STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Okay, so millions of people got their books delivered on Saturday morning and many thousands more stood in line on Friday night dressed as witches or warlocks or elves or Death Eaters. They were waiting for midnight for a moment many of them had been waiting for 10 years.
One of those in line was NPR's J.J. Sutherland. He's going to give us his review, although, we should tell you, he's not going to give anything away.
J.J. SUTHERLAND: While the wait at the bookstore until midnight was exciting, the next few hours weren't. More than 1,400 people were ahead of me in line at the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda, Maryland. It took quite a while before I got to the front.
Unidentified Man #1: $19.83.
Unidentified Man #2: $19.83. Perfect.
SUTHERLAND: I quickly stuffed the orange colored text into my bag, broke for the door and hailed a cab.
It is now 2:34 in the morning. I just made it home. 739 pages - and so it begins. Chapter one, The Dark Lord Ascending. The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite still…
Ms. J.K. Rowling (Author, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"): (Reading) For a second they stood quite still, wands directed at each other's chest. Then, recognizing each other, they stood…
SUTHERLAND: J.K. Rowling read the opening passages of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in London from a throne perched on the steps inside the Natural History Museum a few hours earlier. The tome starts off briskly, meetings of Voldemort's henchmen, betrayals, daring escapes. All right, it's 3:12 AM Saturday, and the deaths start pretty early on page 72. I won't tell you who died, but this is beginning a very violent book.
The schoolboy high jinks are gone. There are no practical jokes or quidditch matches. Harry Potter and his friends are in the middle of a war. But while "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" begins with a bang, it quickly wanders into what seems like a wizard road trip around the English countryside.
After too many pages, Harry himself wonders if his friends, quote, "had only agreed to come on what now felt like a pointless and rambling journey because they thought he had some secret plan." I was wondering the same thing about Rowling herself until - 3:00 PM, Saturday, the return to Hogwarts. Excellent.
That's when I realized what was missing in the first 500 or so pages: Hogwarts Castle, itself. The school is more than just a setting. It is a character in its own right. And Hogwarts finally brings the book fully alive. Soon the questions that have been puzzling us begin to be answered.
3:36, Saturday. Ah-ha! So that's Snape's been up to.
Plus the secret plans of Voldemort and Dumbledore and why Harry is the boy who lived are all revealed, many of them in an incredibly clunky chapter of exposition when things are fully explained in a scene whose religious metaphor is slammed into your head with a mallet.
But subtlety has never been J.K. Rowling's strong suit, incredibly detailed invention in a child's exploration of morality are. And the final battle through Hogwarts Castle is one that does not disappoint. It seems as if every character in the series is there, blasting away with deadly spells and swords and everything is tied up in a neat bow. 4:06 PM on Saturday: What a remarkably satisfying ending, which is perhaps all you can ask from an adventure that began ten years ago on Privett Drive in the suburb of Little Winghing.
J.J. Sutherland. NPR News.
INSKEEP: This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Renee is back with us tomorrow. I'm Steve Inskeep.
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