Before the arrival of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," we asked a panel of experts what they expected to happen in the series finale. Some were webmasters of the most popular Potter sites (Emerson Spartz of Mugglenet, Melissa Anelli of the Leaky Cauldron, Matthew Vines of Veritaserum); one was a librarian at a school where they hold Potter-centric book clubs and slumber parties (Caroline Bartels of New York's Horace Mann); and one was a wizard rocker (Alex Carpenter of the Remus Lupins). Now that the book is out and they've read it, we asked what they had to say. Boy, were they surprised by the book. (Don't worry, we won't spoil the whole thing!)
(See what Harry Potter experts had to say about "Deathly Hallows" right here or, if you're curious about that Harry Potter panel, check it out right here.)
Alex Carpenter: This isn't even a Harry Potter book, it's so dark. It's intense from the moment it starts.
Emerson Spartz: Action-packed, ups and downs, moments where you wanted to pump your fist and moments where you wanted to bury your face.
Melissa Anelli: Oh, I was sobbing. It's a brilliant book, but it felt like a bereavement, like we're saying goodbye to Harry. A lot of people were crying about non-Harry moments, but nothing is more cry-worthy than Harry's walk over to Voldemort.
Carpenter: I thought I would cry more. There was a strange sort of emptiness with the deaths. I wouldn't say the sudden deaths are unsatisfying, but let's face it, this book was a bloodbath.
Caroline Bartels: I didn't think it was a bloodbath. There's a big body count, but not really that many, considering they're at war. They only mention the people you'd really care about. By the seventh book, you really get to know the characters, and when they die, you're devastated.
Carpenter: Important people died, or were maimed, or were left forever changed. And almost every character who died, we found out through somebody else. "We lost so-and-so." It was more affecting when we got to see how they died. I would have liked to see some amazing deaths for the bad guys.
Bartels: Going into the panel, I predicted Harry would die. And the way she handles it, if you think he's going die, it works, and if you want him to live, it works.
Anelli: Harry is presented with a choice. You always knew this was coming, and it affects everything. But everyone's going to be satisfied; there's a nice bow to both sides.
Bartels: Harry's whole life is a series of choices. He's always choosing, because the choice is the main thing.
Carpenter: I think this book really saw Harry coming into his own. After one escape, he interrogates two people with wit beyond his youth, and it's cool to see him become the leader everyone wanted him to be. For the most part, up till now, he always does the wrong thing. He lets his temper get the best of him and people have to bail him out. It's cool to see him step up and do what's good for everyone. It's only until we go back to Hogwarts, in that season-finale kind of way, where we're back for the last battle, that we get everyone.
Anelli: It's a who's-who of Hogwarts.
Bartels: It was nice to see her go back and use all the creatures and all the characters. They all come together.
Carpenter: Neville was always going to be something awesome, but there's nothing more badass than what he does in the final battle. And Molly Weasley was cool. Thank you for using magic for something other than to clean plates.
Anelli: Her moment was the most badass moment I've seen from a character. It's something my mother would do!
Bartels: I was disappointed that there wasn't more Snape.
Anelli: I think we got just enough Snape.
Bartels: But we get it in one fell swoop. It's a complete emotional roller coaster in one chapter. It'd be more effective if it were spread out. Because you're like, "Where's Snape? Where's Snape?" And what was nice about the other books is that you can go through it and find things that support Snape's good, or Snape's bad, and you don't get any of that here. I would have loved more Snape.
Anelli: I thought I wouldn't like the revelation about him, but it's so heartbreaking, so touching.
Bartels: It lived up to my expectations.
Carpenter: So many people put themselves up to be redeemed, and it almost got to the point where everyone's on the good side now. I don't want to say it was forced, but from an outsider's perspective, it might be. But it was good to get that closure.
Bartels: Dumbledore in this book is a revelation.
Carpenter: In the first six books, he's an angelic figure not only in Harry's eyes, but in our eyes. And after we lose Dumbledore, we find out the truth, as we so often do with our parents, that they weren't the people we thought they were.
Anelli: Most fans were pretty on target with their theories, but strangely enough, it wasn't the main driving force. Even if you figured out the Snape-Lily thing or who R.A.B. was, it's only one-eighth of that part of the story. And, oh, Kreacher! That was one of my favorite parts of the entire thing. I just want to hug him. And no one expected the Hallows.
Carpenter: The one thing I really like about the way J.K. Rowling writes is that she borrows from mythology, and there's some Arthurian legend in this one.
Anelli: The sword? Oh, hi, King Arthur. But that's what happens in epic stories — they have roots in other myths, legends and lore. It wouldn't be epic if it didn't, with those major themes of love, loss and sacrifice.
Carpenter: The ending is sort of handed to us. The general idea of it, if it had been written any other way, could have been trite and hokey. "Love conquers all and hate will backfire and destroy itself." But the way it's crafted, it's amazing. I don't know how she managed to wrap everything up. It was masterful the way she crafted an ending that satisfied most of the fans and still left questions.
Matthew Vines: It's clear the five years she spent planning the series before she ever wrote the first book were well worth it.
Bartels: If you're a careful reader, all the things from past books come back.
Anelli: It's a great feat to do that and still keep the main secret from us for so long. There's a ton of unresolved questions, like things J.K. Rowling said we'd see in this book and we're not sure we did. Someone who managed to do magic late in life — who was that? There were also little mysteries sprinkled throughout, like there's a hint two characters got together late in the battle, but that question isn't answered in the epilogue.
Carpenter: The epilogue, though, I didn't like it at all. It was unnecessary, and it didn't accomplish anything other than to show that life goes on.
Bartels: Had I known it was there and what was in it, I would have just stopped. It was kowtowing to the fans and fan fiction. Seeing who gets to end up together? That's what your imagination's for. The book ends on a note that is good and strong, and it took it down a notch.
Anelli: It's been seven books of hell for Harry, so five pages of love is not too much to ask. And if we hadn't read so much fan fiction, would it feel like fan fiction? Probably not. And there's going to be some epic fan fiction coming now.
Check out everything we've got on "Harry Potter."
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