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July 21, 2007

The much anticipated "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is here


Harry Pot-heads around the globe have been trembling in their glasses and pocket protectors counting now the seconds until the midnight release of the newest installment in the Harry Potter book series. 

Now that the latest book is out, it seems that most fans plan to barracade themselves behind closed doors until they finish "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

The big question is who dies in this Harry Potter book?  Is it Harry himself?  Is it anyone at all?!

I'm not going to spoil that yet, mainly because I haven't read the book.  (I don't really plan to read it either, the movie will come out soon enough for me!) 

Editor's note: This review does not contain any details about how the Harry Potter saga ends, so don't worry about our spoiling the fun.

(CNN) -- It's all out war.

Unlike the first six books in J.K. Rowling's series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" doesn't have Hogwarts school as a friendly backdrop. No more Quidditch, Blast-Ended Skrewts or skiving snackboxes.

From the outset, it's a struggle-to-the-death in a magical world of good versus evil. Rowling delivers a bloodbath. The death-toll rises alarmingly -- almost casually -- as Harry continues his struggle to rid the world of Lord Voldemort.

The Potter epic has themes derived from Greek mythology, J.R.R. Tolkien, "Star Wars," Tom Brown's "Schooldays" and Enid Blyton.

The stage is now set for a classic, final confrontation of Sherlock Holmes versus Professor Moriarty or "The Matrix's" Neo versus Agent Smith proportions.

The question is whether good must die to nullify evil. At what cost can The Greater Good be achieved? It's a question, we soon find out, that troubles Harry throughout "Hallows," as it did the prescient Dumbledore before him.

The odds are stacked heavily in Voldemort's favor: The sixth book revealed he had taken unprecedented steps to make himself immortal.

Before reaching a final showdown, Harry must first track down five remaining Horcruxes -- preserved soul-fragments -- and destroy them.

Readers have rarely seen Voldemort, the man described as the most powerful dark wizard of all time in action. "Hallows" gives him the leg room to, literally, cut to the chase. No more sending out mere minions to launch an assault. Indeed, the first few pages sees Voldemort fly -- no broomsticks needed, thank you -- in a blockbuster chase featuring at least a dozen of your favorite good guys.

With all his mentors dead or unable to help, the Chosen One steps up.

Romance and teenage angst are brushed aside, and he sets out on his quest with Hermione and Ron.

An earlier foe turns unlikely ally, and a step is taken to make the Dark Lord mortal once more. But even evil soul fragments have the power to lead the best of friends astray.

As with Frodo's ring in "The Lord of the Rings," evil seeps everywhere, and the quest itself is often more a personal quest to conquer one's will.

Voldemort, though, has his own quest. He continues to attempt to possess death -- his initial goal in killing the Potters -- in an addition to the Potter canon that could not have been anticipated even by Rowling's greatest fans.

The discovery of a trinity of magical pieces that can control death leads to a major turning point in the novel: Horcruxes or Hallows? Which should Harry pursue?

A grown-up Harry leans -- above all -- on his instinct. Even with a small coterie of friends he trusts and loves, our hero is alone when it comes to the Big Questions.

"Hallows" of course, is all about answers. Readers learn the histories of characters who have shaped Harry's life.

Rowling expands and explains the magic world's rich tapestry like she has never done before. Long-running themes like the mistreatment of house-elves; schisms between goblins and wizards; and between wizards, half-bloods, and Muggles are all revisited.

Love, sacrifice, morality, courage and friendship are severely tested. It's a fair reward for her devoted fan base. Loyal readers will discover little nuggets that have been alluded to earlier in the series. Loopholes are closed, and characters finally reveal their true nature.

Magicdom mirrors the Muggle real world -- war, mistrust, prejudice and hatred abound. But there is also hope, wisdom, tolerance and love -- if you can find it.

Rowling has attracted much criticism for her often clunky prose. However, for her millions of fans who have devoured the book just hours after its worldwide release, literary criticism is as irrelevant as a broken wand.

This is about the plot, the characters and a magical universe that can provide not just a Bollywood-esque escape, but also a world that reflects our politics. It's been a decade of entertainment and discovery. "Hallows" is a final problem that provides fitting closure.

Want more on this topic? Look around!


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