I finally finished it somewhere around 10 PM this evening, just a few hours ago. And, not surprisingly, I find myself unable to sleep, still pondering the book in my mind. How could it be otherwise? J.K. Rowling has done now for a younger generation, and willing adults (even fortysomethings such as myself), what George Lucas did in the late 1970s and early 1980s: provide a generation with its very own mythology. I didn't come to Harry Potter until 2004; nonetheless, the series quickly became a part of the fabric of my being. And I took this book more slowly than I could have, because I quite simply didn't want it to end; heck, I only teasingly murmured complaints when my wonderful wife hijacked the book for the first half-week or so after its release, since I didn't know if I wanted to start down the last journey! Then when I was not even 150 pages into the book, I paused for a day or two to skim reread Half-Blood Prince. And at times I had to put the book down for hours due to the enormity of the events contained therein; I simply was not ready to continue.
For this book inspires a lot of emotion for those of us invested in the story: joy and tears are there in abundance. Those who like to scour the books for literary and other pop culture references will have fun: beyond the expected Inklings influences, there are also moments that seemed to me to be inspired partially by the Matrix and Star Wars film series.
But now it's over, and my first reaction comes from a fantasy saga that I read when a teenager (alas, I cannot remember which one): "Go in peace, for I have seen (or, in this case, read) a marvelous tale." It's epic. It's stunning. It's deeply moving. At the same time, it's not perfect. There's enough in this tome for two books, and at times things aren't developed as well as they should be -- particularly since a good bit of the novel is made up of well-written and thrilling, but (alas) page-consuming, action set pieces. Less of concern are several minor items with which to quibble. But most dismaying from my point of view, two of the character arcs (they are interrelated) do not convince me and leave me unsettled from a Christian point-of-view.
Fortunately, my lesser disappointments fell by the wayside when I read the last chapter. It's easily the best chapter of the entire seven books, even if it was one of the earliest composed in draft form -- and that's saying a lot, considering the last 150 pages or so of Order of the Phoenix and several chapters in this book. Rowling's tip of the hat to Julian of Norwich at the very end is a treasure.
And what we're left with -- those of us who have made Harry's quest our own -- is a wonderful myth with some significant Christian, and eucatastrophic, overtones. There's much to discuss, to ponder, and for which to be grateful. I plan to write more later; this is just a quick reaction, and time will permit more detailed analyses later, I hope.