Anyway, yeah, spoilers. :)
Overall Reactions, and Some Reactions to Reactions
First, I liked it a lot. I'd been worrying a bit over the last day or so, since I've seen comments around my Flist which weren't spoilers but which were sort of "Ack!" or "Argh!" or "This will never be canon!!" or whatever, so I was wondering just what Rowling had done to get at least some of the fans ready to literarily disinherit her. By the time I was done with the book, I can only figure out a couple of things it might've been, and that was either some of the deaths (and yeah, there were a lot) or who ended up with whom at the end.
I've never been any kind of an OTPer even in my fanfic, and who's "really" together in canon has never had any sort of impact on what I write or enjoy reading, so the fact that Harry and Ginny did indeed end up together, as did Ron and Hermione, doesn't upset me at all.
About the deaths, I'm glad she made the war realistic. I think it would've greatly diminished the impact of Voldemort's threat and the intense struggle to defeat him if everyone we like had survived -- way too much like a Carebears episode. The books have been getting darker and more mature in their themes as the characters have grown up, and especially after losing Sirius and Dumbledore, I think it would've been disapppointing if there hadn't been significant deaths in the last book, both in numbers and in the fact of people we know and like being part of the body-count.
If all the "Nooo!" and "I hate Rowling forever!!" reaction was about anything else, I haven't seen anything mentioned and don't really see anything else to get that annoyed about. Anyone else have any ideas?
Woot! All I can say here is, I knew it all along! :D Lots of boinging and crowing and air-punching here, 'cause there was no way she was going to leave him "really" a traitor after the way she'd set it all up. He had to have been loyal to Dumbledore, murder and all; it just didn't work as a story any other way. In fact, when he ducked out after the trio got back to Hogwarts and everyone was doing the "Good riddance!" thing, I was sort of wondering and was getting ready to be incredibly disappointed with Rowling, from a writing POV. She pulled it off, though, and beautifully; the fact that I was even wondering at that point is great. :)
Oh, and the "Snape-shaped" hole in the window had me LOLing! That was a perfect tension reliever before diving back into the attack prep.
The whole thing about Snape having been in love with Lily fits in perfectly, IMO. I've read some people opining that it was problematic because it's a cliche, but come on -- "Snape loved Lily" is only a "cliche" because so many fanfic writers have used it. I don't think it's at all fair to call Rowling on a "cliche" based on fanfic written about her WIP. For all we know, she planned this from the beginning (I'd be more than willing to believe that this was the case) so it wasn't cliche when she came up with it. If anything, I think it speaks to how well Snape's love of Harry's mother fits into the story, that so many fan writers thought of it too and fit it into their stories.
Wandering Around in the Forest -- Thoughts on Pacing
I've seen a few people griping about this, saying that it was too long and boring. I have mixed feelings here. Yes, there was a lot of, "And so they apparated to [the Forest of Whatever] and cast their protections and set up their tent and ate more mushrooms" type text, but I think there was a purpose to it. They really didn't have a lot to go on, they didn't know what to do or where to go, they were cut off from almost all news most of that time, and I think she did a good job of matching the reader's frustration with the characters'. Sure, I was wishing they could actually get back into the action, stop moving around randomly and hiding and hoping for a clue to fall out of the sky, but by the time I was frustrated about it, so were they. That's what caused Ron to leave -- sure, the horcrux was amplifying his feelings but they were there in the first place to be used -- and even Hermione had felt the same way, just not enough to leave Harry. And Harry himself certainly didn't enjoy being out of touch and helpless either. If we were thinking about starting to skim through those scenes, I'm sure the kids (after having lived through those weeks and months) were definitely thinking about abandoning what seemed, by then, to be a pointless as well as uncomfortable course of non-action.
Sure, she could've fed them another hint or two and had them dashing around doing things and making some small steps of progress during that time, but given that she's tied herself into the school year, I think it would've been difficult to either have them taking action and making progress the entire time (aside from the fact that the book would've been at least a thousand pages long) or to just show when they are making progress and skim through the rest of the time, which is what she's usually done.
Which I think that's part of the problem, actually. She's set herself up with this pattern of each year's adventure taking pretty much the entire school year, with some early slop-over into the summer before Harry gets to Hogwarts. So now she's on the last book and feels like she has to stick with that pattern, but the story doesn't fit it very well. When Harry and company were at Hogwarts and relatively safe, she could do the, "So after Christmas..." and "When the trees were green again..." and "With final exams looming..." to skip from one plot-significant part of the school year to another and then on to the next, with the readers understanding that there's a lot of time spent just going to class and doing homework and hanging out in the common room in between the bits which are actually narrated, and that worked fine before.
In Deathly Hallows, though, it was a lot tougher to do that. With Voldemort and his minions having all but total control of Wizarding Britain, they had to hide -- going back to school or to their homes or wherever to just sort of hang while waiting for the next clue or idea to surface wasn't an option. Even going into hiding with family and friends would've been difficult -- aside from the inherent danger of asking one's friends to shelter Undesirable Number One, going in and out of hiding with people like Molly and even Fleur badgering them about how OMGDangerous!! it was and how they simply must have misunderstood Dumbledore because he couldn't possibly have meant for them to... blah, blah, blah, would've probably made hanging out cold and hungry in a tent in the middle of the woods seem downright peaceful. I certainly didn't want to have to read about however many months of that. :/
[Seriously, was anyone else ready to just smack Molly more than once, or at least lock her in a closet? :/ Yes, I know her protectiveness toward the younger generation is an important part of her character, and yes, the way she came charging up to kick ass on Bellatrix in the final battle was full of win, but jeez! Earlier on I just wanted to Petrificus her or something because she was getting really and truly annoying. :P ]
But anyway, they couldn't just hide with allies, and Hogwarts was right out. Giving them a really safe haven (that is, any place where it would've been reasonable to just say, "So, they hung out there for the next three months until...") would've made the power and terror and stress of Voldemort's takeover just... deflate. If she'd wanted them to have a base where they felt relatively safe, she'd have left them at Sirius's place. Having the hope of the Wizarding world reduced to huddling in a tent, cold and hungry (and bored and stressed and frustrated) really rubbed in just how awful the situation was, and how some people might actually give up hope or cave in to what must've seemed to be the new status quo.
Yes, it was frustrating and I got impatient reading it a time or two, but I think that was a feature rather than a bug; it helped us empathize with the characters. And the only way to "fix" it would've been to break the pattern of the previous six books and have the story take less than a school year.
The one thing I was really hoping for which didn't happen was that Teddy would be raised by Harry. It seems pretty clear that Rowling was trying to set up a situation in parallel to Sirius being orphaned Harry's godfather, so it seemed reasonable that Teddy would grow up with Harry, the way Harry wished he'd grown up with Sirius. I was sort of ?? at the end when it was made clear that that wasn't the case. It works well enough the way she did it, but it was a great opportunity for some repairallelism and I was surprised she didn't take it.
Okay, yeah, it was awful to kill off Fred and only Fred. It would've been much kinder to either leave them both alive or kill them both off. But on the other hand, war sucks, and this sort of "OMGACK!!!" moment in the book really rubs that in. And you have to admit, it provides an opportunity for some really wonderful angsty fanfic.
Is anyone else on my Flist a Gordy Dickson fan? This reminds me a bit of "Brothers," a Dorsai story where there are these twin brothers, Kensie and Ian Graeme, who were incredibly close but whose personalities were very different. If I'm remembering correctly (since I haven't read these in like twenty-five years) there's a saying within the books that Dorsai are made of blood and iron, and in "Brothers," the people who know the twins say that when they were in the womb, Kensie got all the blood and Ian got all the iron, because Kensie was sunny and friendly and warm and loved by everyone while Ian was hard and dour and cold and loved only by Kensie. So of course, when a sniper takes one of them out it's Kensie who dies and it's pretty much set up so that the readers go "No!!!!" and think (rather guiltily) that it should've been Ian who died. But anyway, my point [cough] was that Kensie's death just about killed Ian too; he was never one for showing emotion and everyone else who mourned Kensie resented him for "not caring" about his brother's death, but he did and the rest of the story showed just how much, in a wonderfully subtle way that smacks you in the head with a brick. It's my single favorite Dorsai story.
And although, unlike Kensie and Ian, George and Fred were pretty much identical in personality as well as appearance, I think (and expect) that fans will write some really wonderfully painful stories about George going on alone.
Neville rocked truckloads of socks in Deathly Hallows. :D He's definitely grown up and come into his own as a young man. I think he's pretty clearly one of those who came out of the war older than his years, when it seemed he started the first book emotionally younger than his age. Just watching his story has been a lot of fun and I'm glad Rowling kept building on him and gave him such a large part in the end. And actually, when Neville came out of the Sorting Hat with the Gryffindor sword, I thought for a bit that it was going to turn out that the prophecy had meant Neville after all and that he was going to end up being the one who actually got the deathstroke in on Voldemort. I liked the way it happened but it was kind of neat to imagine it the other way for a bit. :)
Oh, and his grandmother rocked too! :D
I really liked this bit and I felt sorry for Mr. Lovegood. Despite the fact that he tried to turn Our Heroes over to the death eaters [cough] I don't see him as a bad or evil person. Rather, he was frightened and alone and he loved his daughter. Sure, a HERO!!! would've acted for the good of everyone, rather than just of himself and his daughter, or better yet, would've figured out a way of freeing Luna and thwarting the bad guys. But that's why we call them heroes -- they do things that most people simply can't. If just anyone could and did do wonderfully brave and clever and morally-right-no-matter-what things, then we wouldn't call them heroic; it'd be like giving someone a medal because they pay for things they take out of a store. We expect everyone to do that, and rather than showering people who do with glory we look down on people who don't. If everyone were expected to just naturally behave the way Harry and his friends do, then we wouldn't call them heroes.
Xeno Lovegood isn't a hero. He's a good man who tried to do what was right, by publishing the truth when no one else would. He's not a hero, though, and when the pressure got too strong, he broke. He's one of the normal people and I think Rowling does a great job of showing just how horrible Voldemort's rule is, that it puts so much pressure on ordinary people that they bend and break and do things like call the authorities on Harry. If the only people who did bad things under Voldemort had been the death eaters and the corrupt politicians and the opportunists like the snatchers (who were clearly meant to have been nasty people all along), I don't think it would've been nearly as realistic as it was when we saw Mr. Lovegood doing something terrible because he was afraid for his daughter.
I like how she handled Dumbledore. [hides under keyboard] Sorry, I just do. And I don't think it was all that surprising, either. Dumbledore has made his journey too, as we've gone on through the books. He was the perfect, kind, benevolent, wonderfully powerful wizard in the first book, but no one's really like that. As Harry matured and the storyline itself got harder and colder and the pressure on everyone got more intense, we've seen Dumbledore start making mistakes, we've seen his judgement fail. And all along people have wondered if he'd be willing to sacrifice Harry to the cause. I've always thought he would, and what's more I've thought he should. Whether he's a good person or a bad person would rest more on how he felt about it and how much it hurt than on whether he'd be willing to do it at all. Because seriously, the whole Voldemort-taking-over-the-world thing affects more than just the characters we know. We're talking about millions of people here and despite what Star Trek thinks, sometimes you do have to count numbers and make a hard decision.
Dumbledore was the effective leader of Our Side. Even though he never had political power, he was the rallying point and the string-puller, the organizer and the one with the most influence up until his death. The fact that the Ministry was trying so hard to smear his reputation there in the last few books shows that they recognized that. And one of the absolutely required characteristics of a leader is to be able to make the hard decisions, even when that means sending someone else to their death, if that's what's required to achieve a greater goal which you (and hopefully the person you're sending out) believe in. And no one can say that Dumbledore wasn't willing to give his own life for that goal -- he was and he did. He went first and he expected Harry to follow him, because he believed the cause was worth it.
And in a way, maybe the fact that he was the sort of person who could believe very strongly in a (wrong) cause when he was young just marked him as being the sort of person who could believe very strongly in a right cause when he was older and more mature. He made an error in judgement when he was young, as many young people do. I'm certainly not proud of everything I was into twenty years ago. But when it came down to it he was on the right side and he did do what he thought was necessary to defeat a great evil for the greater good. He had the right idea all along; he just needed to work on his definition of "the greater good," and on the difference between what's easy or convenient and what's actually necessary, before he found where he was supposed to be.
Dumbledore shows us that there's not this comfortably huge chasm in between good and evil. Even someone like Dumbledore, who grew up to be good and wise and a great example and inspiration to the people around him, could take that one false step and end up on the wrong path. Good and evil are right there next to one another. So first, even someone like Dumbledore can make a mistake and end up on the wrong path for a while. And second, even someone who does end up making that mistake can come back right and make up for it; anyone can make a mistake but that doesn't mean they're damned for all time. And yes, Snape is a more spectacular example of this, but I think the more subtle example is actually the more valuable one; I can more easily imagine myself making Dumbledore's mistake than Snape's, so that subtler example speaks to me more personally.
So in conclusion...
Over all I think this was a great wrap to the series. Most of the loose ends were woven in nicely and while yeah, I would've liked to see where everyone who survived was and whom they'd married (if anyone) and what they were doing with their lives after the war, but that would've been really, really long without adding much to the story she was actually telling. Maybe when they do the Deathly Hallows movie, they can do a little "Where They Are Now" thing where they show each major character's photo with a little paragraph about what happened to them? I suppose she could've done it in list-form at the end of the book, but while it would've been cool, I don't think there's a major hole in the story without it.
Oh, and for all the folks saying that little Albus Severus is going to get beaten up on the playground or have a traumatized adolescence or whatever, I think it's pretty clear that the Wizarding world has different standards of baby naming than the Muggle world, and that "Albus Severus Potter" probably isn't a really wierd name in Wizarding society. And for people who think little Albus's name would stand out all that much in school (assuming he even goes to a muggle school before Hogwarts) I refer you to this site: Baby's Named a Bad Bad Thing. Trust me, modern muggles are far crueler to their children these days. :P