Look out, spoilers coming!
No, really, I mean it.
Last chance to stop reading.
Okay. You asked for it.
Can you believe that the giant squid was a horcrux?
That was just a test to see if you really stopped reading this post.
Now for the real stuff...
I've got to start with the cover. Not the artwork... that was released weeks ago and it's been pored over minutely. It's the jacket flaps that are intriguing. There's no plot summary on the front one (just a one sentence introduction) and the back flap is completely blank. Totally intriguing and classy... and I've never seen it before. It heightened the sense of drama.
And next, the dedication. (Wow, this series of posts is going to be long, isn't it?) I love that it's split seven ways... to her husband (Neil), her children (Jessica, David and Mackenzie), sister (Diane) and mother (Anne)... and the readers. It thought it set the right tone to have the fans be included on the dedication and this the first book she's done it. It also felt like it made a full circle with the first book, which was dedicated to Jessica, Diane and Anne. (Neil, David and Mackenzie and the fans weren't in her life at the time). It's also the first time she's included quotations and I thought they were well chosen and also heightened the tension. Clearly, this book is going to talk about death. It's in the title. It's in the preface. There's no escaping it.
Just a quick note about the audiobook here. (I simultaneously listened to the audiobook and read the book.) All the Harry Potter audio books (the Random House Listening Library versions) begin the same way... a very short piece of music (the same music for every book), the title, the author's name, the narator's name and then Chapter One. For Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the music was very different from the quick jaunty theme of the other books. It was much longer, more intense and more poignant. That coupled with the quotations made it a far lengthier introduction than usual... and I thought it was well done and very effective.
Chapter One: The Dark Lord Ascending
Raise your hand if at first you thought this was the same night that Snape fled Hogwarts. I certainly did. I've got to hand it to Rowling for an excellent psych-out. This was the first time we saw a Death Eater meeting, and it was intense. I didn't know whether or not to believe Snape's information but I liked that Draco was scared. I was surprised that Lucius was at the table, and thought the way Voldemort took his wand was a wonderful sucker punch. The words Charity Burbage used to plead for her life were an exact replica of Dumbledore's last words: "Severus... please." And the image of the snake slithering onto the table was suitably creepy.