EDIT: I suppose I should start by mentioning that if you're reading the book, this review does entail a few shadowy spoilers. So, if you want to remain completely in the dark, I would suggest skipping over this.
Sometime in December 2000, Elsha's brother bought me Harry Potter Books 1-3 as a present. I'm not entirely sure if it was a Birthday or Christmas present seeing as how for me both are within weeks of each other but that's how I was introduced to the Potter Epic-dom.
Elsha was originally indifferent about the books - she doesn't much like fantasy stories about male protagonists - but after I read some of it to her, she warmed to it very quickly.
So, I read Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone in around a few hours. I liked how the story flowed, and how it didn't take itself very much seriously. I was aware, of course, that the book was aimed at an audience of 11 year olds but that didn't really enter into it for me. I have always been fond of books aimed at the Children's/Young Adult market - Susan Cooper's "The Dark Grey Rising" and Alan Garner's "Elidor" are a good example.
Books, 2 and 3 soon followed and, like most other people, I was hooked on the stories. Book 4 was huge, by comparison, to the other books being nearly as large as the other 3 combined, but since then, the later books have been nearly as large.
Unfortunately, Book 5 - Order of the Phoenix - was a complete disaster. It was billed as the book where Harry "becomes a teenage rebel". Sorry, I must have missed that phase; I didn't realise being a rebel meant antagonizing practically everyone around you. If I was in the book, I would have probably belted Harry Potter for being a nob.
But Book 6 - The Half-Blood Prince - revitalised the story again with some nifty work, and of course, set it all up to with a magical and epic ending.
Where did Book 7 - The Deathly Hallows - go wrong then?
Upon reading the book, I spent 200 pages wondering when the story would start. We attended a wedding, which although was wonderfully written, probably had no bearing on the ending. And of course, I spent most of the 200 pages knowing this!
Then, we had a bit where Harry, Hermione and Ron spend time searching for the vital essences of Lord Voldemorte's soul, those extracts contained in the Horcruxes mentioned in book 6 (essentially You-Know-Who hid bits of himself in items scattered throughout wizard-dom in an attempt to become immortal - similar to the way that a D&D Lich hides its mortality in a phylactery). We are warned again that there are 7 of these and that at least 2 have already been destroyed (the ring and the diary) but that 5 more remain.
So we then spend around another 200-300 pages hunting down these items. Along the way people die.
That's about all I can say about the plot, not because it was written badly but because there was just no point in any of the deaths. No, even worse than that, it felt like people were being killed off in the story just because otherwise it would feel odd that the Good Guys won without any losses.
Consider this. In Book 4, Cedric Diggory dies, and there is much made of this death, the first in the series. In Book 5, Sirius Black, Harry's Godfather, dies tragically. In Book 6, Albus Dumbledore dies and there is a chapter dedicated to his funeral.
In Book 7, around 5 people die, in such quick succession that the reader cannot take in that they have died. No, more importantly, their deaths do not further the story in any way. Not mentioning their deaths would have as much impact on the story as what Rowling actually did.
The ending, though, is good. Very good. Your connection to Harry is fulfilled.
But then, we have this terrible, terrible, epilogue, where everything is wrapped up for the reader and all those bad things that have happened seem to have been washed away as if it was all a bad dream.
It seems plenty of people hate the epilogue.
There are other problems with the storyline of Harry Potter, from books 1-7, at least for me.
Initially, the world of Harry Potter depicts Evil as evil and Good as good, with there being no shades of Grey. Slytherin housemates are all as evil as, I wondered why Dumbledore didn't take them out and have them shot. Gryffindor, on the other hand, stand as bastions of virtue. Kids who can do no wrong, or if they do, get rewarded for generally being cheeky to their elders. Hufflepuff seems relegated to being a place for retards and Ravenclaw for those who are wannabe Gryffindors.
Basically, in my eyes, the 4 houses at Hogwarts seem incredibly skewed. From what I understood from the original book, Slytherin should have been a house for those most intelligent, Gryffindor for those with nerve, Hufflepuff for those who are loyal, and Ravenclaw for those who are wise. Now, the houses stand for something completely different. Was that the intention of Rowling?
By Book 7, Rowling tries to show that Good is not necessarily always good. Wizards have been abusing the magical creatures with their notions of racial superiority (the Centaurs and the House Elves, for example) and meanwhile, Dumbledore has had a chequered past. In the same instance, Severus Snape was not necessarily inherently bad, something you deduce when he starts to help Dumbledore by spying on Lord Voldemort.
In conclusion, the story of Harry Potter and his quest to find eternal peace is grand and fitting but Book 7 does not do well to fit into that pattern. Too side-winding in places, Rowling appears to have lost her way in several places. People die for no other purpose but for the reader to realise that death is a terrible thing (a thing we learn much, much earlier in the series). And finally, after a momentous ending befitting the epic, a horrible, cliched epilogue that hints of more books to come.
P.S. Yes, there are more books to come. An encyclopedia on the subject. Why for heaven's sake?