Thursday Jul 19, 2007

Dissecting the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Covers

In further anticipation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the cover art on the various editions can give us some clues about the plot.

  • The US Version. This image, which spans both the front and back cover, seems to show Harry and Voldemort in a coliseum-like location with onlookers in the background. A few comments and questions:
    • Is the coliseum supposed to imply a gladiator-like battle?
    • The rubble in the front of the image seems to imply that there was a battle, but in the picture Harry and Voldemort don’t seem to be actively fighting. Why not?
    • Instead, Harry and Voldemort both appear to be facing something or someone not shown instead of each other. Harry appears to be reaching out for it. Is Voldemort reaching for it also, or holding his hands out to block it? Could it be Fawkes the phoenix or the sword of Gryffindor to which Harry is reaching out? Or is it someone?
    • Why are neither Harry nor Voldemort holding a wand?
    • Why are there curtains on either side of the image? Could they be the veil in the department of mysteries behind which Sirius fell when he died? Could Harry and Voldemort actually be behind the veil fighting each other?
    • Who are the onlookers? If Harry and Voldemort are really behind the veil, perhaps they are dead people like Sirius and Harry’s parents?
    • In summary, this image basically shows us that Harry and Voldemort will be face-to-face at some point in the book, which I think most of us have already guessed.
  • The UK Version. This cover contains four images.
    • The large front-cover image shows Harry, Ron, and Hermione plunging through some sort of treasure-chamber. A small creature on Harry's back appears to be holding a sword, while Harry looks like he is diving for something. Are they in Gringott’s? Is the creature a house-elf (Dobby perhaps) or a goblin? Is it holding Gryffindor’s sword? Are they looking for a horcrux?
    • The smaller image on the front shows a white antlered animal, perhaps a white stag, which is Harry’s patronus. Does this mean that Harry’s patronus will be important to the plot of this book?
    • The large back-cover image shows Hogwarts, possibly with smoke behind it. Does this mean that Harry will go to Hogwarts at some point in the book, even if he doesn’t attend his complete seventh year?
    • The small image on the back shows a snake inside a glass ball. Is the snake Nagini (Voldemort’s snake, and possibly one of his horcruxes?)
  • The UK Adult Version. This cover shows JK Rowling on the back, and what I think is Slytherin’s locket on the front. As we already knew the locket would be important, I don’t think this image sheds much light on the plot.

Rank Ordering the Harry Potter Books

Continuing the Harry Potter theme this week, here is my rank ordering of the first six books in the series from favorite to least favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In addition to conveying key information about Voldemort and the over-arching plot, this book held together well, with good pacing. I also enjoyed seeing Harry’s maturing relationship with Dumbledore and the clues as to how much Dumbledore cared about and trusted Harry.
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I liked this book also for its revelations about the over-arching plot and about James, Lupin, Sirius, and Wormtail, as well as its good pacing.
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This first book in the series is difficult to compare to some of the later ones as it feels so light in comparison (and I don’t just mean physically!) However, the introduction to the wizarding world is unbeatable.
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think the climax of this book, where Voldemort regains his full body and Harry escapes, is excellent. However, the book itself is I think a bit too long and bogs down in places. I also didn’t really like the whole impersonation plot point that much.
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I haven’t re-read this one recently, but I remember feeling somewhat dissatisfied after reading it. I didn’t really like the whole chamber of secrets and diary plot, though after reading later books I can see better how they relate to the larger plot.
  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. I felt that this book bogged down somewhat and didn’t really further the over-arching plot much. I finished the book feeling somewhat frustrated. But note that even as my least-favorite in the Harry Potter series, I’d rather read it than most other books around!

Where will Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows fall?

Thursday Jul 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Top-Ten Questions

In anticipation of the imminent release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, here are the top ten questions for which I hope to find answers or resolution in the final book.

  1. Whose side is Snape on? Is he truly a follower of Voldemort, really a loyal member of the Order of the Pheonix, just out for himself, conflicted, or playing both sides? I believe that whatever loyalties he currently has or has had in the past, he will redeem himself in the end, possibly by saving Harry’s life and in the process sacrificing himself.
  2. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape? While related to the first question, this point was emphasized so much in the last book that I think it will be important in this one.
  3. What will Draco do? He proved in the climax to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that he wasn’t in his heart on the side of Voldemort. Will he redeem himself, as Dumbledore no doubt hoped?
  4. How will Wormtail repay his life-debt to Harry? Recall that Harry spared his life in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This debt has not yet been repaid.
  5. What is the meaning of Dumbledore’s "gleam of triumph"? Recall that this look occurred when Dumbledore discovered that Harry’s blood was used to resurrect Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  6. How will the prophecy be resolved? It states in part that, "…either must die at the hand of the other…" I think that Voldemort will be killed in the final book, but I’m not convinced that Harry will be the one to do it. Although not likely, I do think there’s a small chance the prophecy actually refers to Neville instead. Which brings me to…
  7. What will be Neville’s role? I think Neville will have a significant role to play in the final book – it will be interesting to see what it is.
  8. Who is R.A.B.? He claimed to have stolen one of the horcruxes. Speculation is that it’s Sirius’ brother.
  9. More information about Lily and the night of her murder? It seems like there are still some things we don’t know about that fateful night.
  10. Is there any more to Aunt Petunia? I suspect there are still a few things we don’t know about her.

Thursday Jul 05, 2007

Recent Reads

In this holiday week in the US, here's a list of the fiction I've read in the past couple months.


  • Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman -- Typical Hillerman; a good quick read.

  • Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood -- I usually like Margaret Atwood's work, but this collection of short stories didn't do much for me.

  • Summerland by Michael Chabon -- My first exposure to Chabon's novels. This fantasy story was interesting, but didn't grab me the same way as other fantasy books I've read. I'll withold judgement on Chabon until I've tried some of his other novels ("The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is up next).

  • Oblivion by David Foster Wallace -- David Foster Wallace is certainly unique. His writing is quite dense, and for the first time in quite a while I found myself needing to look up vocabularly words in a dictionary while reading fiction. Of the eight stories in the book, I enjoyed about three of them. I'd like to try one of his novels at some point, but maybe not immediately.

  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech -- this novel for kids was quite well-written and enjoyable.

  • The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason -- I wasn't impressed with this best-seller. The concept was interesting, but the characters didn't strike me as believable or well-developed.

  • The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow -- It took about 100 pages to get into, but after that the story carried me along.

  • Next by Michael Crichton -- (in progress)

About

Nick Solter is a software engineer and author living in Colorado.

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