Warning: This review may contain some unintentional spoilers. If you haven't finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I'll be entirely unoffended if you quit reading now.
"Have you finished it yet?" This has been the near-constant whispered refrain between all the Potter-fans at work and beyond for the past couple days; thankfully I'll now be able to join the legions who can answer that question in the affirmative (and be able to take the spoiler-avoidance stoppers out of my ears). After a shipping delay followed by a visit to a Borders branch entirely bereft of copies yesterday morning, I found the final remaining first-shipment copy at one of the little independent shops in Boston; I promptly snagged it and barely set it down until I finished it this evening.
Rowling's seventh book forms a dramatic capstone to the series which has captivated readers for nearly a decade. While I am a latecomer to PotterMania myself, I admit to being a fairly zealous convert; the anticipation I felt for this book was both a surprise and a delight. Deathly Hallows is a roller-coaster ride in which many longstanding questions are finally answered and the great struggle between Harry and Voldemort is finally and decisively resolved. There are moments of intense humor, great hope, and, as expected, incredible sadness. It is almost certainly the best book of the series.
Some critics may whine about Rowling's writing and say these books aren't "great literature" - and maybe by some definitions they're not. But they are great stories, and they have managed to do something very special: they've got people - many people - reading, and talking about reading, and thinking about what they read. I realized upon boarding the train today on the way to work that five other people in the car were holding the same book; we all shared a brief smile, a moment of unexpected, tacit camaraderie. Any book that can do that must surely contain a generous portion of greatness.
The tales of Harry and his gang may end with Deathly Hallows, but their exploits will live on; these books will hold their power to amuse, to amaze, and to educate. The current atmosphere of intense anticipation will fade with time, but the powerful message contained in the series will long endure, as will their great power to inspire and to pique the imagination. As one of books' most important characters tells their hero near the end of this volume, "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"