Raincoast Books, 2007
Admittedly, it is a source of youth librarian shame that I haven't read the final Harry Potter book until now, years after it was published. Better late than never, I suppose!
As the last book in the ground-breaking series, I had high hopes for this novel, and for the most part I wasn't disappointed. The characters remained as consistent as always, loose ends were tied up, and tension and suspense permeated the entire novel. I particularly enjoyed learning about Dumbledore's past and watching Harry grapple with what he should believe about his mentor. I have also been curious about Snape's true motivations and that, too, was revealed.
My favourite parts of the novel were the lighter bits, of which there were few. The Weasley family as a whole are the group of characters I enjoy the most throughout the series, especially the family dynamics and Fred and George's antics, and the funnier moments in the book almost invariably involved one Weasley or another.
One thing I have always admired about Rowling's writing is her ability to keep information hidden from both the book's characters and the reader, while making the thread of logic and discovery make complete sense once the revelation comes out. One of my gripes about some children's literature is that crucial bits of information are terribly obvious to the reader but the characters just can't seem to see what is right in front of their noses, and this often frustrates me. I have never had this frustration with Rowling.
*Spoilers ahead* My one gripe about this book is the climatic final battle between Harry and Voldemort. For something that has taken seven books and thousands of pages to come to a head, I found it disappointing. While most of their direct conflicts involved Harry surviving due to a twist of logic or something Voldemort forgot about, the final battle between the two seemed very quick and wordy and (again) involved something Voldemort didn't consider in his calculations and his overall underestimation of Harry. While I can see a lesson there about arrogance vs. reflection, etc., and while I suppose the only way anyone could have defeated Voldemort was by finding holes in his plan and capitalizing on them, the climax wasn't as epic as I would have liked. Sure, there was a Death Eaters and Dementors versus Order of the Phoenix and Hogwarts students battle, but even that was a sideline event. While the pace at the end was breathless and I was very happy to see the end of the Dark Lord, there was something missing for me. *End spoilers*
This is not to say that I wasn't completely sucked into the book for its entirety - in fact, for the final 200 pages I could not bear to put the book down. Perhaps my reaction to the finale was due to the late (early?) hour, but on the other hand I appreciated the epilogue and thought it was an appropriate book-end to the very beginning of Harry's story: on platform 9 3/4. Overall, a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series.