Hello all you Mugwumps and Members of the Order of Merlin! I’m back to give my final thoughts on Harry Potter, post re-read. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it – not that I didn’t like Harry Potter before but I’ve lived under the idea for years now that it’s overall just okay and, with the exception of Order of the Phoenix, took a sharp dive in quality after the third book. I was wrong. I still don’t like Goblet of Fire but man the last two books were way better than I remembered! And way better than the movies make them out to be. Of course, they would have been even better if it had been the Luna Lovegood series. Harry could be a background character. Ron could…not exist. Life would be better.
There are some real bold moves made by JK Rowling in these books. One of which is making Ron a bigoted asshole. He actively works against Hermione’s SPEW efforts, he is surprised and disturbed when he finds out that Hagrid is half-giant, he’s one of those sports fans who gets really angry about people being “bandwagon” fans and he completely ruins a conversation Harry is having with Cho just so he can scream at Cho about being a bandwagon fan AND OH MY GOD HARRY WHY ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH RON!? I hate Ron so much. I hate Ron as much as Draco. That is not an exaggeration. And worse, it never really serves the plot. It’s not a vehicle for exploring how sometimes your friends can be shitty and one of the responsibilities of friendship is pointing out when they’re being shitty. Harry never calls him out. So maybe this wasn’t so much a “bold move” as it was a mistake. Fuck Ron.
Along a similar line, however, is how much of an asshole Harry is in Book 5. It’s a very interesting choice on her part and really risky. He’s pretty unlikeable throughout most of the story. But it makes sense because of his age and because of the creeping influence of Voldemort bein all up in his brain. Not to mention the fact that she almost completely removes Dumbledore from the book after building him up to be such a calming figure throughout the first four. It really sells the looming bleakness. And goddman Umbridge is one of the best villains ever written.
And then there’s Luna. LUNA FRIGGIN LOVEGOOD. I’m not going to subject you to the 6000 words I could write about how awesome Luna is. But know. Know that it’s there. Because Luna is the best thing to come out of this series. Fight me!
One thing that really bugged me in Book 5 is Hermione’s relationship to Fred and George. So the whole narrative arc of Hermione and Ron is the typical “they clash a lot because they love each other deep down and in the end they wind up together” thing you see in many many stories. But the problem is Ron is too much of an asshole for this to really make much sense. However, Hermione’s relationship to Fred specifically also follows this arc – Hermione goes from being very frustrated with them to admiring how clever they are and respecting them throughout this and the next book – and is much better. Hermione should have ended up with Fred. Again, fight me!
Point is, Book 5 is really good.
Book 6 is possibly just as good, which is something I never thought I’d say. The movie did a real disservice to the story by not including most of the memories Harry and Dumbledore visit. Tom Riddle’s back story is crucial, and there are some obvious parallels between Harry and Tom Riddle’s mom. Why they chose to ignore all of this and instead focus mainly on Ron and Hermione being mad at each other I’ll never know. And this book is our first glimpse of Snape’s potential goodness and the way his and Harry’s lives at Hogwarts rhyme. But let’s talk about that.
JK Rowling has often stated that Snape is her favorite character and it’s very clear from the last book that he’s supposed to be this big tragic, heroic figure. But he’s not. He’s creepy as fuck. And this is really where the major flaw in the series is. JK spent the first few books building up Snape as this despicable, abusive, terrible teacher because she needed an antagonist for Harry. But when she decided what the final narrative of the story was going to be and tried to course correct it was too little too late. She’d already made Snape so loathsome that it’s impossible to find any good will toward him. Yeah he was bullied….but then he joined Voldemort and started hunting muggle-borns. And he was way obsessed with Lily and he ONLY joins Dumbledore’s side out of love for Lily. I get that this is supposed to be a direct response against Voldemort’s inability to feel love and it tracks with JK’s theme of love being powerful magic and hwhatnot. But Snape sucks. And he will always suck. His “redemption” is totally undercut by the fact that it’s his fault that Lily died in the first place. It’s so so close to being a really cool story, but JK just didn’t stick the landing.
Book 7 isn’t quite as good as Book 6 but it’s still got a lot of great stuff. The Gringotts heist is fun, the slow reveal of Dumbledore’s master plan, Luna’s total lack of concern in the face of the Battle of Hogwarts. As you would expect of the last in a series the actual writing is JK’s strongest, even if the story isn’t her best. The beginning of the book where they’re traipsing through the woods for 100 pages is just a bit longer than it needs to be; the fight with Ron is annoying and is resolved so quick as to be basically pointless; Kreacher’s turn to devoted servant is way too abrupt. But even in these low points her writing shines. And Kreacher’s hero moment at the end of the book is amazing and I’m so mad it isn’t in the movie!
The last third of the book is wonderful. The Battle of Hogwarts is tense and exciting and Harry meeting Dumbledore in the afterlife is weird and awesome and just what you would expect. Of course Dumbledore can just meet him there. Dumbledore can do anything. And finding out that it was his plan to have Harry die, but only because he also planned on him coming back is a great relief after so much doubt being cast over him. Dumbledore’s a magnificent bastard of the highest order and I love it.
And I’d be lyin if I said that Mrs. Weasley’s duel with Bellatrix didn’t give me chills. That shit’s amazing.
So overall the series is great. I mean, I know we all already knew that but I’d forgotten about a lot of what makes it so great. The way Rowling builds the world and the characters is just as wonderful and inspiring now as it was when I was seven. I look forward to reading these books to my own kids one day, just like my mom did for me.
The epilogue still sucks though.
And so, to close this out I’ll give my newly revised ranking:
- Order of the Phoenix
- Half Blood Prince
- Prisoner of Azkaban
- Deathly Hallows
- Sorcerer’s Stone
- Chamber of Secrets
- Goblet of Fire
Suck it Goblet of Fire! A Storm of Swords deserved the Hugo!