I’ve finally finished reading the Harry Potter book series, after I started reading them just over a year ago. Since this is so long after both the book and the movie’s release, and it’s such a well-known book, there’s no point in reviewing it. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts on both the final book and the 2-part movie, and my take on how they compare. There will be spoilers, just in case you haven’t seen the movie or read the books … for some reason.
With the exception of book 5, which I found overly long and a bit annoying at times, each of the Harry Potter books is better than the last. The Half Blood Prince is fantastic all the way through, with a lot more depth in the mythology behind how magic works and Voldemort’s past than the movies possibly could. My first impression says that in terms of quality, the Deathly Hallows book is up there with Half Blood Prince, although because HBP is leagues better than its movie (my least favourite of the movies), I appreciate that one more.
Let’s talk about the movies for a bit before I get back to the book. It’s the only case I’ve seen so far where splitting the movie into two parts is fully justified. There is a lot going on in this book that would be hard to put into a single movie. At least with the previous books, they’re a more straight forward story, and the sub-plots and details could be trimmed down. Once Deathly Hallows gets going though, it doesn’t really slow down that much. That said, the first movie is a bit slow at times, and the new mythology is vague on a couple of occasions. Compared to the much faster pace of the second movie and it makes for an uneven 4-hour film. The second Deathly Hallows movie is probably my third favourite of the series, behind Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix.
In terms of the storyline, the first movie takes up two thirds of the Deathly Hallows novel – just over 400 pages of the 607 pages. At first that worried me, seeing how the first movie feels really slow at times. That said, it’s not bad at all. There’s a lot more detail put into the mythos behind how magic works, more detail on what Voldemort is up to, and more references to all the propaganda being written into The Daily Prophet. It’s all interesting stuff that helps build the world and tension. The book also does a better job at throwing in touches of humour to stop the book from becoming too dark and depressing.
All the extra stuff put into the sequence where Harry, Ron and Hermione sneak into the Ministry makes for a more tense couple of chapters than in the movie, and it’s great how the trio helps rescue a bunch more “mudbloods”, whereas the movie didn’t have time for that. Action-wise, that’s probably my favourite extension in the book when compared to the movie. That said, the part of the movie that feels the slowest is when the trio is carrying around the horcrux locket, and that still feels a bit slow here. It’s improved by exploring Harry’s internal thoughts when he’s wearing the locket, and there isn’t an awkward dance scene between Harry and Hermione, but it’s still the closest this book gets to boring.
What really makes this book worth reading though is how it questions Dumbledore’s motives a lot more than the movie, and it does a better job at explaining them when Harry and Dumbledore meet up after his apparent death. The movie is really vague on that part. Dumbledore’s own family history is explored in detail, along with several theories going around by people who don’t know the truth about his brother and sister. It makes for a much deeper story, and a more interesting relationship between Dumbledore and Potter.
As for the Battle of Hogwarts, both the movie and the book handle it very well. The book does a better job with a few minor characters, like actually showing Remus and Tonks fighting in the battle before they’re killed, instead of in the movie where it looks like they just die before the battle truly begins. You even see the moment Fred Weasly dies, instead of just seeing his body in the aftermath of the first fight. That’s one minor complaint I have about the movie; it didn’t show a death for a character we’ve enjoyed throughout the entire series. That’s not to say I always like the book better – I prefer the movie’s version of the fight between Harry and Voldemort, although that’s more of a personal taste thing and they both work well for their medium.
And finally, the book ties up the story much better than the movie. It goes into more detail on exactly how Harry Potter won over the Elder Wand, and his reasoning for refusing to use it. It shows more of how everyone winds down after the Battle of Hogwarts, without taking up too much time like Return of the King did. The movie’s ending felt a bit rushed by comparison.
I’m very glad that I finally read through the Harry Potter book series. As someone who didn’t even get into the movies until Deathly Hallows 1 released, I’m a bit of a late bloomer with this excellent fantasy series. The books start off as children’s books, and they grow more mature and much deeper as the series goes on. The writing is good from the start, with JK Rowling’s clever sense of humour, and it clearly improves over time. After reading this book in particular, I imagine the movies will make more sense whenever I re-watch them, and that alone makes reading these books worth it.
As a writer who’s trying to get my own novel series published, the movies have encouraged me to plan ahead with all the sub-plots going on in my series. The Harry Potter books are a great example of how planning ahead can pay off in a long-term story, and it makes for a richer universe. If you enjoy the movies but haven’t read the books, you should definitely give them a chance. The first book is actually pretty short and shouldn’t take too much time and effort to read through.
I’m not yet sure what book I’m going to read next. It’s between the second X-Wing book, Wedge’s Gambit, re-reading the first Kate Daniels book, Magic Bites (I’ve already reviewed it, so I won’t write a blog post if I do that) or something. Either way, it probably won’t be until April, since I’m planning to write for most of March.