Overall, I enjoyed HP7. I think it served as a fairly satisfying ending to the series. Some characters died, some survived, and I think the final state of the surviving characters was one that most fans would find acceptable.
I certainly had my share of quibbles which how the plot of the seventh book developed, and how the story seemed to wander and drag in places. I've realized that I think JK Rowling's real strengths are world-building and characters.
The world of Harry Potter feels very complex and very complete and very consistent. It is always fun to learn new things about the magic or the places or the rules and there is always a sense of wonder and joy about the world in which Harry Potter is set.
The characters themselves are really enjoyable - they are characters that you like and want to learn more about and are often more complex than you might expect in what is essentially a kids' fantasy series.
So, in spoiler-free summary, I was content with how the series ended. I would have like to see some things happen differently but hey, it's not my book.
Well, the body count was certainly high on this one. It's understandable that in as big a battle as this one there will be deaths, and major deaths. Some of these were understandable (Moody, Fred, other who died in the final battle). Hedwig was a bit of a surprise, but a strong aspect of the series is that Harry loses many of those who are close to him. I was suitably touched at Dobby's death, both by how it fit well into the plot (saves Harry and folks only to die) and by the reaction of the characters (including the service and epitaph).
Snape's death was a disappointment, not in that it happened (I was fully expecting Snape to die and be redeemed by death) but in how it happened. It felt very capricous and not very meaningful. I believe this was to show how utterly evil Voldemort was, but I would have preferred that Snape's death have some more meaning, either to help Harry escape or to give Harry an edge in defeating Voldemort.
Also, boy wasn't it lucky that Harry happened to be around when Snape died and thus could get Snape's memories and thus Snape could be redeemed in the reader's eyes (and Harry would get the full, real plan)? That's a bit of a chancy plan on Snape's part and I give him more credit than that. Snape was always the most interesting character in HP for me, in that he was playing both sides against some sort of middle ground that he occupied, and I would have liked him to have a more worthy death.
The deaths that bothered me the most were Remus and Tonks. The birth of their baby occurred off-screen and their deaths occurred off-screen and I thought this was just cruel. I'm assuming Rowling was trying to create a character whose life paralleled Harry, but I didn't like the way this was done one bit. I felt it was really cheating the characters.
Voldemort's death was a bit underwhelming. I thought there should have been a bit more of a battle between Harry and Voldemort and that Harry should have been able to gain possession of the Elder Wand before defeating Voldemort (perhaps along the line of "the wand choosing the wizard"). Also, "Expelliarmus" seems like the wrong charm to cause the killing curse to go back on Voldemort - what about "Protego"?
Things I liked in the book:
- Dobby's death, while sad, was well done and touching
- Voldemort opening Dumbledore's coffin to get the wand (this will be very creepy in the movie)
- Neville kicking butt repeatedly (go Neville!)
- Snape being behind so many things (the escape going wrong and right, the doe Patronus, the sword in the pond)
- the simple banality of the main characters' lives (in the Epilogue). They're not big stars, they're just plain old wizards whose kids go to Hogwarts. And that's a nice way for heroes to live out their lives.