many sub-plots to keep you intrigued, does not get lost in details (unlike classical literature, where setting up the mood may take a few pages with all the descriptions of the woods, the color of the dog’s skin, falling leaves, etc.), continuity of characters and most importantly, a continuity of the story.

What’s wrong with the book? It gives you the feeling that JK got tired of writing this story at this point. She herself was saturated. So she decided to create the counter of Horcruxes, a concept conveniently introduced towards the fag end of the series – Hallows. So, the plots are being closed out one after the other. She didn’t want to get too bogged down in different characters, so there are deaths that just happen, without creating the same emotional trauma and action as was the case with the death of a Sirius Black or Dumbledore, or even the death of James and Lily Potter. Even the anguish felt for Neville Longbottom’s parents’ death by Cruciatus seemed better portrayed.

Despite what a lot of J K Rowling comments may have you believe, Harry, Ron and Hermione don’t seem to have grown up as human beings/wizards. While Hermione does showcase a new set of curses and spells acquired over the summer, all the wizards are seen to be using pretty much the same set of things. I mean – If Voldemort is that powerful, he should use something beyond avada kedavra – which sounds like a poor version of Indian madari’s Abra ka dabra. It reminds me of Naruto, where the only seeming growth in Naruto’s powers after 2 years (Naruto Shippuden) is that his Rasengan (Ball of Chakra) is more controlled and bigger.

The worst thing – There is a chapter which is called “19 years later” which is a desperate attempt from JKR to close the series, once and for all. Full of clichés and expected puns, the last chapter is as pathetic as it can get.

 There are several untied parts, including the immensely grown powers of Voldemort, as against Harry, who doesnt seem to be growing any more powerful, even though the pretext is that it should have happened. Something like the growth of Neo fuelling the growth of Agent Smith in The Matrix.  Again, an analysis would reveal things about the story, which I don’t want to do!

Net net, I picked the book because I just couldn’t resist the temptation. If you can resist the temptation, then borrow it from someone who has already bought the book. It’s a good read, but not worth 900 bucks or so. I can praise and nit-pick a lot more, but that would give away significant chunks of the story.  

Endnote – Chandrakanta Santati (written by Devki Nandan Khatri) was written as a set of six books. Including Chandrakanta, that would become 7 books!  While Nirja Guleri did destroy the worth of the book to a great extent (through mindless histrionics and pathetic adaptation), I still think it’s one of the greatest serial books ever written. It’s a pity that Hindi literature does not have the same reader base in India as English literature.

Book Review: Amulet of Samarkand

Its by a stroke of luck that I chanced upon the book (well, you can’t chance upon something good just like that, unless luck is on your side!)

It’s a good book for a weekend read. First of a three book series, known as “The Bartimaeus Trilogy“, its a book that you can pick up, and keep running with it unless you’re done with it. The pace of the book is so good that you will anyways end up running with it.

A fantasy novel set in London, the book operates in a world which is controlled by magicians that control djinns, afrits and imps, and their incantations, summons, curses are the source of their power. In this world, where the control of power is so important and malicious that this power, through an explicit rule, is not transferred through generations. It is transferred to someone outside the family whose previous identity is erased before he/she is molded into becoming a magician. In such a world, Nathaniel, adopted by a weak magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Arthur Underwood, as his apprentice, summons Bartimaeus, to avenge the insult handed out to him by Simon Lovelace. But the whole plan unravels itself as he finds himself getting deeper into a very dangerous game against a very formidable foe. Let me not spoil it all by telling you the story here.

Trivia: Surprisingly enough, the Djinn in this novel, Bartimaeus, derives his name from a biblical character of the same name. However, that Bartimaeus was a blind beggar healed by Jesus Christ, and he later became a follower of Christ.


The book can be read for its imaginative storytelling, extremely fast pace, simple characters (the author does not bother with too many sub-levels of characterizations), true to its genre, and his away from the realms of everyday reality. Yes, it confirms to my check list of what defines a good book.

But I would qualify the simple characterization bit. It holds, unless you start thinking about the book at the third or the fifth plane, as Bartimaeus would have said.

The book can be seen drawing a lot of parallels with modern world, where the commoners are being controlled by magicians (wicked politicians who can’t even be true to their master, and change loyalties at the drop of a hat), who know how to control the djinns and afrits (the powerful governmental organizations that can but never fight back because of the stronghold of charms – (money?)). Some of the more powerful afrits like Ramuthra can cause a rummage, a disturbance at elemental level (Watergate scandals, et al.). Even the mildly powerful but intelligent djinns like Barthameus (the intelligence departments) can be controlled (Late Indira Gandhi would know that!), but can cause the downfall as well. The Tower of London can crush the imaginativeness and powers of all powerfull djinns. Every powerful magician has own djinns and afrits. Pity, the novel does not talk about the commoner’s life. Though it does talk about a “resistance”.
Additionally, there are a lot of references to history (Ptolemy, Disraeli, etc.), contemporary places (Tower of London, Westminister hall) and so on.

I am sure I will discover more as I read through The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gates.

Good work Jonathan Shroud! It’s a good read.

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