Today, I finished the last book of the series, not including the newest release, which I will get to soon. It has been 7 years since I read the series in its entirety. And I still love it, obviously, but I have some new thoughts on the series. Spoilers ahead.
The first couple books are pretty mediocre. And every time I tell someone to read the series, I tell them to get through the first three books and then it picks up steam, which I still believe. The first two, while important to the plot development, aren’t spectacular. That said, Rowling does a fantastic job of revealing layer after layer of the magical world with each book. For example, the fact that we learn about various modes of transportation (brooms, floo network, apparition, portkeys, etc) in different books is delightful. There’s no way to reveal all of the magical world’s secrets in the first book, but Rowling also doesn’t just rely on brooms and owls, like in the first book. Every book there’s something new to offer the reader.
However, doing this can create plot holes. When the students practice disarming each other with Expelliarmus, the wands fly out of the owners’ hands, then they pick them back up, and carry on about their business. However, when it comes to the last book, the Elder Wand, who disarmed Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince, when Harry disarms Draco, etc the disarming of wands and subsequent loyalty shifts has to be explained somehow. Enter Ollivander with his “the wand chooses the wizard” business. We are to assume when the students are practicing, their disarming isn’t truly meaningful, so the wand doesn’t change loyalty. However, when in self-defense, or in combat, the wand can (but not always) shift. I find this a pretty convenient way of explaining a new wizarding law that Rowling had to backtrack on. It’s just me being petty, but it is something that nagged at me while reading.
For the first time, I watched the movies while reading the books, so I was very aware of what was left out. And I understand that, for the sake of time, things are streamlined, but in HPB when Dumbledore leads Harry down the Horcrux path about how each item is “meaningful” to Voldemort, that seems to me to be a pretty important part. However, in the movies, Harry is left entirely on his own to figure it out. Even for Harry, this is a bit of a stretch of ability. He lucks upon them a lot, rather than having a solid lead, like in the books.
Every time I read the last book, I cry when Harry turns the stone over and sees his family. And even more when he asks his mother to stay close to him. She doesn’t reply in the book, but in the movie, she says “Always” which is a mirror to Snape’s response when Dumbledore asks him if he still loves Lily. I love that the movie does this. Because when you love like Snape does, or when a mother loves her child, it’s always. It’s forever. It’s no matter what. This reading, I also cried when Harry mended his wand in Dumbledore’s office. I think this is far better than in the movie, when the wand issue is left completely unresolved. He breaks the Elder Wand, but does he ever get a new one? Of course, but I prefer that he is reunited with his original.
Very few series are as excellent as this one. I can’t wait to read these again with my children, one day.