August 01, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT


A mother and daughter each rhapsodize about the end of J.K. Rowling’s magical opus.

Last Saturday dawned cool and gold in New York, a perfect summer day. Since my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hadn’t come, I swiped my daughter’s — but I couldn’t seem to open it. After waiting for so many years, I held it in my hands with trepidation, knowing that though I might go back to it countless times, nothing would match that first reading. And so I settled into a cozy chair, cup of coffee steaming beside me, and turned to the first page. As the hours passed, the coffee sat untouched; the outside world disappeared.

How to sum up such a series, one that has meant so much to me personally, and so much to millions of readers around the world? Perhaps it is enough to say, simply, that these books will be read years from now by generations yet to be born. When I pored over the first six books again recently, picking up more clues than I had ever seen before, I was stunned, once again, at the genius of Rowling’s complex master plan, and I marveled at how well she managed to tie together the many strands of her epic. I realized, once again, how dexterously she wove in her allusions to classical literature and mythology. As I read, I couldn’t get the comparison between Harry Potter and King Arthur (not to mention Albus Dumbledore and Merlin) out of my mind.

More than its predecessors, Hallows is an adventure novel, plunging forward at an almost reckless pace. As war rages, Harry, Ron, and Hermione — virtually adults now — have ditched their final year at Hogwarts to pursue the remaining Horcruxes, the vessels in which Voldemort stored scraps of his soul. Though the middle of the book sags as the three are buffeted by cold, hunger, and failure, pursued by Death Eaters at every turn, Rowling picks up the pace well before the book’s final, bloody battle.

But there’s more than adventure at work. Some scenes in the earlier books packed an enormous emotional wallop, but they were few and far between; in Hallows, they seem to come every few pages. I wasn’t just riveted as I read — I was also overcome. I wept when Harry buried Dobby, the elf who saved the gang from Bellatrix Lestrange, and during the epilogue, set 19 years after the book’s end, when Harry and Ginny are readying their second child, Albus, for his first year at Hogwarts. The boy who once cried fiercely, ”Parents shouldn’t leave their kids unless — unless they’ve got to” had emerged with what he desired through all the books: a family.

These last few days have been bittersweet. I’ve been wrapped up in these books for so many years; they are woven into the fabric of my two daughters’ lives. Our copies are tattered and literally falling apart after so many readings. After we all finished the book on Saturday, I told them how coming of age during the publication years — how the waiting and the uncertainty, hard as it was — only heightened the whole experience. Think about the kids who’ll come to Harry Potter already knowing the ending, I said. It won’t make the books any less great, but it will change the whole experience. You were the lucky ones.

I think I was lucky, too. A-Tina Jordan

”Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…” The seconds counted down at bookstores on Friday, July 20. Finally, the clocks chimed midnight and everyone erupted in cheers. Fans all over the world held Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series, in their hands.

I’d been waiting for this day for years. My friends and I had been swapping theories about everything to do with Harry Potter: What side was Snape on? What were the Horcruxes? Who would live and who would die? I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books for years, since I was only 6, and I’ve seen every movie, too. I anxiously waited to learn the characters’ fates.

I started the book right after I bought it on Friday night. I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 a.m. (lying on the couch, with the book in my hands). I woke up at 6:30 to find my mom stealing my copy since hers hadn’t arrived yet. I promptly stole it back and read the whole morning, through breakfast, through lunch, and finally read the last page of the epilogue at 2 p.m. I was very pleased most of my favorite characters managed to scrape through, and thoroughly depressed that so many died.

The book is the most action-packed of the series — and it’s also my favorite. Death Eaters hover at every corner. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are on the run, hunting down Horcruxes to defeat Lord Voldemort. In the first few chapters, many surprising things happen (spoiler alert!): Dudley Dursley is actually nice to Harry; Hedwig, ”Mad-Eye” Moody, and Professor Burbage all die; and George Weasley loses an ear. These events all shocked me immensely: I realized J.K. Rowling was sparing nobody and wasn’t afraid to kill any character off. Everybody was in danger.

As the story moved along, the plot got more complex. Finding and destroying the Horcruxes was difficult and put a strain on the main trio’s friendship. Everything builds to a big final battle at Hogwarts, the wizarding school that has been the main setting for the entire series. I loved this book: It was worth every minute of the wait. Rowling manages to tie up all the loose ends and push Harry to his limits — but in the end, that is where he finds happiness. AAnna Belle Hindenlang

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