Well, it's over. All seven books have now been published as promised. I'll attempt to refrain from any overt spoilers, but covert ones are just about unavoidable. Now comes the debate of the century: was it worth it? After all the hype, the "Pottermania", the big fat royalty checks and merchandising slowly start to dissipate (if not disapparate, so to speak): will Harry Potter leave its marks on modern literature? Will it make much of a dent in History other than as numerical footnotes of extraordinary sales figures? Some are even wondering, will all of these kids that are starting off on Harry Potter move on to other books, or this a fluke? I don't care about that last one, but I think that kids reading thousands of pages of Harry Potter are certainly off to a good start...
My take on the books is going to sound a bit harsh, so let me preface it with this: I thought the books were certainly enjoyable, and interesting to read. I don't regret having read them, and I think that the Deathly Hollows does do a decent job at wrapping things up and answering so many of the remaining questions. It's good mindless fantasy.
That said, I don't think that the Harry Potter books are in any way "great" or "classic" works, and they suffer under any true critical gaze. First of all I'm obviously biased and some of this is just my general disregard to the entire genre of Fantasy. Next, I think the books are too formulaic to alone have much true merit (Don't believe me? Read through some of the way too detailed explorations of Harry Potter at MuggleNet and particularly look for mentions of the numbers 3 and 7...). Every book has a fairly simple pattern of misery, hope, obstacles, happy ending, and the entire series follows the same pattern for the most part. I sort of wished that it wouldn't all end in the fairy tale happy ending that was just about required to fit the formula.
Then there's the matter of martyrdom. The concept of "selfless martyrdom" (and rarely is it one, the other or both, but that's another rant) I think is over-played in certain elements of our society and it continues to frighten and discomfort me. The fact that it plays a key thematic role in the series, much less its resonance with some of Christianity's worst fixations, in the end just about makes me sick to the stomach.
Finally, I'm a bit flustered at the sometimes covert, yet relatively underlying, theme of Tolerance. There's quite a bit of bluster about it over the course of the books and seems to be one of the underlying causes of the "magic wars" described in the book (seems to be, but unfortunately I come away with it as really only a power grab technique, a worrying mis-direction). Mostly I'm angry that the tolerance professed in the book is largely the pre-Enlightenment, mostly empty, sort of tolerance. In most of the cases in the series there's no attempts at true Understanding and Acceptance, much less any sort of attempts at true Egality. At the end of the series magical creatures are still relegated to their hidey-holes and there are still walls of silence and secrecy between wizards and "muggles". I realize that ultimately I'm asking too much out of a book about magic, and once again betraying my disregard for Fantasy. Magic can't seem to suffer the burning glare of Empiricism and neither could Wizarding suffer the watchful eye of true Egality with even those of the same species... At the end of the series wizards are still the in-bred reclusive recipients of a recessive gene and the ubermenschen demi-gods of a long since culturally evolved Europe. There's no attempts to break the barriers of silence, to introduce the magic to science, to teach muggles to fly, to teach and in turn learn from the surrounding world. Sure wizards become more "tolerant" of muggles over the course of the series, but tolerant in the "we won't kill those non-mystically-enabled folk way". Muggles still have no real involvement in Wizard's Affairs. No say. No knowledge. No power. The worlds hardly intersect at all and I find it frustrating... But I don't like demi-gods.