Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Dark!

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA fantasy book reviews J.K. Rowling 5. Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was extremely gripping and exciting, with a great deal of plot progression.
Here, Harry is dealing with the aftermath of the return of Lord Voldemort, and coping with the fact that he is kept very much in the dark about what is happening. While at the Dursleys’ over the summer, he has been relying on the Muggle news to see whether Voldemort has started the expected killing spree and reign of terror. When Harry and his cousin Dudley are attacked by Dementors, Harry is forced to do magic outside of Hogwarts — something expressly forbidden — and is summoned to a hearing. This is where he begins to learn that times are changing: his relationship with Dumbledore is strained and distant; the Minister of Magic refuses to believe that Voldemort is back; and a truly chilling new character (Dolores Umbridge) takes on the role of Defence Against the Dark Arts professor.

Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts is dark, dark, DARK! He is reviled by many of his previously friendly classmates for telling stories to gain attention; he starts having dreams that leads him to believe that he is feeling Voldemort’s emotions (including his glee as he commits murder); and he suffers a massive setback in his Quidditch career.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsA lot of characters really develop through this book and it is fantastic to read more in-depth plotlines for Ron, Fred and George, Ginny and Snape amongst others. Here we have, for example, an extremely illuminating glimpse into one of the reasons why Snape hates Harry so intensely. Ginny becomes a feisty and very effective witch, while the Weasley boys provide much of the comic relief. I was rather pleased to see Ron step out of Harry’s shadow in a subplot about him joining the Quidditch team. Neville Longbottom, also, is treated well in this book and we finally learn more about him.

Two new characters really steal the show though. One of these is the dreamy Luna Lovegood, who is piercingly honest at times, but also believes in fairytale creatures and outlandish tabloid stories. The other is the aforementioned Umbridge. For once Harry is struggling against an antagonist who is not part of Voldemort’s group of Death Eaters. Umbridge is cruel, vindictive, and truly repulsive to read about. You feel like cheering when George and Fred take her on! There are some sickening moments in the story where Harry and Umbridge have quiet scenes together, such as his string of detentions at the start of the school year — these made me shudder.

Obviously there are faults with the book. This is the one where Harry develops teenage angst. For a long period at the beginning of the book he is sulky, sullen and often shouts in CAPITALS to make his point. I guess he is quite accurately written in terms of becoming a teenager, but it becomes tiresome very quickly.

The subplot with Harry and Cho’s ‘romance’ goes nowhere fast, and fizzles out rapidly when J.K. Rowling decides who she would most like to see Harry with — a relationship that has been signposted since the second book, but is none the less welcome for starting to take shape.

The beginning of the book is slow and dragging, up to and including where Harry meets the Order in Sirius’ house. Lots of names are thrown in quickly and some of the characters suffer from not being fleshed out at all.

Unlike my issues with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, these are really minor quibbles. Considering that Rowling is now dealing with a large ensemble cast, each of them seemed to get enough ‘screentime’ in this book. It was an extremely long book to read, but here I savoured each page rather than skipping through filler as I did with Goblet of Fire. Even the owls Hedwig and Pigwidgeon are given enough character for us to grow ever-more fond of them.

The DA lessons were incredibly funny and heartening to read about in the midst of all the gloom. Rowling also writes very effectively about the heavy workload of the students as they study for their OWLs (I love that OWLs and NEWTs correspond to our GCSEs and A Levels). It is also fun watching the three leads start to think about life after Hogwarts.

I think the real high point of this book is the fact that Rowling no longer feels the need to explain every little detail of the past four books. It is as though she now assumes that those picking up the book have already devoured the previous novels in the HP series, and so she steams straight into the plot. And the plot leads us on a rollercoaster ride that culminates in the most dramatic climax yet (although Rowling still can’t resist the big reveal between Harry and Dumbledore — however, here I can forgive her much since Dumbledore’s quiet and dignified explanation had me close to tears).

As I have commented on in prior reviews it is the little details of the wizarding world that, I believe, makes these books so beloved. One great example is that the students have to write a certain amount of feet or inches of parchment for essays rather than using a page or word count.

Finally, I leave you with a quote that had me giggling from Ron’s description of his practical Divination examination:

He (Ron) had just made Harry feel rather better by telling him how he had told the examiner in detail about the ugly man with a wart on his nose in his crystal ball, only to look up and realise he had been describing his examiner’s reflection.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a great addition to the Harry Potter series.

~Amanda Rutter

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Order of the Phoenix is my second favorite HARRY POTTER novel, coming in after Book Three, The Prisoner of Azkaban. Like too many of the later novels, The Order of the Phoenix is overly long, Harry’s teen angst grates a bit more than necessary, and the battle scene at the end goes on too long and in my mind felt as if it were being written more with the movie audience in mind rather than readers (the first time I felt this in the series but not the last). I give Rowling props, however, for taking the chance of portraying Harry as unlikable as he is through much of the novel. Even better is the character growth displayed throughout amongst several of the characters and the addition of Luna is a great pick-up. But what really makes the book stand out among the others is its emotional impact, especially in scenes involving a younger Snape.

~Bill Capossere

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsI’m in complete agreement with Amanda and Bill about this book. The darkness of this novel is exciting — we feel like maybe things may not turn out like we were expecting, yet there is some real humor here, too. The beginning is slow but the character development is superb and the emotional tension is exquisite.

~Kat Hooper

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThis is one of those series where the story of my journey as a fan sticks with me almost as much as the story *in* the books, so I’ll mention that this is the first of the books that had me keeping a midnight vigil at the bookstore (I read the first four in rapid succession after they’d been out for years). The Order of the Phoenix, likeThe Goblet of Fire, is a little too long and sags in places, and it’s very dark and not as funny as some of the other books. But it did keep me hooked, and we won’t even go into how late I stayed up reading.

~Kelly Lasiter

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AMANDA RUTTER, one of our guest reviewers, used to be an accountant in the UK but she escaped the world of numbers and is now living in a fantasy world she creates. She runs Angry Robot's YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. And we knew her when....

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is lately spending much of his time trying to finish a book-length collection of essays and a full-length play. His prior work has appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other journals and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of several Best American Essay anthologies. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, co-writing the Malazan Empire re-read at Tor.com, or working as an English adjunct, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course, the ultimate frisbee field, or trying to keep up with his wife's flute and his son's trumpet on the clarinet he just picked up this month.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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One comment

  1. This one was my favorite in the series, although I really wanted more to happen to Umbridge, argh! I think I just like that it took a turn for the dark. :D

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