I’ve been gone for a bit because I quite intentionally sealed myself into a near-complete media cocoon last week in order to avoid spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Once it became clear that what appeared to be a legitimate copy of the book had leaked, it seemed I was left with only three options:
1. Risk being spoiled.
2. Track down one of the leaked copies and read it. I’d feel no guilt about this, since I had already paid full cover price for my pre-order at a local bookstore. But there were two problems with this approach: First, there was no guarantee this was actually a legitimate copy. Second, I really wanted the experience of curling up with the tome, just as I had done with every previous volume in the series. Not only was it a matter of sentimentality and nostalgia and comfort, but also the magical ineffability of simultaneously sitting down with millions of other people around the world and beginning to read a common story…
3. I could stop perusing the web, watching television, reading the newspaper, and — in all other ways — seal myself off from all the likely avenues of spoilerage. I still came very close to still having it spoiled, as a friend of mine (infamous for her ability to spoil something even after you’ve asked her specifically not to) began babbling away at the release party about what she’d read in the New York Times review of the book. But fortunately I bludgeoned her unconscious in time and hid her behind the bookstore’s dumpster.
(I, personally, don’t care that the New York Times “prematurely” reviewed the book. If you don’t want to be spoiled by the contents of a review, then don’t read the review. If you’ve got such poor impulse control that you can’t resist seeking out and reading spoilers even if you don’t truly want the consequences of having read them, then that’s your problem and not the Times. And if you’re just concerned because somebody out there is being spoiled when you feel that they shouldn’t be… well, you’ve simply got too much time on your hands.)
So what did I think of it?
I thought it was excellent. It is one of the best, if not the single best, novel in the entire series — joining the third, fifth, and sixth books in the ever-shifting kaleidoscopic brawl in my mind for that distinction. It is tightly plotted, tautly paced, and utterly satisfying.
It’s also clear that Rowling — who was already a mighty fine writer indeed when she wrote the first book — continues to improve with every passing year. While it unlikely that the lightning-scar of Harry Potter shall strike twice in the same spot (or at all, for that matter), I’m eagerly anticipating Rowling’s next project. I am completely fascinated by the prospect of what she might attempt next.
At some point in the next few days I shall probably post a spoilerrific reaction to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, giving me a chance to expound on many things I found admirable in the book. I doubt it will be able to expound on everything I found admirable in it, because the book is far too complex, layered, and rewarding for any single essay to completely explore its many excellencies. But I’ll give it my best shot.