Liveblogging Harry Potter, Part 3

Well at this point, I've pretty much abandoned any pretense at actually liveblogging. I finished the book earlier this week, but have been to busy to post comments. Unlike previous installments, this post will contain lots of spoilers, but I'll put them in the extended entry so as not to expose them on the main page...
  • Most of what I said in previous entries still holds true. See Part 1 and Part 2 (and the Magic Security post too).
  • It was rumored that a major, beloved character would die in this book, and it turns out that said character was Dumbledore. Honestly, this wasn't that much of a surprise, as people had been speculating on his death for weeks. However, the stylish manner in which Rowling pulls it off means that you really don't care that you knew he was going to die. Indeed, the entire ending sequence is masterfully orchestrated by Rowling, who was able to tie together several of the disparate plot threads in quite a dramatic fashion. Plus, as Nate notes, Dumbledore had to die in this book so that we get a full book of "post-Dumbledore Harry," a more mature and self-confident wizard than what we've seen of Harry so far (though we've been catching glimpses of the new Harry all throughout this latest novel).
  • Color me surprised that Snape turned out to be the one who did the deed. Like Nate says: "I always hoped that beneath his gruff demeanor and his obvious dislike of Harry was a guy who would do the right thing when the time came." Indeed, that sort of thing had already played out in previous books (1 or 2). In that final scene when it becomes clear that Malfoy won't go through with it and Snape arrives, I honestly thought he'd turn against the Death Eaters. I suppose the notion that Dumbledore would die wasn't a surprise, but that Snape was the one who did so certainly was. Indeed, the internet is rife with speculation as to the redemption of Snape in the next volume. Nate thinks it'll happen, as does Johno and a whole host of other people I've spoken to about the subject. I certainly hope it will happen, but look where that got me...
  • Unlike any of the previous books, this book really isn't much of a self-contained story, nor does it have any sort of definitive ending. The ending is, in a way, a cliffhanger. Not only does Dumbledore die, but we find out that the Horcrux that he and Harry had retrieved was actually a fake, left there by someone else (with the initials R.A.B), presumably someone powerful who is also opposed to Voldemort. An intriguing mystery, but one that won't be solved until the next book (there is speculation that the "B" in the initials stands for "Black," perhaps even Romulus Black, Sirius' brother). This book feels very much like The Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter series. In both, not much in the way of good things happen to our heros, but it's still a pleasure to watch or read.
  • It also looks like this will be the last book to conform to the standard school-year structure, as Harry searches for the remaining Horcruxes with his friends (and I'm sure others, notably Ginny, will find their way into the story). Throughout six books, Rowling managed to pull a lot out of the predictable progression of a school year at Hogwarts, but it should be interesting to see how the next book plays out.
  • One final, almost unrelated note: Much is often made about the length of the Harry Potter books. At 650 or so pages, this volume weighs in at a little larger than the middle of the pack. However, I was reading Beyond Fear this afternoon, and it seemed that I was reading significantly slower. With Harry Potter I read at a rate of about 40-60 pages an hour, while Beyond Fear sees at most 30 pages an hour. Then I looked at the type, spacing, and margins. There are easily two lines in Beyond Fear for every line in Harry Potter, if not an even more glaring ratio. Without such spacing, this latest Harry Potter book would have been around 300 pages or so. Don't get me wrong, it's still impressive that we're seeing kids reading these books despite their large page count, but I guess I was surprised at just how easy to read it was...