HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
J.K. Rowling


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Fifth in the Harry Potter Series
Scholastic, 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Fantasy

Harry Potter has been despised by his Aunt and Uncle Dursley all his life. It doesn’t change their feelings when Harry saves the life of his bully cousin Dudley, when the two of them are attacked by dementors. Indeed, it makes things worse, because the Ministry of Magic puts Harry on trial for improper use of magic.

This is the first time Harry has noticed: the Ministry of Magic appears to have declared war on him and the Hogwarts School Headmaster, Dumbledore. It is a bad sign that dementors, the terrifying guards of the wizard prison of Azkaban, are trying to kill him. Articles in the wizards’ newspaper, the Daily Prophet, show an official smear campaign against Harry, Dumbledore, and any suggestion that the evil Dark Lord Voldemort has returned. When Harry’s schoolmates and even Dumbledore turn against him, it seems things couldn’t get any worse. How many people has Voldemort managed to possess? Has he even taken over Harry himself?

Up until now, author J.K. Rowling has pretty much managed to keep a balance between the challenges Harry must face and the support he receives from the people around him. In my opinion, she goes over the edge in ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. Even Hogwarts falls to the enemy. Ron and Hermione have their own problems, and Harry has no protection against the ton of injustices landing on him. He will have to build a new support system, one he can live with, before he is forced to battle Voldemort once more.

Here we get further acquainted with some old friends and meet some despicable enemies. The Weasley twins come into their own as guerrilla pranksters. Harry gets to know what is behind the attractions of the beautiful Cho. The horrendous Professor Umbridge, new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, obviously doesn’t want the students to learn a thing. The loathsome Professor Snape gets unwanted access into Harry’s mind – and vice versa. Harry has more than enough to deal with, even without Voldemort trying to kill him.

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is the fifth Harry Potter book, and the first I have had the courage to review. I felt unequal to the task of doing justice to the wit, rich imagination, and uplifting charm of the whole series – not to mention that I seemed to be the last person in the English speaking world to read them. The series isn’t just about magic, it is magical. Each of the first four books was better than the one before it.

ORDER OF THE PHOENIX was a disappointment to me, especially as a follow-up to HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE. GOBLET OF FIRE won the prestigious Hugo Award, and is a candidate for one of my Favorites of 2004. GOBLET OF FIRE was especially strong on problem solving. ORDER OF THE PHOENIX keeps giving Harry insoluble problems, which in his current, adolescent state of mind, he is totally unequal to facing. In the end, Rowling does not have Harry solve his problems at all. Instead, she gives him answers to several of his long-term questions. Harry still has plenty of challenges to face, so we will have to see how he goes about solving them in the next book, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.

February 2004 Review

 

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