The best magic is when the trick is done right in front of you, in plain sight where you can see everything, and still your mouth hangs open in utter amazement at trying to figure out "how did they do that?".
For the past seven years, ever since I first bought and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I've watched J.K. Rowling spin and weave her wonderful tale. She has made me look forward to each succeeding book with a wide-eyed wonder about what was going to happen next, where was this going. Always with the barest hint of mis-direction or sleight of hand on her part.
So at about 12:30 a.m. this morning (late last night in layman's terms), I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, almost 24 hours to the minute after first buying it at Borders in Greensboro (full report with photos of that coming later today).
And now, the morning after, I feel as if I have watched the conclusion of the most magnificent magic act in the history of fiction. The way it unfolded, the way it was always playing out before our eyes from the very beginning even if we didn't know it. How everything, in the end, is revealed to have been working in glorious sync toward the act's climax ...
"How did she do that?"
How wonderful a performance was it? Right now, I think that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a more fulfilling and uplifting end for a saga than Revenge of the Sith was to Star Wars ... and maybe even how The Return of the King wrapped-up The Lord of the Rings.
And the more I think about this book, the more I'm becoming convinced that the Harry Potter series is allegorical Christian fiction on par with C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, nobody will ever again be able to claim that Harry Potter is "evil" or "promoting witchcraft" or whatever ludicrous things have been said about these books and their author. What Harry and Hermione discover in Chapter 16, and the very title of the next to the last chapter of the book (it's called "King's Cross") should be flashing sign enough about the considerably Christian element that has been at work in this series.
I'm very glad now that I took the time to re-read all of the subsequent books in the past few weeks leading up to the release of The Deathly Hallows. It refreshed my mind about a lot of details that seemed so minor then, but take on enormous new significance in this final chapter of the Harry Potter saga. I'm trying hard this morning to think of some thread from subsequent books that is still left dangling by the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So far I can only think of one, and it's a pretty minor one (but something toward the end makes me wonder if Rowling left that hanging after all).
And this book, at long last, delivered solid answers on some things that I had been wondering a lot about since the very beginning. Want an example? Without giving away any spoilers to those who haven't read the books yet (you know who I'm talking about ;-) I'll offer this example: in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Harry and Ron meet for the first time, Harry reads something. This particular item has to do with a certain major character and it cites a name and a year. Mention of the year alone has piqued and ached my curiosity for the better part of a decade now, because it happens to have been a very significant year in real world history and I've been dying to know all this time "okay, what's the connection here?". Sometimes I've wondered if I was reading too much into it. And then it turns out, after reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that I was right to have caught note of that and maybe I didn't give it enough thought, because it turns out to have been very, very important to the story as a whole (and I'm probably giving away too much already just talking about it like this).
That's what this book is like though. Whatever question that likely has tantalized you for so long during the Harry Potter series, is answered here. Including some things that I had never given a second thought to. It can never be said that J.K. Rowling was simply "making it up" as she went along: this kind of orchestration isn't possible unless there were years of planning and forethought behind it.
This book has heartbreak. It has horror. It even has humor. It satisfies in ways that I've never enjoyed out of a fictional saga before. And for what it's worth, I will go ahead and say that the greatest line of the entire series is in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it's spoken (actually screamed out) by Mrs. Weasley. You'll know it when you read it.
And so far as The Big Question goes, the one that has been foremost in the minds of readers these past two years - other than about if Harry is going to live or die in The Deathly Hallows - I can only say here that the answer is definitive and final and absolutely fitting in every way. But that's all I'm going to say about it until I'm confident that plenty enough people have read the book so that it can be discussed safely in the open.
I'm not going to say much more about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's still very soon after the book's release and there are plenty of folks who haven't even read the first novel in the series, much less this final one. Those people really do deserve to discover the world of Harry Potter as we first came upon it: with amazement and wonder, and as unsuspecting as we were as to how beautifully crafted this intricate world really is.
In the meantime, I've finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and soon my wife Lisa will be reading it for the first time too (she's currently finishing reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince again). And then the book will join the others on our shelf as the complete seven-volume collection of the Harry Potter saga: a story that we will be returning to many times over the years, not just for our enjoyment but also to share with our children. And, no doubt, that they will share with their own children.
I used to wonder if my generation would ever see a literary masterpiece like The Lord of the Rings be produced in our own lifetime. I wondered if there was still enough magic in this world to do something so beautiful and wonderful again. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finishing this series, I am at last convinced: the magic is still out there. We just need to have faith that we can ... and will ... find it.