Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry Potter and The Dumbledore Code

Hermione was the muse for the Mona LisaThat's what they should have called th "The Deathly Hallows." While the book was very enjoyable, and a marked improvement from the bland "Order of the Phoenix" and the dreadful "Half-Blood Prince," it was a let down from a woman who started off as a mystery writer with the potential to be a modern Agatha Christie.

Either unable or unwilling to carry on the mysteries spun in the first four novels, JK Rowling substitutes the treasure hunt popularized by Dan Brown in "The DaVinci Code." But instead of just searching for one object, like Indiana Jones might, Harry Potter must search for eight objects. While this makes for a fun read, the book plays out more like a screenplay with several action set pieces than like a Potter novel.

Many characters that we have gotten used to receive short thrift in the book. Some make seemingly only cameo appearances. In fact, at the end, some familiar names get a single line of mention. In this way, the book almost reads like a piece of fan fiction. "Got to get everyone I love a quick mention!"

The biggest letdown has to be the lack of real loss in the book. No one really important to Harry dies. In that way, the book comes off, as Ross Douthat writes, "a children's story after all."

That's too bad, because Rowling is, indeed, a gifted writer. Her ability to plan out the series so far in advance and tie it all together nearly seamlessly (with only a need for tech talk at the very end about wands, blood, and spells that would make Brannon Braga weep) is stunning. That level of detail alone makes the books worth reading.

So, while the series never really surpassed the peak that was "Prisoner of Azkaban," it did close on a satisfying note. Here's hoping that the obvious openings created in the final pages for more books are taken. And, perhaps with less pressure and no movies to make off further adventures, JK Rowling can return to the quality that was the first three Harry Potter books.

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