Harry Potter #5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is a massive book, no doubt about it. It’s long, it’s heavy, and it’s chock full of Harry Potter goodness. I’ve reread it several times, and enjoy it more every time – I think it’s one of those books that just gets better and better. In all those readings never have I thought, “this book is too long.” So maybe if you’ve tried it and not liked it, I urge you to give this book another try.
The tone of “The Order of the Phoenix” is much darker than previous Harry novels, and Harry himself is no longer the happy wizard-in-training readers have known. He’s an angry, brooding, hormonal, struggling teenager, enduring his worst year ever at Hogwarts. For the Ministry of Magic refuses to believe that Voldemort is back, and has labeled both Harry and Albus Dumbledore as crazy.
The first month of his summer vacation was absolute misery: confined to Privet Drive, Harry heard nothing from the wizarding world about Voldemort. Only when dementors attack him, in the middle of Little Whinging, does Harry get thrown back into his world, but not in the way he wanted – for summoning a Patronus to defend himself, he’s in danger of being expelled from Hogwarts.
But when Harry overcomes that hurdle, and the school year starts again, he’s in for a nasty shock. The Ministry, afraid that Dumbledore may use his students as an army, decides to take control of Hogwarts. Dolores Umbridge is appointed as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and through a series of education decrees eventually becomes the headmistress of the school. She’s one despicable character, who gets her jollies from sacking professors and making students thoroughly miserable. Her teaching is useless, as she and the Ministry believe in defensive magic only; she won’t even allow students to practice counterjinxes or counterspells.
Umbridge isn’t the only blight on Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts. He also has to deal with O.W.L.s, or Ordinary Wizarding Levels, the exams fifth year students take that determine their future careers. The stress level is extraordinary, and Harry doesn’t even have Quidditch for relief… And that’s just the start of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
As I said at the beginning of this review, I really do think this book gets better each time you read it. The first time, you’re reading mainly for the plot, but the second time you start to pick up on the subtleties and twists and turns and intrigue. Characters from previous novels such as Neville Longbottom, Professor Lupin, and Sirius Black are back, and they are all newly important in their own way. Bits of previous novels suddenly become more important as well, such as why Dumbledore wouldn’t answer all of Harry’s questions after his first encounter with Voldemort in “The Sorcerer’s Stone.”
My only real annoyance with “The Order of the Phoenix” is how Rowling described Umbridge as a toad over and over…and over and over again. I was really sick of it after what felt like twenty times. But that’s just a personal quibble, probably due to how much I detested Umbridge. Such an evil rotter!
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be frustrated. Your opinion of some characters may change. You’ll be hungry to know what will happen in the last two Harry books. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is an excellent read.