fiction, review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

When you’ve been having a rough ride for six books long, caught up in captivating narratives, bewildered by some twists and turns, entrapped in detailed descriptions, stunned by unpredictable plots, and amazed by impeccable storytelling, you’ll want to come to a very, very satisfying climax and end it in huge glory. But when your ride is getting bumpy and suddenly coming to a halt in the middle of the street and then you discover that your machine is apparently having a problem, you’ll get pissed off. More or less, that’s how I felt after reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Upon the death of Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter has to shoulder a bigger task than any other ones he’s ever done before, trying to find the rest of the Horcruxes in which fragments of Lord Voldemort’s soul are kept. So Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to drop out of Hogwarts and go searching for the remaining Horcruxes to destroy them. But they have nothing to wield but their wands and unaccomplished magic, no clear information on the whereabouts of the said Horcruxes. Relying only on some random tidbits picked up here and there and half-baked plans, they set off for nowhere.

The journey proves to be tough and dangerous, exceeding their capabilities and young minds. Their immaturity is obviously not enough to tackle every possible problem standing in their way, and what they have at hand are merely their strong will and bravery. Their friendship is also in danger. Against all odds, they can finally put the puzzle together and obtain all the Horcruxes and destroy them to pieces. But there is still one thing Harry has to deal with: the fact that he is the last Horcrux.

There is no doubt that all the three main characters in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows have been growing up some more, but their emotions hang precariously in the balance, threatening to fall and explode on either side. In fact, I can see by the duties and responsibilities they have to bear and the difficulties they must endure that they’re sort of forced to be more mature than they really are. And Ron’s character changes unfortunately into a more emotional, jealous young man, matching Harry’s own already emotional self. The rage, uncertainty, anxiety, restlessness, fear, insecurity, are all normal and understandable, looking at their age and what they’ve been going through. So, although I did not expect Ron to suddenly change that way and lose his silly nature, I can accept that. I can even accept his childish fight with Harry. The point is, we are brought face to face with the fact that Harry, Ron, and even Hermione are still emotionally unstable teenagers being forced to deal with the harsh reality of a dangerous life and unbelievably difficult challenges. Rowling never fails to amaze me with the way she creates and molds her characters.

On the whole, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has the best story among the Harry Potter series. It’s just such a shame that the plot is the worst of all. If I am to be frank, I don’t like it when something comes out to the surface just out of the blue without detailed explanations. And I seriously don’t like it when everything merely pops into Harry’s mind while he’s working on the chronology of every single thing both in the past and present times. How does Kreacher suddenly come out at Hogwarts to help Harry fight the Death Eaters? And how come Charlie Weasley suddenly arrives at Hogwarts when he doesn’t come with the others at the very first place? And how does Abeforth, the Hog’s Head’s barman, come to be Dumbledore’s brother? There are too many things unexplained, and I didn’t find no immaculate details anymore. The book is thick, there is, in my opinion, so much space to write some necessary details and elaborations. The storyline seems unlikely, awkward and implausible. And the epilogue is like any Hollywood sudden happy ending forced to happen.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a total disappointment for me. Perhaps not totally, but still disappointing. The story created by J.K. Rowling for this seventh book is great, but that doesn’t really help the storyline nor the narrative. Mostly, this book failed to make me fascinated the way I was when reading the other six.

Rating: 3/5

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

One more step, and all will come to an end. Closer to the finishing line, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince picks up a safe speed to get us to the peak point through several more metres of revelation. Rowling holds back a few secrets and fights and saves some tension for the last part, the very last book of the series, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t get completely nothing. In fact, through the pages of this number, we get to know the real Lord Voldemort.

This time, the story begins with Dumbledore collecting Harry at the Dursleys’, asking Harry to accompany him visiting Horace Slughorn, an already-retired old Hogwarts teacher. Dumbledore wants him to go back and teach at Hogwarts, considering the lack of teaching staff after what happens last year, though, knowing Dumbledore, that can’t possibly be the exact, or only, reason. At the end of the little trip, Dumbledore tells Harry that this term Harry will have a certain private lesson with him. But what Dumbledore means by “private lesson” is actually getting to know who Lord Voldemort is. They get into so many memories extracted from several people to see through the past life of Voldemort so that they can get a grip on what they’re really up against. However, apart from that, Draco Malfoy’s mysterious behavior draws Harry’s attention, so distractingly suspicious and intriguing that Harry sometimes forgets the importance of his meeting with Dumbledore. And sure enough, his suspicion towards Malfoy, and Snape in particular, is proven true when the Headmaster dies at the hand of the Half-Blood Prince.

Here, in the sixth book of the Harry Potter series, I can see that Dumbledore puts more trust in Harry. It tells us that, the way Dumbledore sees it, Harry has stepped on to a higher level of maturity, entering a period where he is ready to shoulder more burden and responsibilities, to bear more secrets and dangerous experiences. Dumbledore, as a teacher and an old man taking care of Harry since he is a kid, realizes that Harry has been growing up and is not a little kid to protect anymore. This is very mind-opening, as if J.K. Rowling wants us to see how we should treat a coming-of-age teenager who surely doesn’t want to be thought of as a little kid anymore, and how we should put more trust in them.

I would say that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is more simple than the previous installments of the series. It is more revealing, yes, but there are not many startling details nor turns of characters we usually get while reading Harry Potter. Well, the revelation of who the Half-Blood Prince is has undoubtedly been more than shocking, but I cannot say the same about what Dumbledore and Harry find around Voldemort’s background. What gets my attention more is, instead, Harry and Ginny’s mutual attraction, even Ron and Hermione’s revealed feeling to each other is no match. I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s because, after all this time, Harry returns Ginny’s feeling for him. I always waited for the part when Harry and Ginny send some sparks to each other more than anything in the book.

Finally, I have to say that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is more like a bridge stretching to the other side of chasm to usher us to the final destination. Not many mouth-gaping facts nor unbelievable secrets, or even bewildering twists and turns. It is still entertaining, though, and funny as usual. I’m not sure I have to recommend this book to non Harry Potter fans, but I can say that it was an enjoyable read and I liked it.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out with something everybody has been waiting for, an answer. J.K. Rowling finally provides us with the most significant explanation of what becomes the core idea of the whole story. Still mainly set at Hogwarts, the book invites us to see and understand why the story of Harry Potter ever exists.

Still shocked, psychologically wounded and anxious after the death of Cedric Diggory at the return of the Dark Lord, Harry Potter is stuck at the number four, Privet Drive, a place he can barely call home, without any news about the whereabouts of the now coming-back Voldemort. The fact that no one of his wizarding friends nor any one of the wizarding community tells him about the aftermath of the Triwizard Tournament makes him feel even worse. In the midst of frustration and anger, something he least expects happens: a couple of Dementors attacking him and Dudley in the Muggle environment. In defense of himself and his cousin, Harry uses magic to repel the Dementors, resulting in him facing a hearing in the Ministry of Magic. As though that’s not enough, Dumbledore secretly rebuilds the Order of the Phoenix, an army to fight against the Dark Lord, without letting him join the group and doesn’t seem to want to see him.

Harry feels like everyone is ignoring him just the way Dumbledore is and worst of all, he starts to feel that Lord Voldemort can possess him. And he doesn’t have a clue that the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher placed by the Ministry can possibly discredit him and Dumbledore and soon succeeds Dumbledore as the Headmaster. His unrelenting dreams about the dark corridor somewhere outside school and his relentless feeling that he can feel what Voldemort feels and vise versa also almost drive him nuts. At last, entrapped by those dreams, Harry and his friends are forced to come to the Ministry of Magic where that corridor belongs to and fight against the Death Eaters for a prophecy about him.

Harry’s grumpy mood and restlessness give every reason for his slight change in character. Coming of age and being put through harsh moments, Harry is described having bad mood all the time, testy, easily offended, gloomy. And his connection to Voldemort only worsens his mental condition. He feels cheated and kidded. He seems to drown into angst and anger. To be honest, I did not expect to see him change that way, or that Rowling would do that to him. But, looking at his age and what happens before, also the aftermath, it is understandable to have his character adjusted to how he should be. But what so stunned me when reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the description of the character of James Potter, Harry’s father. This is the point where Rowling, once again, shows her skill in not only creating, but livening up a character as naturally and humanly as she can make it. Human beings are not purely perfect, they can never be, they will never be. Even James Potter has flaws and faults, which is the very reason why Snape hates him.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is definitely the installment in which you get most of the answers to many questions around Harry Potter and mysteries surrounding him. It reveals almost everything, making me decide that this must be the center of the whole series. Thick though it may seem, the book doesn’t give any nonsense nor illogical plot. Instead, its unbearably numerous pages present to us every detail we need to know and every description of scenes we never want to miss. The good thing is, the impressive narrative can accommodate all those things without any defect to crack the storyline in the middle, a blunder we usually find an author does. And, to top it off, Rowling inserts some idea about the difficult relationship between old and young men, showing the disagreement and generation gap stretched between them. The way Dumbledore tries to explain everything to Harry even got me disbelieved and forced me to shed a tear. I don’t know but somehow, I think that this book more or less teaches us how to tackle a parents-children relationship, especially when the children are coming of age and have so many questions and anger in their mind.

So, in conclusion, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not only a story about magic and the dark power, or even about a prophecy, it’s about how we should handle a tense relationship between two different generations, especially with a coming-of-age teenager who does not know what to do with his boiling emotions and thoughts. It’s a great read not only for children, but also for adults with children. I highly recommend it to both elders and the youth.

Rating: 4/5

fiction, review

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

When I first laid my hands on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I seriously hoped it would be better than the movie adaptation. And I was not the least bit disappointed. Much to my surprise, it’s not only better in some aspects, including the portrayal of each character, but also it’s so much different from the disappointing movie. Published a year after the third installment, this fourth book of the Harry Potter series offers a true adventure of a magic world.

When the Quidditch World Cup takes place, the Death Eaters show up and make such a riot in the middle of wizarding and Muggle communities. While everything is looking unlikely to get worse, the most unexpected thing just happens out of the blue: the emergence of the Dark Mark, the sign of the Dark Lord. However, in spite of the commotion, the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin in Hogwarts, the contenders being the champion from each school whose names are put into and chosen by the Goblet of Fire. Having the Age Line limiting the age of the participants, the fourteen-year-old Harry Potter is, of course, not expected to join the competition. But someone puts his name into the goblet without anyone knowing it, so Harry, however resistant he is, is forced to join the dangerous tournament.

Just as expected, Harry has to deal with murmured accusation that he cheats in putting his own name into the Goblet of Fire when he himself doesn’t know who does it. But, despite having to face many people accusing him, including his own best friend Ron, Harry takes part in the competition and performs top performances, undoubtedly getting the best marks. What he doesn’t know, but what we all may assume it’s just the way it is, is that the last task of the tournament will bring him to the whys and wherefores of his name being put into the goblet. He doesn’t have any idea that Lord Voldemort, the Dark Lord, has been waiting for him to help rising his power again.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we get to see some more shocking turns of characters, as Rowling has been used to doing to her creation of people. However habitual it is, the result still amazes me and keeps me wonder. And I can definitely say that Rowling’s portrayal of characters in the book is way much better and much more twisting than it is in the movie. That said, what gets my most attention is the sneak preview of more of Lord Voldemort’s character through the more-or-less-in-depth narration of his background and history. Though not in full yet, Rowling succeeds in presenting the character of Lord Voldemort so that the reader, and I suppose Harry, too, can prepare and brace themselves for something nasty in the next number of the series. And that’s only for starters, there are a lot more surprises of characters sit between the pages of this book and are waiting to jump on you.

I have to say that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the thickest book of the series I’ve read so far with the longest plot to boot, what with nearly in-depth description of Lord Voldemort’s background and quite long history and detailed steps and rules of the Triwizard Tournament, not to mention some more warning revelations. Fortunately, the still attractive way in which Rowling composes every sentence and narration helps, so I didn’t get bored and put the book down fast. The jokes and hilarious dialogues also kept me stay on my seat while I was reading it, making me enjoy the book just the way I always did. The descriptions of all the magic stuff are also fantastic, and I believe Ms. Rowling had put a lot of efforts to create such a magic world. The narrative is just typically strong. And I don’t think I have to mention again the dark atmosphere shrouding the story.

All in all, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a fantastic fantasy book. When I was reading it, I kept saying that the movie adaptation should have followed its lead, not straying out of the line and changing almost everything, from its storyline to its portrayal of characters. I know transforming a very thick book into a movie is never an easy task, but I expected that they would only reduce it, not change it. Well, what I’m saying is that this book is just fantastic.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I never thought Harry Potter series could be more complicated, at least after reading the ever unpredictably bewildering yet gripping Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. But J.K. Rowling proves me wrong. First published in 1999, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban does not only have more pages, but also more details and unexpected revelations. And the reader had better be ready for something unpleasant.

After losing his control and messing up in the Dursleys’, Harry decides to get out of that house and brings with him all of his belongings and magic stuff, going exactly nowhere. He believes he’s already been expelled from Hogwarts the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry then and there for breaking the most fundamental decree of the underage wizard. But the Minister of Magic finds him and tells him that he’s not expelled. Bewildered, he immediately goes back to the school with his best friends, Ron and Hermione.

However, having managed to avoid being expelled from school doesn’t mean that he can escape from the real danger, the Grim which seemingly warns him about his death and the feeling of being watched by someone at school. The fact that a certain prisoner of Azkaban has reportedly run away and that the guards of the said prison, namely the Dementors, are being sent to Hogwarts to keep an eye on the movement of the running prisoner only get Harry’s nerve tighter. As much as being dangerous, this running prisoner, who is allegedly accused of murdering Harry’s parents, has caught Harry’s attention. One night, he is dragged to the Shrieking Shack and meets the prisoner himself, talking to him and being told everything about his parents’ death.

J.K. Rowling never ceases to amaze me with her humanly natural portrayal of characters, with how she describes the feelings and thoughts of every character so vividly that they never seem made-up even in words. I cannot say that she’s done something more to the three main characters we already know, or that she makes the characterization of Severus Snape more than merely suspicious or cynical, but I really like the way she writes all the dialogues and behaviors to make us believe they’re all believable. Kids are kids. They can be heroes in some senses, but they are naturally meant to have some faults. This is something about Rowling which keeps me fascinated, nothing so polished to a fault.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban seems to have many things to tell, but the mystery has not unfolded in full yet. It is just as I had expected before, for I couldn’t imagine everything would have been made known to the reader before the seventh book. This tells us how clever and tricky Rowling can be in composing an immensely engaging, full-of-surprise, magical fantasy story. It is also proven in how Rowling slips some strange, unlikely scenes here and there, puts just enough tension into several parts to make us anxious endlessly, and brings us to a satisfying climax, however it ends.  Interestingly, every single little detail Rowling scrapes together doesn’t go to waste, instead they exist to make the storyline sensible and understandable. And Rowling wraps everything up in a darker than ever atmosphere, making me wonder if it was only me shuddering at some pages. Nevertheless, Rowling never forgets to write ridiculous, hilarious dialogues and have some silly humor spread all over the conversations, especially when it is Ron’s or Lee Jordan’s turn to show up. Reading something mysterious and dark like the Prisoner of Azkaban really needs some relaxation like that.

All in all, I’d like to say that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is just better than the previous installment of the series and  I truly like it. Not that the Chamber of Secrets is bad or something, but as a reader, it seems so normal for me to expect something better from an author every each time they release a new work. I certainly recommend this book to those who want a great read and a great fantasy story.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Continuing the first installment, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets brings us to the next adventure of Harry Potter. As a work of fantasy fiction, it definitely lives up to expectations, adventurous, full of magic, and extending the boundaries of your imagination. With more complicated twists and turns, J.K. Rowling invites the reader to follow her creation of a route towards a quick glimpse of the Dark Lord’s character as Harry enters his second year at Hogwarts.

Upon the arrival of the second academic year, Harry Potter is more than ready to leave his mean Muggle family’s home, namely the Dursleys’, for Hogwarts. But a house-elf named Dobby sneaks secretly into his room and tries to stop him from going. Harry refuses to stay, even with Dobby keeping him from leaving by any possible way he is capable of doing, and insists on going back to Hogwarts for he can’t imagine staying one more day with people who treat him inhumanely like a bag of trash. So he leaves anyway when Ron and his twin brothers come to collect him by a flying car.

Once at school, the warning Dobby has already given, which Harry ignores before at the Dursleys’, starts to become true as several students are found Petrified—being attacked to frozen—and Harry is the one to blame. However, over the time, it is obvious that it’s none of Harry’s doing, looking at the more attacks leading to someone, or something, other than Harry. That “something” is apparently hidden behind the Chamber of Secrets, built by Salazar Slytherin hundreds years ago and is last opened like fifty years before the latest scene. Breaking the school rules again, Harry and his two close friends, Hermione and Ron, set to find out what actually happens and who or what behind the Chamber of Secrets is. What comes as a shock is that the only one who can open the said chamber is the Heir of Slytherin, and Harry can surprisingly do it.

The three main characters show up just the way they are in the first book, without many alterations in their characterization as it is clear through the running plot. However, the Chamber of Secrets seems to try to present something more about being a child, especially a child who never gets to speak out her mind nor her bottled up distress. And Ginny is the embodiment of that “something more” Rowling is talking about here. The fact that Lord Voldemort makes use of Ginny’s unhappiness shows more than we think we’ve already perceived. Being the youngest child, Ginny never gets what any other youngest kids usually get from their family, more love, more attention, being spoiled to the quick. No. Kids are vulnerable, fragile beings, and those natures can be made worse by unimaginably appalling conditions and surroundings.

Rowling begins her second book of the Harry Potter series with a great opening, making me follow its intense storyline and unable to bring myself to put the book down far before it truly ends. She puts Harry and co. through a more dangerous challenge, a more intricate conflict, more revealing secrets, and blankets them with darker atmosphere that the Chamber of Secrets is better than the Philosopher’s Stone in an adventurous sense. But the narrative is just as great, telling us all how Rowling had been consistent in both her process and quality of writing. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is certainly an entertaining fantasy book, and it’s definitely a good read for any children. However, unfortunately, I find myself still liking Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone more. I still have this mixed feelings about why I prefer the first installment to this better second, but I’m sure that the first is always my favorite to this point.

Be that as it may, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is undeniably a great work of children’s literature. It has an amazing story, an unpredictable case, shocking secrets, and lots of magic. By this book, J.K. Rowling had established herself as the master of storytelling. I felt like I was petrified each time I turned its pages. So I strongly advise you to read this one and hopefully you will enjoy it.

Rating: 3.5/5