There shouldn't be any spoilers in this post ...
Having pre-ordered the book within three days of hearing that pre-orders were being taken, I was among the first group to run up to the shipping door of Village Books last night and exchange the yellow "Golden Snitch" for a copy of the book.
Rachael drove me home, both of us jigging with excitement, neither of us planning to sleep until we had some serious reading done. I haven't heard from her yet, or Chris, about whether they've finished it; although Chris, who as an East Coast resident got his book three hours before I did, left me a voice message at 4 AM his time to tell me to brace myself.
And, for the first time in my life, I stayed up all night. I finished the book.
Fair warning here, to anyone who is at all likely to take nightmares: I didn't stay up merely out of a need to know the end, although that helped. I stayed up because parts of it creeped me out so much that no way did I dare to face sleep without the resolution. Very little in the other books has affected me that way (granted, I didn't read any of them for the first time between midnight and 7 AM). This is no children's book, and it is very dark, so if earlier books left you unsettled, go cautiously; at the very least, don't read it alone or after dark.
Not enough people have yet read the story to justify me in posting any particular details, so I'll restrain myself from that. As to general thoughts on the story, however: at first I wondered if I would like it at all, and at one point felt furiously certain that I'd hate it, that there weren't enough pages left to contain an explanation that could justify what I was seeing. There still remains one decision a very important "good guy" made that I really struggle with, even disagree with.
But the other day I read a slice of an interview with Joanne Rowling done some time back. I had heard that she was a member of the Church of Scotland, that she claims to "go more often than at Christmas and Easter" (a rather cryptic remark that people will probably take a couple of different ways.) The interviewer, however, had commented on her books being secular. The article recorded her response as "Um, I don't think they're all that secular".
She wasn't kidding. They're not "all that secular".
Don't get me wrong--the main characters didn't suddenly drop to their knees and profess Christianity, not that that is what makes a story Christian. Nor is the story a clear and accurate descriptor of salvation theology, or any such thing, not that it attempts to be. What I will say, though, is that the allegory drawn is in its own way comparable to certain points in the most well-known works of those two venerable Christian fantasy writers, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
... and, after the final two chapters inspired me to that half-laughing, half-crying act that womanhood practices so naturally, I have to say that I liked the book.
But some time must go by before I can say more--others need the chance to read it. I need to re-read it, which will not happen immediately; there are three people waiting to read my copy, and I've put a lot of time into Harry Potter lately and should turn my attention to other things.
Happy reading, to all of you still in the process :-)