When the government of the magic world and authorities at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry refuse to believe in the growing threat of a freshly revived Lord Voldemort, fifteen-year-old Harry Potter finds support from his loyal friends in facing the evil wizard and other new terrors.
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 Dursley's 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 (Delores Umbridge) takes on the role of Defence of 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 starting to feel what Voldemort is feeling (including his glee as he commits murder); and he suffers a massive setback in his Quidditch career.
A lot of characters really develop through this book and it is fantastic to read more indepth 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, in particular, 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 - piercingly honest at times, but also believes in fairytale creatures and gossipy stories from the wizarding world. The other is the aforementioned Umbridge - for once Harry is struggling against a person who is not part of Voldemort's group of Death Eaters. Umbridge is cruel, vindictive, 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 teenage, but it becomes tiresome very quickly.
The subplot with Harry and Cho's 'romance' goes nowhere fast, and fizzles out rapidly when 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 the fourth book in the series, 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 her previous novels in the HP series, and so she steams straight into the plot. And the plot leads us on a rollarcoaster 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. I shall pull out here the example of the students having 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."
A great addition to the Harry Potter series.
Nevertheless, the other aspect of his character also spurs out: to do good, to protect and teach protection. Though, sometimes the reasons behind these seemingly selfless actions are actually selfish, he does turn protector much to the expectation of his enemies and the caution of his friends. And, of course, his desire to protect both saves and help to destroy: a memory he is forced to live with for the rest of his life and experience at such a young age.
The end of the book I found the most fascinating. The Potter series moves from an adventure epic to a Bildungsroman from which I feel a large number of budding young adults can relate to; especially those who feel as though they have been treated unfairly.
Lately I have stated that Prisoner has been my favorite within the series. Nevertheless, I am seeing the evolution here more than ever of the writer's skills and ability to convey emotion and of Harry's Development into a man. As Lev Tolstoy said said of his Anna Karenina, I feel that The Order of the Phoenix is Rowling's first true novel.
The fifth installment of the Harry Potter series gets a lot of flack. Harry whines too much, itâ€™s too long, too much Quidditch, Hagrid and Dumbledore are almost completely absent from the first 2/3 of the book, etc. I donâ€™t disagree with these assessments and itâ€™s always been one of my least favorite books of the series, (my least favorite HP novel is still one of my favorite books).
However, while re-reading it this month Iâ€™ve developed a real appreciation for Rowlingâ€™s portrayal of women. Cloverâ€™s post at Fluttering Butterflies had me thinking about the great female characters in Harry Potter and I feel like the Order of the Phoenix is the pinnacle example of this.
Not only do we have favorite characters like the brilliant Hermione, whoâ€™s wonderful in every book, but we meet many of the best women for the first time. Both Luna Lovegood, so wonderfully comfortable in her own skin, and Tonks, a young auror, equal parts friendly and clumsy, are newcomers in this novel. We also get to know Mrs. Weasley better. We learn how much she both cares for and fears for her family. She is fiercely protective of her loved ones.
Professor McGonagall is also an under-appreciated character. She has a steely reserve, and although she sometimes seems cold, she really loves the school and her students. Her undying loyalty to Dumbledore, in the harshest of circumstances, is inspiring. I loved how she stood up to Umbridge and told Harry she would help him become an auror if thatâ€™s what he wanted. Sheâ€™s just wonderful.
We get to know Ginny better in this book as well. Instead of simply being the youngest Weasley and Ronâ€™s little sister, sheâ€™s part of the story. She trains in Dumbledoreâ€™s Army and goes with the group to the Ministry of Magic in the end. Sheâ€™s also protective of her friends, defending both Neville and Luna during this book.
Then there are the deliciously dark villains. We meet Bellatrix LeStrange, Voldemortâ€™s devoted follower and Professor Umbridge, a sickly sweet atrocity, who believes the ends will always justify the means.
One thing I hadnâ€™t thought about last time I read the series is Lupinâ€™s loses. His three closet friends are all taken from him, first James, then Peter (so he thinks), and finally Sirius is taken to prison. Then he realizes Sirius is innocent and he gets him back, only to lose him again. Lupin is already a social outcast because heâ€™s a werewolf. He finds three people who accept him for who he is, but ends up alone anyway. His life is one of the most tragic in the series and Iâ€™ve always had a soft spot for him.
A few things I'd forgotten about the fifth book:
1) Mrs. Weasleyâ€™s greatest fear, when sheâ€™s trying to get rid of a boggart, is seeing her family members die. Itâ€™s heartbreaking to read that section and know who lives and dies in the final book.
2) We meet Dumbledoreâ€™s brother Aberforth for the first time. We donâ€™t know who he is yet, but heâ€™s mentioned as the barman at the Hogâ€™s Head, â€śHe was tall and thin and looked vaguely familiar.â€ť
3) When a boy tries to go up the stairs to the girlâ€™s dormitory they turn into a slide.
4) Dobby is the one who warns Harry that Umbridge is about to break into the D.A. meeting, proving once again what a loyal friend he is.
One hilarious lineâ€¦â€ťEnough â€“ effing â€“ owls â€“â€ť Uncle Vernon.
I have long said HP5 ought to have been called "Harry Potter and the No-Good, Awful, Terrible Bad Year: Dumbledore Screws Up." While there are parts of this book that I love (the encounter with the Dementors in Privet Drive, Grimmauld Place, the interaction between Harry and Snape during Occlumency lessons, the D.A., Fred and George's brilliant departure from Hogwarts), for the most part I find it rather a chore to get through the thing. It is, as many have said, over long (though I think this may be a perception that results from some less than tight sentence-level writing; I don't know that I can point to any plot or character development that I think ought to have been excised), but that is not my chief complaint. Part of what makes Harry Potter so good is the atmosphere Rowling creates. All the books set at Hogwarts have significant sections in which little happens (or little appears to happen), but I don't lose interest during those sections because Rowling has created a fascinating, charming setting which I would love to visit and which I am content to hear about, even if the plot doesn't seem to be getting along. I'm happy to spend some time just watching these characters exist in their environment. Rowling wrecks that handily with the introduction of Dolores Umbridge. I HATE her. I'm meant to, I know. But I hate her so much that I can hardly stand to read about her. I suppose this is a testament to Rowling's ability to create a nasty character (and to make the reader feel sharply precisely what the characters feel), but it also marks a failing at creating a wholly entertaining and satisfying read.
It's a bit more realistic portrayal of a teenage boy...but who said I was reading this series for realism?
And all of this, in due part, to the introduction of a woman named Dolores Umbridge.
First, before I talk about the oh-so-sweet-want-to-kill-her-Dolores, let me just talk about how well Rowling managed to get across the frustration of Harry. Like Harry, while reading the opening of this book, we don't know.. well, anything. What has Lord Voldemort been doing? What are Ron and Hermione hiding? What is going on!?
And then there's the notice of being expelled. Argh!
So, Dolores Umbridge. Honestly, I think this was one of the most well-cast parts in the movies. The woman chosen to play Umbridge made the hairs on the back of my neck rise up and I have never felt the desire to wring someones neck that much. While the movie cast her so well, however, it did a great injustice to the fantastic Weasley twins. Because, frankly, they shine in the book beyond measure. The swamp, the tricks, the shop idea, their backing up of Harry (and by the way, what's with not even mentioning Quidditch or the teams disbanding. After so many movies do they just think we've forgotten all about it?) Fred and George are not given their credit in the movie, nor is (again) Dobby, the elf who found the Room of Requirement, not Neville (who I like, but still.. it was Dobby!)
I really love the book - but the movie is a bit mediocre to me. Aside from Umbridge and the final battle scene, I find that it did an injustice to many of the more notable parts of the books (don't even get me started on Tonks). I hope that they do a better job when it comes to the second half of Book 7.
The short re-cap: Harry is waiting patiently to return to Hogwarts when heâ€™s attacked by dementors, almost gets expelled for performing underage magic in front of a muggle, gets off by a slim margin, heads back to Hogwarts to find out that the Ministry of Magic is slowing doing its best to take over the school. And thereâ€™s that small little matter of Voldermort who would like to see him dead.
As always, spoilers below. Youâ€™ve been forewarned.
The Order of the Phoenix, I hate to admit, is not my favorite book in the series. Not to say it isnâ€™t good but I forgot just how moody and cranky everyone is in this installment. I canâ€™t blame either Harry (whoâ€™s got a price on his head and feels everyone is lying to him, which in some ways they are) or Sirius (whoâ€™s still in hiding and unable to do anything to help the cause or Harry) for their dark moods but there is only so much male PMS I can take. However, the Weasley twins stepped up and provided enough lightness to make me remember why I fell in love with the series --- the magic these two manage is wonderfully silly, and so disgusting, that it makes me want to procure a flyer and order a few of their concoctions. Umbridge is so mean, annoying, and sniveling that I somehow found myself enjoying her character this time around. I wonâ€™t say like because that would go too far but her attitude brings out some wonderful qualities in others characters such as Professor McGonagall who goes to great means to control her temper. Snape. I didnâ€™t plan on mentioning him but he does play a critical role in Harryâ€™s fifth year and his actions only keep me securely on the hate Snape bandwagon. Iâ€™m so very done with him, except Iâ€™m not really and I have two more books to fully loathe him, which I plan to do.
In some ways, I feel as though there is too much going on in this book. Itâ€™s long, and thatâ€™s not a bad thing because we do get to know a few characters better --- Luna and Ginny who are among my favorites --- so I donâ€™t want to point to that as the main reason for my lack of overflowing love. So many sub-plots show up here and itâ€™s a major turning point in the tome. The danger is much more palpable in this one than the proceeding books and it carries on with the sadness that made its way into the series when Cedric was killed by Voldermort. But Harryâ€™s attitude is sometimes too much for me. I do have to admit that
I did enjoy the fight at the Ministry of Magic though. The rooms in the Department of Mysteries are so fascinating.
Well, on to hunting horcruxes.
However, the good parts were REALLY good and made the novel a must-read. Dolores Umbridge is a fantastic villain. There's just something about evil disguised in pepto bismol-pink outfits that made her even more scary, and a real menace for Harry. And Dumbledore's Army? An awesome story idea! Seeing Harry take a leadership role was wonderful, plus it showcased his classmates who will become pivotal in the final battle with Voldemort. They will have to fight to save their world, and this makes it plausible that they could actually win. I also loved learning about the Order, the current and past members, what happened to Neville's parents and of course, more Sirius Black. The scenes between him and Harry are poignant and make the ending all the more powerful.
Though I had issues with the book, overall it is a strong entry to the series, with great advances to the story arc.
I have to admit that the first time I read Order of the Phoenix, I didn't really like it as much as the previous books. When it came out, I was a brand new fan of the series, and did the whole "wait outside the bookstore" thing for its release. My first reading left me a little cold, though now that I've been through the series a few times, I've actually come to appreciate this volume a little more.
My main complaint is the same as many others: Harry's snotty attitude got on my nerves very quickly. Granted, I kind of see this as smart writing on Rowling's part; with all of the magic and Hero's Journey epic stuff going on in these books, it's easy to forget that by this point in the series, Harry is a punk teenager. He's also had an abusive upbringing, and the last few years at Hogwarts haven't exactly been a lot of fun, either... Harry was due for a little old-fashioned teenage angst. With that said, I wanted to shake him by the front of his shirt a few times during this one (and, unfortunately, he doesn't get any better through the rest of the series).
On a broader scale, Order of the Phoenix is slower than previous books. The story takes place in a kind of limbo between the return of Voldemort and the beginning of the next wizarding war, and so most of the book tends to focus more on exposition than anything else. There's a lot of sitting around, waiting, wondering, and doing nothing on the part of the characters this time around, and more emphasis is placed on introducing the Good Guys and Bad Guys for the rest of the series than on moving the overarching story forward. Now that I'm familiar with said overarching story, I was able to study these mounds of exposition more closely, and found a lot more to like this time through.
The last chapters of the book ramp up in intensity rather quickly, with a climactic meeting between Voldemort and Dumbledore that remains one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. The falling action at the end is emotionally satisfying (Harry's stupid sulking notwithstanding), and does a fine job at setting the stage for the final two books. I think this is why I didn't like it so much the first time I read it, because without the perspective of knowing what's coming next, Order of the Phoenix feels very heavy on filler. It definitely improves on repeat readings, though; it felt like a big volume of foreshadowing this time, which I found to be very effective.
I can't discuss Order of the Phoenix without talking about Sirius Black, I suppose, but I've never really been a part of that bandwagon. His character was never quite deep enough for my liking, and he actually isn't really present in most of the story before he meets his sudden end (which, as we come to see later, follows Rowling's pattern of depicting death in a stark fashion, with no warning and no lingering on what occurred). I simply wasn't attached enough to him to be affected, for some reason, because he spent most of the book lurking "off-screen."
I know Order of the Phoenix is the favorite of some Harry Potter fans; I think it's the weakest, but I think it serves a necessary purpose: definitively establishing the newer, darker tone for the last three books, and drawing the lines in the sand for the buildup to the series conclusion. I criticize it only as compared to the other books in the series, though; I still think this is a wonderful escapist book in its own right, just like the rest of the Harry Potter books.
Order of the Phoenix is the longest of the series, and culminates in an epic battle at the end which does not let down in the action department. There are new enemies introduced in The Order: both Dark Eaters and one enemy who is an apathetic/insane bureaucrat. And whether or not we can trust Snape has still not been entirely hammered out for us.
By the fifth book, our hero has turned from a child to a young man. He is dealing with much more complex issues than most have to deal with (predestination, seeing a friend die, issues of orphan hood) and yet when he lashes out in anger we still click out tongues at him. Rowling makes sure to show that Harry Potter is human (a magical human) and although he is destined to save us all, he still can't understand girls, really hasn't learned how to study for a test, and can't keep from feeling jealous when friends do better than him.
The pattern is followed here, just as it was in the past four books. Harry deals with his hateful biological family, goes to school, danger ensues, and there is a battle at the end--Just a regular school year for the students at Hogwarts.
There's one thing that I think this series does best, perception. In the fifth book, the war is well under way in the normal world, but the reader has to go to school and deal with everyday issues with the three heroes, despite the ever hanging anxiety that the world is falling down outside the school grounds.
The characters are funnier and truer than ever. And if we had to be honest, the brain behind this entire operation is Herminie. She is rarely wrong, and always knows what to do. Harry just has the talent to carry out the ideas and Ron cracks jokes and nearly kills himself along the way.
It's a great read, especially for fans of the series who have not made it this far.
J.K. Rowling has brought back many of the characters that I love plus has introduced some new characters. One of my new favorites is Luna Lovegood. She seems like an airhead on the surface but she's much more astute than anyone gives her credit for. The new character that I love to hate is Deloris Umbridge. I think Voldemort might have some competition in a who is more evil contest.
Some of the students at Hogwarts decide to take matters in their hands and form a secret group called Dumbledore's Army. The plan is to practice some Defense Against the Dark Arts spells themselves because the Ministry refuses. I really like the gumption of the Hogwarts students, especially Neville Longbottom. He has come a long way since the first book. He's still a bit of a klutz but he's also very brave.
I love the way J.K. Rowling has written these characters. I feel like I'm literally watching them evolve on paper. I think these books are some of the most well written books out there.
Many people consider this the weakest of the Harry Potter books. It's definitely the one that rambles the most; I've heard people call it things like Harry Potter and the Search For An Editor, and to some extent I agree with them. There aren't many obviously important things going on until the very end of the book, but I still found everything herein really interesting. There's a lot of build-up, and I'm sure that tons of the little tidbits JKR gives us will be very important in the final book. (Some of them have already played a roll in The Half-Blood Prince). The book is much darker than previous volumes, but there were still all sorts of fun little scenes and entertaining bits mixed in.
As always, Harry and his friends behave believably and logically, given their circumstances. Unfortunately, this makes Harry a difficult person to like at the beginning of the book; he's ornery and overly assured of his own importance. In short, he's annoying. He gets over it eventually, but those first hundred pages are rather off-putting.
Overall, though, I enjoyed this one as much as always. It's very readable, and helps set the stage for the final confrontation.
Unfortunately, Rowling has perhaps done too good of a job in capturing stereotypical teenage angst with Harry (who certainly had his fair share to begin with). However, none of the other characters seem to be having similar problems with their hormones. The book's individual plot is fairly weak. Some things seem to happen simply because they need to, and I'm not entirely convinced that they actual would have. Many parts just didn't make sense, except for the need for the plot to progress. However, as far as the plot of the entire series goes, some very important elements are introduced, but not developed particularly well. Not all is bad, though--some moments are really quite wonderful.
Generally, I was somewhat disappointed, especially as I had thoroughly enjoyed the previous four books. This is the first in the series that doesn't stand well on its own; to really appreciate it, you have to have read at least some, and ideally all, of the other books. It was the first time that I really noticed the length as well. The book probably could have done with another edit to remove seemingly superfluous material. I plan on finishing the series, but I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about it as I was before.
Experiments in Reading