Before I start reading, I figure I'll collect any preconceived notions I have about the last book:
- Each book in the series has a similar structure: the book opens with Harry having a crappy summer with the Dursleys, followed by the trip to Hogwarts (usually there are a few pitstops before he leaves), the introduction of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, some Quidditch, whatever conflict is in the story comes to a head just around the end of the school year, and then we're done. Of course, there's more than that in each book, but they all have a similar school-year themed structure. Interestingly, the end of the sixth book seems to suggest that most of these Potter conventions will be thrown out the window for the final installment.
- I have high expectations for this book. I think Rowling will be able to deliver. More than anything else, the introduction of the concept of Horcruxes in the last book has raised my expectations. To quote myself: The Horcruxes don't seem tacked-on in the way that, for example, some things were in Stephen King's Dark Tower series. (Or, grandaddy of all tacked-on mistakes: midi-chlorians.) I'm convinced that Rowling actually did have a good long term plan for the series and, as such, I'm expecting a satisfying ending. (I've checked, and the last several pages aren't totally black, and the book doesn't seem to be equipped with any audio devices programmed to play Journey's Don't Stop Believin, so I'm reasonably sure the ending can't be that bad.) (Yes, I'm also aware that I'm not the first person to make that joke.)
- I don't believe that Harry Potter will die, though I guess anything's possible.
- "Bless the children, give them triumph now." As authors often do, Rowling precedes the book with a few quotes, and if they're any indication, we're in for a rough ride. The quotes, one by Aeschylus and the other by William Penn, prominently feature death, children and friendship. Where have we seen that combination before?
- Chapter 1: The Dark Lord Ascending - The book opens an indeterminate time after the last book ended. Clearly some time has passed, but not a lot. A few weeks or months maybe. Snape is unnervingly calm and at home with the death eaters, but I'm still thinking that he will redeem himself by the end. Perhaps not the way Eric S. Raymond speculated he would, but a redemption most certainly seems in order.
- Chapter 2: In Memoriam - Now this is strange. Harry is at the Durseley's? And it appears to be nearing the end of summer... maybe Rowling will stick to the schoolyear format after all? In any case, we're still dealing with repercussions from the end of the previous book, though in this case, we get some rather interesting background info on Dumbledore. Lots of speculation has been made on whether or not we'll see Dumbledore in this book. While certainly possible, Rowling seems to be pretty straightforward when it comes to this sort of thing, and her mysteries are usually pretty clear. You don't have to go hunting through the text to find out what she wants you to be curious about. If Dumbledore makes another appearance, it will be in an obtuse way - some sort of magical recording, or perhaps in a painting or something.
- Part 2, covering chapters 3-6 (and lots of other stuff) is up.
- Part 3 is up, with lots of spoilers.