I said I’d do this in the post for the last book, and so here it is. A separate post for the series as a whole. I’ve included some thoughts for series that I’ve finished before, but this is the first time in a separate post. I’ll say it now just so I can say you’ve been warned, this post will have spoilers for the series, including some from the end of the last book, so don’t get mad if you haven’t read the series yet, you’ve been warned.
One of the main things that I thought was impressive about the series is the setting. I said in several of my reviews for the individual books, I was amazed by how Rowling handled the setting for the books. The books had enough detail to fill the world and give you a good image of Hogwarts as well as everywhere else that they went, but it was never bogged down with unneeded details. One of the books that I read just before this series was George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. Martin’s book was an example of a book that was pretty much ruined by the excess of details. This series was wonderful in the way it didn’t force the world onto you, it was there and it was enjoyable, but the world never tried to be the star of the series, which it should never be.
Another part of the setting that I enjoyed was the continuity with the magic both in and between the books. In a world where witches and wizards can essentially do anything they want, the magic that they used was always given an explanation, even if the explanation came a book or two beforehand. For example, the Polyjuice Potion used by the Death Eater (whose name I can’t remember offhand) that replaced Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth book, was explained in the second book. Likewise the Room of Requirement is mentioned in passing by Dumbledore in book 4, but plays a much larger part in book 5. An easy problem with magic when characters can do anything is that it can reduce tension in the books. If the character can do anything, there’s never any danger for them. By having the characters be students who have a limited knowledge of what magic they can do, we only have the limited magic that they have already learned as possible solutions to the problems they run into. It was very well done and the series almost never had the problem of a deus ex machina because of the magic they’re using. The one time that I thought it was really weak in this regard was in the 7th book, with Ron using the Deluminator as a way of finding Harry and Hermione again.
The characters in the books were excellent as well. The character growth of Harry, Ron, and Hermione worked throughout the books and never felt forced to me. They were just teenagers and as such were growing a lot throughout the books. Even when they were fighting at different times throughout the books, it worked for me. The only time that it really aggravated me was during book 7, when their fighting, and specifically Ron leaving, was probably the weakest part of that book.
Additionally, while the books obviously revolve around the 3 main characters, all of the side characters were wonderful as well, particularly in the later books, but the early books had some good moments as well. I talked in my review for the 6th book about how much I loved Dumbledore, and it is worth repeating here. Dumbledore is a wonderful character, knowledgable, patient, and trusting to a fault. In the 7th book there is a section where Harry and Dumbledore are talking and Dumbledore is talking about his weakness and how it affected him throughout the previous books. While it’s been said in many places, I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that those who deserve the most respect are those who are most humble and will never ask for it.
Other than Dumbledore, I have to mention several other characters. Fred and George were wonderful throughout all of the books, and helped to lighten up some parts of the series that were more serious than the rest. I also started to like Ginny more as the books progressed, and I was pleased to see Harry end up with her. Neville was another fun character to watch throughout the series (and I’ll have a little more about him later). Overall though, I think my favorite side character by the end of the series was Luna Lovegood. It was fun to see a character who was a little more oblivious to everything around her, she was probably the most unique side character of everyone in the series and she was very charming to read, I wish she was in the books more.
Neville is another character who was fun to read, especially as he was there from the first book. Probably the best moment from the first book was Dumbledore awarding Neville the final 10 points to win the house cup, saying “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, just as much to stand up to our friends.” I thought that this was easily the high point of the first book and arguably one of the best moments of the series. However, I was very upset with Neville’s part at the very end of the 7th book. He had been showing more and more bravery starting with joining Harry in Dumbledore’s Army in book 5, and I thought that the series was setting up perfectly for a final showdown between Neville and Bellatrix where he would avenge his parents. I thought it would have been the perfect ending for Neville’s overall arc throughout the story, sadly, it never happened.
Another one of the best moments in the series happened in book 2, with another one of the very interesting side characters. I thought that the storyline with Dobby in book was the best part of that book. I thought that it was perfectly set up, and wonderfully executed. It was also fun to see Dobby throughout the rest of the series, like Luna, he was a charming character who was a welcome change of pace from the increased seriousness of the later books.
Speaking of characters, I would be remiss to not mention Draco Malfoy. He was set up very early on to serve as a rival and foil for Harry, however, I never thought that he worked well in that role. He was just a brat who Snape liked as he was in Slytherin. He was irritating, but I always had the feeling that he could have been a more effective villain than he was.
Snape was another interesting character to follow throughout the books. He is depicted as very evil in appearance and his personality as well. However, everything he does in the entire series ends up being in support of Harry. Even Snape killing Dumbledore turned out to be something that Dumbledore wanted done to help support Harry. It was interesting to see the conflict between Snape’s anti-Harry personality and his pro-Harry actions.
One of the problems I had with the series was how the four houses that the students were sorted into was handled. Obviously you’re meant to have a rooting interest in Gryffindor, and be cheering against Slytherin. However, I thought it was really annoying that it was set up this way. Especially because Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are essentially ignored. There was nothing distinctive about either of those two houses and I thought that was a weakness of the series that all of the villains came from the same house. It would have been a much better twist to have someone other than the ‘obviously’ evil Slytherins being a villain in the books.
I really enjoyed the series as a whole, I thought that the characters were very strong, and strong characters are what will allow a series to stand the test of time, which I think that this series will. As much as I enjoyed the series, I think that the last book is probably the weakest. It went too long without even leading towards any resolutions for the first half of the book, and then had the main goal for the book of seeing out the Horcruxes resolved very quickly in the last third of the book. I was also a little irritated with the denouement that occurred after Voldemort was finally killed. It was understandable that Harry would quickly tell Ron and Hermione what happened, but it was a little unfulfilling to me. The epilogue also didn’t work as well as I think it could have. It was nice to know that Harry ended up with Ginny, as well as seeing that Ron and Hermione end up together as well. Knowing that Harry ends up taking after Dumbledore in being able to forgive even Malfoy at the end was nice to see as well. It just didn’t work for me as well as I think it could have, quite frankly I think it would have worked a little better with Harry ending up as Headmaster at Hogwarts and talking to Ron & Hermione as their first child is preparing to go to Hogwarts for the first time.
While the series isn’t perfect, it is very good, and I’m very glad that I read it. I’m glad that I bought the books and I’m sure I’ll read them again at some point.
Overall Series Grade