on October 17, 2007
ORDER OF THE PHOENIX could well be my favorite book of them all, if Azkaban and Deathly Hallows weren't as good as they were. For all the talk about GOBLET being the one where Rowling really hikes up the intensity and the complexity in the series, it is here, in PHOENIX, she gives us Potter's darkest, and most complex, adventure of all.
The second most complex novel in the entire Potter sequence (the first being Book 7), this book is probably the second best one, though I still like Azkaban better. This novel introduces the Order of the Phoenix, a whole litany of new characters and a more indepth look at the Ministry For Magic.
Potter has been having bad dreams about a locked door. So he must find out what to do about that. While at home with the Dursleys, he and Dudley are attacked by dementors, and so he stands trial before the Ministry for the inappropriate use of underage magic. He ultimately must appear before the Ministry, and it is only by Dumbledore's appearance he is saved.
But the Ministry is not finished yet. Still under staunch denial that Voldemort is back, Cornelius Fudge sends a new teacher, Dolores Umbridge, to bring Hogwarts under the Ministry's control. Much of the storyline revolves around Umbridge as she takes over Hogwarts, eventually ousting Dumbledore, who goes on the run. Her end is very well justified.
I remember when I read the book back in 2003 when it initially came out being rather disappointed. I wasn't a big fan of GOBLET, and I couldn't way to spend more time in Harry's universe, being back at Hogwarts with characters I know and love. But when I read PHOENIX, though, I felt even more lost and rather alienated. Hogwarts was being taken over. Hagrid was missing for half the book. Dumbledore is extremely distant (for reasons explained at the end of the novel). The Ministry is taken over, and it's run by a man who doesn't know what the hell is going on. There was a lot going on in this novel, and it was all rather depressing. Harry became angry and had severe mood swings, and was always snapping at the people around him. On the positive note he did get some romance,but ultimately even that frizzled out. Harry even had to take "Defense Against the Dark Arts" underground, as Umbridge refuses to even acknowledge Voldemort at all, as per Ministry order.
When I reread it in 2007 in prepration for DEATHLY HALLOWS, my stocks in this book absolutely soared. This is a dark, dark book, and while I still felt rather alienated and cut off from Rowling's magical world and the Ministry Interference, this time around I realised how masterfully crafted this novel truly is.
ORDER, as far as I'm concerned, is where Rowling truly stopped writing children's fiction, but crafting a dark, bitter book about dark, bitter times in her character's lives. Reading ORDER, and especially about Umbridge, keeps reminding one of Orwell and his horrific visions in 1984 and ANIMAL FARM.
Umbridge is easily one of her best characters she ever wrote, and one of the most despicable characters in all of fiction. It is people like Umbridge that brought Hitler to power in the early 1930s, and who would enable him to commit the many atrocities that he did during WWII (and I thought that for a long time before HALLOWS came out, in which Umbridge has turned into a type of Nazi who fully subscribes to Voldemort's racial genocide).
It is here, with ORDER, in which Rowling shows us the evil of bureaucracy, of how Voldemort isn't the only person in which massive evil lurks.
I also love how Rowling greatly expands her environment from the previous novels. We see for the first time St. Mungo's (and have a rather morose encounter with Gilderoy Lockheart from Book 2). We get to go inside the Ministry For Magic, and a very impressive place it is. Grimmauld Place, along with Sirius, is also very entertaining.
And we get some great new characters. Thestrals. The beautifully bizaare Luna Lovegood. Gwarp. Kingsley Shacklebolt. And a personal favorite, Nymphadora Tonks.
The series also has one of my favorite scenes in all of literature: when Dumbledore brings Firenze on during the rainstorm as the new divination teacher (a scene I was so disappointed they cut on the movie. The seeds were they but they cut it damn it.).
The climax of the book is great, with Dumbledore's Army truly coming into their own as they fight against the Death Eaters, who are trying to take the Prophecy from the Hall of Prophecy in the Ministry For Magic. I love that whole end sequence. And the death Rowling includes is just brutal, not really how she kills off the character but the fact she killed him off at all. Interestingly enough, Arthur Weasly, who survives an attack in this novel, was originally slated to die, but Rowling could not bear to kill him off. He was also supposed to die in Book 7, but she couldn't kill him then either, and he was the only real normal fatherfigure in the series, and a good father at that.
And naturally, we get to learn some vastly important information about Neville Longbottom. Following the trend of other installments in the series in regards to introducing apparently non-essential characters and information,, he turns out to much more important than you would suppose. We also begin to learn Dumbledore isn't as flawless as you would like to think.
Another thing I really like about the book is you really do feel like the stakes are really high, which you should as we're only two books away from the end. In fact, HALF-BLOOD PRINCE seemed almost a step back in terms of complexity and highs takes atmosphere from this one.
One thing that should be noted is this is a real doorstop of a book. At a quarter of a million worlds (half as long as Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS), this is easily one of the longest children's books ever published. Rowling has even said she wish she could go back and edit this book down, as she feels it is too long. But what would she cut? Great stuff, but very long for kids. Speaks to the amazing appeal these books have that children have read something as long as this.
Overall, one of my favorite Potter books. I think it's even better than AZKABAN on a literary level, but I still prefer Azkaban to this as a personal preference. Still, this is one of Potter's best. Don't go in thinking you'll have as much fun at Hogwarts. These are dark times, and the war really is beginning.
We can only hope Potter and his friends will pull through.
on May 26, 2000
Every Once in a while, a book comes along that spellbinds millions. Like The Hobbit, You certainly know Bilbo Baggins, and you know all about Tolkien. A new book has come, Harry Potter. I love this book. I enhale all of the information exhales. Please say my vote was helpful. I am 82 years old and nothing would please me more than to be a top reviewer.
This is arguably the most "hyped" book in history, and if J.K. Rowling had to sneak down to the kitchen for a glass of red wine to calm her nerves while writing The Goblet of Fire (as she said she did), one wonders what assuaged her while writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The collective breath of tens of millions of readers has been held for two years...and now...was it worth the wait? Did Ms. Rowling live up to the hype? (For that, amongst hundreds of questions, is really the only question that matters.)
The answer, most assuredly, is YES.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is told in a strikingly different style than the previous six books - even different from The Half Blood Prince, and, I daresay, it's a better written, better edited, tighter narrative. And while the action is lively and well paced throughout, Rowling found a way to answer most of our questions while introducing new and complex ideas. What fascinated me was this: Some people were right, with regard to who is good, who is bad, who will live, who will die - but almost nobody got the "why" part correct. I truthfully expected an exciting but rather predictable ending, but instead was thrown for a loop. We've known that Rowling is fiendishly clever for years - but I didn't think she was *this* clever.
Not since turning the final page of The Return of the King twenty-eight years ago have I felt such a keen sense of loss. My love affair (indeed, everyone's love affair, I imagine) with all things Harry began somewhere in the first three chapters of The Sorcerer's Stone, and has lasted, on this side of the Atlantic, three months shy of nine years. For all that time we have waited and wondered - was Dumbledore right to trust Snape? Will Ron and Hermione get together? What's to become of Ginny and Harry? What really happened on that tower, when Dumbledore was blasted backwards, that "blast" atypical of the Avada Kedavra curse as we've seen it when used throughout the series. So many more questions than those listed here, and so many devilishly well-hidden hints. The answers, as I hinted above, will shock and awe you.
When first we met Harry Potter, he was "The Boy Who Lived", with an address of "The Cupboard Under the Stairs". Who could help but bleed sympathy for Harry, treated abysmally - abused, really - by the only blood relatives he had, and forced to live under said stairs by those awful Muggles, the Dursleys? It was a sensationally brilliant introduction, one that ensured that our heartstrings would be plucked and enchanted to sing. He was The Boy Who Lived.
Since reading that first book, we have enjoyed Rowling's spry sense of humor - portraits that spoke, stairways that moved at any given moment, Hagrid jinxing Dudley so that a pigs tail grew from his behind, Fred and George's fantastic creations, etc, etc., etc., and more etc's. There was a sense of wonder and magic in Rowling's writing, so thoroughly captivating that the recommended age group of 9-12 in no way resembled the book's actual audience. It was common to see adults walking about with hardcover copies of the latest book, sans dust jacket (to hide the fact that they were reading a "kids" book, I suppose). It was also common to hear of eight year olds sitting down with a seven-hundred-plus page book! By themselves! If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
As for Harry, we admired him. He wasn't afraid to stand up for what he felt was right, even if he found himself in detention for it. He was brutally honest, and immensely courageous and loyal. Harry came to embody, at times, who we would like to be. He wasn't perfect, of course. He suspected Snape of being the one who was after the Sorcerer's Stone, and in The Chamber of Secrets, he thought that Malfoy was the heir of Slytherin. This didn't diminish Harry in our eyes - it made him more human, more real, and even, perhaps, more enviable.
Endless fan sites have been erected. For an adult to go to any of them, and find that thirteen year olds are having an easier time parsing out the books plots, subplots, and mysteries, was (for me at least) humbling, but yet also a testament to Rowling herself, and her remarkable creation. She encouraged an entire generation of young readers to read and to think for themselves.
But the time has come to say good-bye, for this is truly the end.
So good-bye, Harry. Good-bye Hermione, Ron, Professor Dumbledore, *Professor* Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Hagrid, Ginny, Fred, George, Neville, Dobby (and all the house elves), even Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. We will miss all of you, every character we encountered, from Muggle to Mudblood to hippogriff and owl, and everything about the world you all so vibrantly inhabit. And to Ms. Rowling: know that you have brought immeasurable joy to millions and millions of Muggles worldwide, and know that we cannot possibly thank you enough. What a tremendous gift you were given. Thank you for sharing it with us.
on July 1, 2003
I can only imagine the kind of pressure J.K. Rowling faces when she sits down to write a Harry Potter book.
Though she's said she worked out the whole seven-book series on a fateful train ride she took in the late '90s, she couldn't possibly have imagined that the series would turn into this: midnight bookstore parties, record print runs, and a generation of children (and adults) hanging on to her every written word.
"This" has now reached a new apogee with its fifth entry, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the longest (870 pages) and most dense (more characters, more complexity) book of the series.
And Rowling once again pulls it off.
Harry's adolescent funk
"Phoenix" begins in the usual place, the Dursleys' house at number four, Privet Drive, in Little Whinging, England. The Dursleys, Harry's guardians, have become more frightened of Harry's magical abilities -- and the now 15-year-old Harry, having sunk into an adolescent funk of bitterness, anger and self-pity, is more than happy to keep them guessing.
But Harry soon has bigger problems. Once he's back at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he's treated as a pariah by most students for his insistence that the evil Lord Voldemort is back -- and, indeed, played a role in the death of a student at the end of "Goblet of Fire."
Only a handful of professors and Harry's close friends -- among them Hermione and Ron -- support him.
Harry also struggles with the series' latest villain, Dolores Umbridge, a condescending representative from the Ministry of Magic who assumes a leadership role at Hogwarts. The students' psychological battles with the odious Umbridge are the best parts of "Phoenix," and Rowling writes them with a wicked zest.
"Phoenix" does have its problems. The book starts running out of steam before the climactic battle, and that battle itself -- full of noise, flashing spells and wand-handling straight out of a grade-B Western as produced by Jerry Bruckheimer -- is the most poorly constructed scene in the book.
Rowling also engages in a stylistic tic, the paragraph-ending ellipsis, that seems to have become more popular with thriller writers. (It's all over Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," too.) Is something wrong with the humble period?
But those are minor issues in the face of Rowling's rich imagination and robust writing. The scope of Potter's world seems boundless; Rowling has added new characters and new locations, and added layers to those already existing. Potter's world, though fantastic, seems utterly believable.
That's doubly true of Harry himself. Rowling doesn't make Potter into an unblemished hero. Instead, he's a classic conflicted boy-man, struggling with issues both large (the death of both parents, fighting an evil power) and small (love, relationships and his own wildly changing hormones). He may not be as much fun as he was in Book One, but he's become more realistic and sympathetic.
Well, when he wants to be. After all, he's a teenager.
Recently, a friend asked me if Potter was worth the hype. I'm not sure if anything is worth the hype that the modern entertainment industry produces: overblown publicity machines for works that will vanish in a weekend.
But if anything is worth the hype, it's Harry Potter. The books enrapture children, entangle adults, and are full of wit, wisdom and wonder. Who could ask for a more magical experience?
on July 23, 2007
*SPOILERS: please don't read if you haven't finished the book*
After reading the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series, as well as many of these reviews, I simply cannot believe that anyone would rate this book with less than 5 stars. I have read reviews where people say that the ending is too "light and fluffy", or that "Harry should have died", and that the whole deathly hallows part of the plot is pointless because, in the end, Harry does not keep the hallows. Can no-one here see why JK Rowling ended the series as she did? I grew up with Harry Potter, the first book having been released when I was about 9 or 10. I cannot express how depressing it would have been had Harry died, for(forgive me for the cheeziness) if Harry had died surely there was no hope for the rest of us. Furthermore, the ending is not "light and fluffy". Harry overcomes Voldemort as his character develops, as he finally understands how to finish the Dark Lord once and for all- as he allows himself to be sacrificed for the benefit of "the greater good". The deathly hallows merely stand as the temptation for Harry to become all-powerful, to make the same mistake that Voldemort and Dumbledore(when he was young) made. His choice to turn down the opportunity to evade death not only speaks on his true character, but sets him apart from those who would try to harness this power. Even if Harry had chosen to keep the Hallows for good purposes, would he not eventually turn into the same type of tyrant as Grindelwald, as Voldemort, and as Dumbledore would have become? Yes, the hallows did appear and disappear in this one book, but because Harry chose NOT to keep them for himself, he chose the path of the pure-hearted. By this action, we truly see how much Harry has grown and matured. We also see just how different Harry really is from Voldemort, a question Harry himself had been wondering for some time.
So for those of you that bash this book for not ending in total destruction, and claim that "life is not fair and evil really does win", please remember that life is only what you make of it. Only those of us who grew up with Harry can really say just how much his life means to us, and I would just like to thank JK Rowling for this wonderful finishing piece of the Harry Potter series.
on June 12, 2000
In anticipation of Harry Potter, Book 4, I had to read the first three books again. What I was struck with, again, is the sheer imaginative nature of J.K. Rowling's books. Simply put, these books are instant classics.
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is the third in the series following Harry Potter at Hogwart's school of wizardry. Harry is now a 13-year old (his birthday occurring at the beginning of the book), and concerned mostly with classes, Quidditch (a wizard sport), and the fact that he's not allowed to visit the local wizard village of Hogsmeade with his friends on the weekends. One of the reasons for this is that Sirius Black, a convicted murderer, has broken out of Azkaban, the wizard prison, and word has it that he's out to get Harry.
In keeping with Harry Potter tradition, the reader can expect surprises, twists and turns, malicious rivals, uncommonly kind professors, terrible relatives, amazing magic candy, true friendships, and a whiz-bang ending.
It's delightful to see how Rowling can stay true to the feel of the previous books, and yet allow Harry and friends to mature. This book is a little longer than the previous books, but the imagination never lets up, and gradually Harry's world is widening.
I would recommend this book to ANYONE (any age) who enjoys the writings of Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, or J.R.R. Tolkien. This is a very fun, humourous, and enjoyable fantasy novel, and one that should be read more than once!
on November 15, 2003
As I've been reading many of the reviews here, I see that the opinion of the readers is split down the middle; either they hated it or loved it, no middle ground to tread. It irrtated me thoroughly when readers complained about the length and cookie cutter plot. First off, I would like to remind readers that, while each book does have its own plot, IT IS A SERIES. The books must stay related in plot so there can be a combined OVER ALL PLOT. It would be incredibly confusing if each book whirl-winded off into unknown, very new plot lines. Second, the length is not too much, while the sheer volume of the book is enough to ward many people off, it is not overdone. Nothing's truly 'repeated' (as one reviewer has mentioned), in fact, we (as readers) get to visit two new places that we've never been before; that Harry's never been before--therefore, a long explanation of these places is needed. Lastly, I would like to note that people need to read it again and again and again, just as Harry Potter fans read the first four books over and over while waiting for this one, certainly they should and can read this one again. I was unsatisfied at first with the book when I finished reading it, but out of my love for Harry Potter, I picked it up again, and loved it. JK likes to hide subtle hints in the text that unfold throughout the book, and when you start it for the second or third time, you know what's going to happen, therefore you can concentrate on your present spot in the book. That's actually what happened to me: I was so excited that it was finally published, I read it in seventeen hours straight, just so I could have the whole fifth book story line in my head, to know what happened. I didn't concentrate on the diction or comedy or any of it; I was just reading for the plot. When I read it again, I realized what an awesome book it is: You can read more and more and love it more and more. So take my advice: If you hate it at first, read it again. If you still hate it...well, your loss.
on July 1, 2001
In pure honesty, I will be astounded if anybody actually reads my review, but in case you actually would like my prognosis of this novel, read on.
Before I begin, though, if you are a new reader who has never read any of the Harry Potter series, I would strongly recommend reading them in order. An avid fan, I have read all of the current ones several times, but I'm reviewing "The Prisoner of Azkaban" for the reason it is my favorite. Although "Goblet of Fire" (4) is undeniably deeper and well-written, I personally favor this one so far.
For me, the first two books of this series served merely as an introduction into the wonderful world of Harry Potter. They allow the readers to begin to expand their mind enough to absorb the pure imagination in this magnificent fantasy. Again, that is why I urge new readers to read the first two before delving into this one. Grammatically, it is no more difficult to read than the first two. Content wise, however, J.K. Rowling goes all out in this one; as if she were holding back in the earlier ones. For a reader unexposed to this world, it may be overwhelming.
For me, this book secured J.K. Rowling's legitimacy as an author and was the turning point to get me hooked to the whole series, since it works on so many more levels than the previous two. In "Prisoner of Azkaban",Rowling finally begins to shed some light on Harry's past, an element very briefly touched in the prior two. You also begin to see the development of familiar characters; the progression and maturity from their initial introduction in Book One. Part of Rowling's gift is making the reader feel as if they are at Hogwart's School of Wizardry with the Harry and the rest. Once accustomed to the characters, we can see how they grow. Harry begins to experience some situations typical of a young, confused boy his age (ie, he starts to stand-up for himself more against his foster family, he starts rebelling more against his professors, he finds himself in the middle of a conflict between his two best friends, etc) As a growing teenager myself, I can relate. Also, in the previous books, the story was pretty clear-cut. Of course there were unexpected twists and curveballs thrown, but when it came down to it, the reader could easily discern between the good hero and the evil antagonist at the climax. This story focuses less on the ongoing battle between Harry and his archenemy and more on the inner turmoil of a young man as he is faced with several obstacles he has to face within himself.
However, make no mistake, this story is jam-packed with action and humor that makes the book so appealing to begin with. And as I stated earlier, Rowling allows our imaginations to soar as she expands on the already well-developed world she has created. In a delightful turn of events, Harry is on his own for a few weeks, so we get a firsthand account about a "normal" city for wizards. Another plus is a newly introduced wizard settlement known as Hogsmeade, in which Rowling vividly describes the various wild shops and landmarks. Finally, the introduction of a new Defense Against Dark Arts teacher, a very interesting and well-developed man. Professor Remus Lupin's class allows Rowling's creativity to shine as she shows all these magical creatures and entities who are obviously researched and well-developed. Not only is it just fun to read, it's a great prerequisite for the totally outta-this-world follow-up, "Goblet of Fire". I love this series, and I recommend that everybody at least read "Sorceror's Stone" (1) Thanx fer taking the time to read this, I hope it was helpful in convincing you that Harry Potter is one of the best examples of literature at its best.
on October 17, 2007
For my money, though I like the first two Potter books, this is where Rowling struck gold. I started reading the series in late 1999 or early 2000, well before GOBLET came out, and when I finished the three books that at that time were out, I thought AZKABAN was not only easily the best of three, but one of the best books I had read in a long time. The storyline is easily the strongest of the first three installments, and for once Voldemort is not the main villain driving the plot, but, so it is thought, a renegade supporter of his who murdered 13 people with a single curse.
In AZKABAN, we learn an escaped criminal from the wizard prison Azkaban by the name of Sirius Black is out on the lam looking for Potter. Black was once a vehement supporter for Voldemort, and now Black is gunning to finish off the job by murdering Potter, a task he had tried to do several years ago. Not only that, Potter learns during the course of the plot that Black was James' best friend, along with the new defense against the dark arts teacher, Remus Lupin. We get to learn who Scabbers really is (another instant of an character mentioned in passing on the first two novels who is hugely important here). Black is Potter's godfather, and yet he betrayed the Potters!
What makes Azkaban so interesting is you really get to learn about the relationships between James Potter, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Severus Snape. These five characters, and their relationships with one another, are huge portions of the foundation on which Rowling built her series. You need a clear understanding of these characters to fully experience Rowling's series, and it is thru these characters that this book, and the series itself, is as rich as it is. The fact no one knew that the three characters were unregistered animagus to help Remus cope with his condition was pretty cool.
For once, Rowling introduces a new magical artifiact called the Marauder's Map, which she uncharacteristically fully explains by the end of the novel. It was made by Padfoot, Moony, Wormtail, and Prongs, which are the nicknames of James and his crew. The map shows you the location of every one on the Hogwarts grounds, a tremendously useful item, supplied, appropriately enough, by those masters of mischief, Fred and George.
Another great new bit of magic in the book is the Patronus, a magical spell that will help fight back the dementors and fear, a very advanced piece of magic for third years. It is also very touching to know why Harry's patronus is a stag, as that is what his father transformed into.
There are also other memorable scenes and events. You get Hermione and the Time Turners, Buckbeak the Hippogriff, Professor Trelawney, the Dementors, the Maurader's Map, etc. The climax of the novel is great, but for me, it's that time when Remus, Sirus, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Snape are all in that Shreiking Shack, and you finally get to learn a lot of key information about Harry's past.
Ironically enough, though I have long held the opinion this is the best Potter book of them all (not including Book 7), this book has the worst movie adaptation, BECAUSE they don't fully establish all the different relationships between the four, or even explain the Marauder's Map.
For myself, this is easily my favorite of the Potter novels, or was until DEATHLY HALLOWS came out. Still, I have had a great history with this book, and probably reread this more than all the other Potter books. This is the second best Potter book.
These are my order of Potter books by preference:
Prisoner of Azkaban
Order of the Phoenix
Philosopher's Stone/Chamber of Secrets (I rank them both the same)
Goblet of Fire.
This 17-disc audio version of the final Harry Potter book is a worthy way to experience the story without reading it. It features the rich baritone of narrator Jim Dale, who tells the tale with just the right understated touch, supplying all of the characters' voices.
As for Dale's accent, it's appropriately British but not at all too thick. Each word is clear and easy to understand. If you've bought any of the earlier Potter audio CDs you know what to expect: Dale narrated all of those, too.
By the way, note that this is an UNABRIDGED audio book. Listening to it all takes 21 hours!
The story is dark, and too violent for younger kids, but overall one of the best in the Harry Potter series. Nothing seems forced or thrown together. Author J.K. Rowling wraps up her many plot points and reveals the fates of her characters in ways that almost always surprise you, but afterward seem inevitable.
And how she does it is so inventive! Many throwaway moments and whispered remarks from earlier books foreshadow what happens here, and devices that had little importance before, such as Sirius's flying motorcycle, now play key roles. While creating yet another gripping tale, the author also ties her entire epic together with the skill of a true literary master. As a writer myself, I really admire her skill. (Last time I checked, Rowling was outselling me by about, oh, a billion to one.)
In addition, the book treats its title character with the complexity he deserves. It portrays the (now) young man as disillusioned, full of doubt, overwhelmed -- a tortured soul who, though a responsible leader in an all-out war, often seems to yearn to do nothing more than sweet-talk Ginny Weasley.
Parents should know, however, that this one is a real creepfest, with the most explicitly violent scenes of any book in the series. It's way too brutal for grade schoolers. Also, unlike the earlier Potter tales, the far-reaching vocabulary requires about a 6th-grade education.