"Why," asks the little D., "are you so critical of Harry Potter now?"
We have just seen Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and, unbenownst to D., I had previously finished, in three marathon sessions, HP and the Deathly Hallows. Yes, I was Pottered out. And this from a fairly serious fan of the Magical World of Rowling.
You see, I say to D., when you read a non-serialized book (or see such a movie,) you're like an empty slate (a tabula rasa, I say, always eager to nudge his vocabulary,) and you let the author work his/her magic on you as you immerse yourself in the writing. A good author brings something fresh to every chapter, something new is revealed, something old is borrowed.
But a serial, by definition, is constrained, which is why so many of Volume II's are so disappointing. Rowling avoided the disappointments magisterially, and was constantly inventive, constantly juggling the many, many balls of her plot, constantly tying up or connecting loose ends from previous novels. In this she was masterful and it worked well through five books. VI and VII?...well...
I tell D. to avoid cliches in his nascent writing (which he does a lot of,) because cliches are like the wormholes in that apple, empty but assertive. And, I continue, in an epic spanning, oh, what, some 3,500+ pages, how could an author not create her own cliches? You start noticing these. I mention that, inevitably, the freshness disappears, like taking another bite of the apple you're saving for some reason from the day before. Inevitably you see constructs seen before, plot lines mentioned two volumes before, conceits you noted three books ago. Formulas emerge.
So I'm Pottered out. The movie was ... acceptable as D. would say of many things he does not want to expound on. Episodic, jumpy, almost...dare I say it...boring? Bring back Prisoner of Azkaban, I thought as I saw it.
And the book? Unlike the others, Hallows starts with action that continues more-or-less non-stop, with few quiet chapters. While Rowling has mastered, as always, the writing of action and conflict, the feeling is muted, mechanical, and the needed suspension of disbelief (even in a novel set in a magical world,) too high. I take casual note of the increasingly common coincidences. One more jet of light that barely misses [enter name]'s head and I thought I'd scream. Can't the entire might of the Death Eaters and Voldemort finish Potter off more smartly? Flashback-- how come the duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore in the film showed such immense power? Does Voldemort hold himself back when faced with Potter? And can he never get there on time when apprised of Harry's capture (again?) But after all, there's another 500 pages to go.
And, the final disappointment...the Hollywood ending comes to the Harry Potter series. The ending's pretentious enough, but a more smarmy epilogue would be hard to imagine. Wait, you say, it's a children's book, it has to have a happy ending...bs, I reply, Rowling has been aging the story to keep up with its readers and every book from III on has been darker than the previous. This is a book where Mrs. Weasly screams the female-dog word. Hardly kid stuff. So an ending involving three happy couples and their euphoniously named multiple children all happily swarming on Platform 9-3/4 does not cut it.
Yet...Rowling is smart. It is an end (I hope.) Perhaps she is cognizant of the unending-series issues, and, although 2-1/2 books too late, she has wisely chosen an unambiguous conclusion.
Thank you for the wild ride, Ms. Rowling!