Pulling out all the stops for the release of 'Deathly Hallows'
What weighs more 16,700 tons, has an orange and yellow jacket and appears one minute after midnight on July 21? It doesn't take much wizardry to guess it's the first U.S. printing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's record-breaking series about the boy wizard. The story runs for 748 pages, the only instance where this book's numbers dip below any of its predecessors. (Book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, topped out at 870 pages, making Book 7 the second longest in the series.)
Here are a few more numbers to consider as anticipation builds for this unprecedented publishing phenomenon:
• 12 million Total number of books in the first U.S. printing, the largest first printing of any book in history, beating out the runner-
up by 1.2 million books. The runner-up was 2005's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which had a first printing of 10.8 million copies and sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release, making it the fastest-selling book in history.
• 65 percent The percentage of the paper used in the U.S. first printing of Deathly Hallows that will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), making Harry Potter's seventh installment the largest purchase of FSC-certified paper to be used in the printing of a single book title. All of the paper will contain at least 30 percent post-consumer waste fiber.
• 100,000 Deluxe edition sets of Deathly Hallows available in the U.S., featuring an exclusive wraparound jacket and full-color frontispiece by illustrator Mary GrandPré, along with a foil-stamped slipcase. List price for the deluxe edition is $65, compared to $34.99 for the regular book, although both prices are being deeply discounted by many booksellers.
• 37, 10 and seven The number of libraries, cities and weeks for the cross-country Knight Bus National Tour sponsored by Scholastic. The tour features a triple-decker purple bus decorated like the magical bus Harry rides in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Fans can add their thoughts about the series to a video journal when the bus stops in their town.
• 1,700 Fans who will get to meet Rowling for a midnight book-signing party at London's Natural History Museum on July 21. Five hundred lucky winners, chosen at random, will also attend her midnight reading prior to the signing. And seven of these fortunate youngsters will be from the U.S., courtesy of an online sweepstakes from Scholastic (www.scholastic.com/harrypotter).
• 325 million Total sales of the first six Harry Potter books to date, worldwide.
• 120 million Number of Harry Potter books in print in the U.S. alone.
• $3.5 billion Total gross worldwide for the Harry Potter films (so far).
• 138 minutes Reported running time for the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, to be released in the U.S. on July 11. Not bad, considering the length of the book (870 pages).
• 12 Number of Harry Potter stamps to be released by the United Kingdom's Royal Mail. The stamps will feature the cover art from Bloomsbury's British editions of all seven novels, as well as the Hogwarts school crest and the emblems for each of its four houses.
• $265 million Expected cost to build "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," a theme park set to open at Universal's Orlando Resort in 2009. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the village of Hogsmeade, the mysterious Forbidden Forest and, of course, Hogwarts castle. "The plans I've seen look incredibly exciting, and I don't think fans of the books or films will be disappointed," Rowling says of the project.
Enough facts, more fantasy
Of course, the impending release of this seventh and final book has only served to spur curiosity about the fate of Rowling's magical hero. And the biggest question is: Will Harry survive his final battle with Lord Voldemort?
Though the "Harry dies!" voices are the loudest in this discussion, most fans (including this writer) think they're wrong, based on the tone of the novels, statements by Rowling and the audience for the books. On the other hand, bookmakers in the U.K. are now refusing wagers from bettors who believe Harry will be killed off in the final book, citing an avalanche of bets.
In any case, Rowling has stated that at least two major characters will die, and that one will get a reprieve, but she has hinted that these are not the only deaths. Speculation revolves around which of the characters she is referring toHarry, Lord Voldemort, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Snape, Draco, Neville Longbottom, Ginny or another Weasley (or more than one).
Other questions fans would like to see answered in Deathly Hallows: Is Dumbledore really dead? Will Sirius Black come back from the dead? (In Egyptian mythology, the dog star Sirius is a symbol of resurrection.) What are Harry and Lord Voldemort reaching for on the book's cover (shown above)? And of course, the classic question: Is Severus Snape evil or good?
Whatever the outcome for Harry and his friends, one prediction is certainon July 21 a legion of fans will be reading into the wee hours to find out what happens to their hero. And I'll be one of them.
Howard Shirley is a writer in Franklin, Tennessee, with a fascination for Harry Potter and the wizarding world. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #5
The wildly popular series ends with a bang as Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, abandons the familiar haven of Hogwarts to defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all -- or so he hopes. From a hair-raising escape at book's beginning to the monumental battle at its end that pits the Death Eaters against the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's Army, and numerous magical creatures (including an unlikely contingent of house elves), Deathly Hallows breaks formula, eschewing the schoolboy setup of the past for a straight-up quest adventure devoid of Quidditch, detentions, and exams. On the run, now-seventeen-year-old Harry, Ron, and Hermione search out the Horcruxes, introduced in Book Six as the key to Voldemort's destruction. Meanwhile, Harry, distraught over his mentor Dumbledore's death, puzzles through the former Hogwarts headmaster's shady past and discovers a new means of defeating Voldemort: the Deathly Hallows, three legendary objects that together give their possessor power over death. As the book opens, Voldemort has begun to seize power in a silent coup: with discrimination codified, step by step, into law and critics swiftly "disappeared," the resulting society is a familiar dystopic nightmare -- and Hogwarts is no sanctuary. Rather, with the still-enigmatic Snape installed as headmaster and several Death Eaters added to the staff, it is a youth prison and indoctrination center. Rowling pulls few punches in depicting this bleak landscape: torture, if not graphically described, is implacably present, and the body count climbs ever higher. Readers who grew up with the series will appreciate how it has matured, but younger newcomers may be overwhelmed by a level of violence and loss that far surpasses all previous volumes. Rowling obviously had a long eye for plotting: numerous minor personalities emerge from the woodwork to fulfill past foreshadowing, while others -- Ron and Neville Longbottom, especially -- finally come into their own. As for Harry, the boy hero flirts with darkness, casting Unforgivable curses with a feeling of "heady control" and ominously tempted by the promise of power that tainted Dumbledore. Ultimately, however, he is saved by his capacity for love and self-sacrifice, and it is here that Rowling's message rings loud and clear. Harry is consistently defined by his compassion; it can even be his (temporary) downfall, as when his choice to disarm rather than kill one of the enemy identifies him amid a cadre of decoys. But compassion is the quality that allows Harry to break the cycle of hatred between Muggle and wizard, house elf and human, and even Gryffindor and Slytherin -- and the ripple effects of this achievement are incalculable. Ravenous fans and higher-than-ever stakes aside, the book has its flaws. Rowling still discounts the ability of her audience to read between the lines and leaves no subtlety to the imagination (to a righteously angry Hermione, "'Yeah,' said Ron sycophantically"); certain plot devices seem like hasty additions to the magical rulebook; and the scenes of conceptual exposition, particularly a plodding one that bisects Harry and Voldemort's final showdown, are poorly integrated, rarely sustaining tension. Nevertheless, Rowling fulfills the promise of earlier volumes, tying up loose threads, deepening character complexities to match Harry's evolving recognition of life's shades of gray, pulling out every emotional stop, and leading her hero into adulthood while still producing the most focused plot line and layered, heart-in-throat climax of the series. (Snape plays his part, and rather than resolving his character as pure good or pure evil, Rowling allows him a full measure of both and the internal conflict to match.) After all the adrenaline, an epilogue gently releases readers, shining a brief nineteen-years-later light on the aftermath for all involved that contains small, satisfying echoes of Harry's own first introduction to the wizarding world. It is unsettling to reach the end of a saga that attained such heights of cultural saturation; there's not enough action or bittersweet resolution in the world to prepare us for the finality of that last page turn, and readers will always want one more chapter, one more story, before leaving the universe of the book. Rowling gracefully acknowledges this ambivalence. The opening scenes of Deathly Hallows find Harry, for the last time inside the Dursleys' house at number four, Privet Drive, sifting through his belongings, recalling past escapades, and wistfully bidding goodbye to those who, like his parents and godfather, were lost to him. Readers will share his feelings of nostalgia in this triumphant farewell to the boy wizard. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 July #4
It would seem churlish to review the Harry Potter series finale with something less than overwhelming enthusiasm--after all, there's no one like Rowling. Who else has sustained such an intricate, endlessly inventive plot over seven thick volumes and so constantly surprised her readers with twists, well-laid traps and Purloined Letter -style tricks? Hallows continues the tradition, both with sly feats of legerdemain and with several altogether new, unexpected elements. And yet the revelations don't pack as much of a punch; the moments of genuine astonishment or grief that mark every other book in the series go missing here. Perhaps readers know too well the rules of Rowling's magical universe, a universe she has constructed with extraordinary thoroughness and care.
As the ending of the previous book suggested, Hallows revolves around Harry, Ron and Hermione's quest for the rest of the Horcruxes into which Voldemort has poured his soul. Without the Hogwarts school year to supply structure, the plot can meander, and Harry himself is tempted to go on an altogether different search. For once some puckered seams trouble the surface of the storytelling--is Harry now using forbidden spells? How many Horcruxes are there?
It's hard not to wish that the editors had done their jobs more actively. Hallows doesn't contain the extraneous scenes found in, say, Goblet of Fire, but the momentum is uneven. Rowling is better at comedy than at fight scenes, and Hallows has less humor and more combat than any of the preceding books. Surely her editors could have helped her build tension with more devices than the use of ellipses and dashes? And craft fight dialogue that sounds a bit less like it belongs in a comic book? True, none of these flaws is fatal to a fan's enjoyment. But why not have make the bestselling children's book in history the best it could possibly be?
One great virtue remains constant: Rowling's skill at portraying characters. Harry and friends mature, not in straight lines but in realistically messy patterns. Over the course of the seven books, Harry develops from the scrawny misfit of no. 4, Privet Drive, to a teenager who can pull off acts of self-sacrifice and goodness without cheapening his charisma for readers--no mean feat for a writer. And when Rowling concludes her long story, she does so the old-fashioned way, without ambiguity. Harry Potter has finished growing up, and even the most ardent fans will know that it is time to say good-bye. Ages 9-12. (July)[Page 83]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 6 Up-- In this concluding volume, Rowling brings together the themes and characters familiar to her readers, providing thrills both expected and unexpected. Harry, Ron, and Hermione set out on the mission left to Harry by Albus Dumbledore, to search for the remaining Horcruxes, the hidden pieces of Voldemort's soul that must be destroyed to ensure his final defeat. Harry and his friends find themselves fugitives, but help comes from unexpected quarters and old friends. Harry is also searching for the truth about Dumbledore's life, as he tries to reconcile rumors about the man's past with the heroic headmaster he thought he knew. The legend of the Deathly Hallows, three magical objects that have the power to overcome death, proves to be related to Dumbledore's past as well as the present conflict. While the plot wanders somewhat on its way there, the final battle with Voldemort, involving a full range of friends and foes, is Rowling at her finest. The headstrong plot involves clues and characters from all of the volumes, building on details and tying up loose ends. An underlying message about the power of truth and redemption is reflected in a range of characters, combining with mythic allusions to give depth to the series as a whole. Hallows continues the darker tone of Half-Blood Prince , and there's no Quidditch to be found here, though there are comic moments. Fans of the series will devour this lengthy tome and will be left hoping for more tales from this fully fleshed out fantastic world.--Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI[Page 206]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.