Yes, it’s a great read. It’s a roller coaster — JKR’s writing style is stiff at times, but it’s the world, the characters & the story she’s created that make this worth it. Honestly, Tolkien was a harder read. I’ve heard folks call Rowling “pedantic”*, but they need to slog through the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy for true comparison with a true pedantic writer. There were several weepy points scattered through the book; if you didn’t cry at Dobby’s death & burial, you have no heart, and the point where Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to call up the spirits of his dead loved ones (eerily predicted in this fan-art on Elfwood, from 2003) is just simply amazing.
Of the predictions that I made, as I said, three of them turned out. Well — four, actually. Harry’s a Horcrux, “R.A.B.” was Regulus Black (and I had guessed that Kreacher had the locket, given that JKR had told the OOTP filmmakers to not cut that character out), Fred Weasley dies (and George is maimed), and Harry does survive. So far, so good.
However, Rowling barely touches on the Dursleys; we do not find out what Dudley’s big fear is (as was hinted at during the Dementor attack in OOTP). Rowling said in an interview with Mugglenet that “There is a character who does manage, in desperate circumstances, to do magic quite late in life, but that is very rare…” That is what triggered the “DUDLEY! MAGIC!” prediction. However, there is NO character in Deathly Hallows that does that (unless I seriously missed something).
Even more strange, Dudley does an unprecedented, almost 180-degree turnaround with his attitude towards Harry, which was neither hinted at nor built up in the previous books — remember, in OOTP, Dudley BLAMES Harry for the attack by the Dementors. In HBP, we’re not given any indication that any of the Dursleys have let up in that belief or in their collective attitude towards Harry. Maybe she was trying to lay some late groundwork for the whole Snape thing, but it didn’t play very well; it was my first “WTF?” moment in the book.
Neville’s parents — again, left out. I found the whole “they were tortured to reveal Voldemort’s whereabouts” explanation really lame when I first read it (why in the hell would Death Eaters think AURORS would know where Voldemort was?) Yes, Neville does pull off one of the more dramatic plot-points in the book, but he doesn’t kill Bellatrix; Mrs. Weasley does. Justice & balance, wasted. *sigh*
Harry turns out to be related to a family that’s seemingly pulled out of JKR’s butt at the last minute. Okay, okay, we learn of the Peverells in Half-Blood Prince, but it’s a passing mention, and NOTHING in the prior books has set this up about Harry. The Gryffindor connection was far stronger — Dumbledore’s line in Chamber about “only a true Gryffindor could’ve pulled (the sword) out of the hat”, Harry’s parents living in Godric’s Hollow, the fact that almost his whole blood-family is dead (save for Petunia & Dudley), and Voldemore being a Slytherin of blood & school-house (Slytherin being the opposite of Gryffindor in attitude & heroism, it seems).
Okay, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that both Ron & Hermione survived. But I feel cheated, as if JKR cheated all the readers by building up this huge, sinister “Who will die?” marketing juggernaut, and then not delivering. All the deaths up to this book, so far, have been supporting cast (with the possible exception of Dumbledore). Cedric was a bit-player, Sirius was in the background, all the named deaths in Half-Blood Prince (save Dumbledore) are of folks that we’ve only met in passing, at best. In Hallows, almost all the deaths (save 2, more on that in a moment) are of supporting cast. JKR said that she didn’t want to shy away from death, that kids have to learn about it, and yet she has several points where the major characters only appear to die, yet come back just fine (Hagrid being a big “WTF” point here). Even Dumbledore pulls an Obi-Wan-Kenobi here. The books needed a huge punch-me-in-the-chest death to get the point across (dead is DEAD, people you love will die), and fail to deliver.
As to the one major character death here…I doubt there’ll be any mourning for Snape (save among fangirls who need to have their heads examined over their obsession with evil men). And I’ll save the rest for my next rant.
* pedantic: 1. ostentatious in one’s learning. 2. overly concerned with minute details or formalisms. (from Dictionary.com).