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 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 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 June 23, 2003
We should all now be familiar with the story of Harry Potter (especially if you are reading The Order of the Phoenix), so there isn't much of a reason for a backstory. Harry's adventures have already kept us entertained over the span of four books and now, in the fifth chapter, the most intricate story is given. In "Order" Harry emerges as a very angry youth, he expresses rage towards the Dursleys, his friends, teachers, and the adults he holds in high regard. An event occurring in the Muggle world causes Harry to become involved in the Wizarding government who soon decides to put their hands into Hogwarts business. Knowing Harry, much adventure and mystery does await his next year at Hogwarts and Order of the Phoenix doesn't let you down. You're given the romance, action, mystery, and tragedy. But this doesn't mean the novel isn't filled with fun (the Weasley brothers Fred and George take care of that). The most heinous of all characters (possibly even worse than Voldemort) comes from one of the new additions to the Hogwarts staff. All of this isn't helped because Harry and his fellow fifth years also have to deal with their exhausting O.W.L.s. But don't let the 800+ pages get you down, you will become so involved you won't notice how fast the pages turn. All leading up to an amazing climax that will definitly leave you begging for more. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix follows the usual Rowling formula-each new book is better than the next-and you will find yourself dazzled. So when does the sixth one come out?
on July 19, 2003
Based on the high ratings for this book, it's obvious JK Rowling can do no wrong. I suspect she could have published the phone book and she'd still get 4.5 stars! Perhaps she deserves this given the success of the previous 4 issues, but there is no way this book is perfect (i.e. 5 stars).
In comparison to the previous 4 issues, this book is disappointing. The formula is getting tired. Here it is:
a) Harry is trapped with the Dursley's
b) He finally gets out and returns to school
c) There's the dark cloud of Voldemort lingering on the horizons (only this time no one believes Harry or Dumbledore which is very simplistic since the audience - you and me - knows the truth so the suspense isn't there)
d) Harry has a splendid battle in the end and proves he's a fearless hero
e) Dumbledore explains in painstaking detail all of the mysteries that have so far been unclear, and then Harry returns home for the summer, leaving us all hanging until the next book. Been there, done that!
One further comment about issue "E" above. A truly gifted writer leads the audience through the exploration as we discover new events or secrets. Sitting back in the penultimate chapter and explaining everything that was unclear during the previous 800 pages is simplistic at best, and if an undiscovered writer were to try that approach, they'd get laughed out of every publisher's office on the planet. The old axiom stands: Show us, don't tell us.
My specific complaints about this story(SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS):
1) The new creatures in this story were boring, except the Thestrals which are only in the story for a brief time. Okay, Grawp was somewhat cool, but he's barely in it.
2) Harry was given a secret "tool" to use by Sirius, only he forgets about it until the very end. Is Harry that stupid? When trouble begins and Harry needs to get in touch with Sirius, don't you think he would have remembered what he was given?
3) Dumbledore laying low while all around him crumbles and Harry lives in misery. Given their past history, the explanation that Dumbledore gives in the end is pathetic ("I'm an old man and was afraid of how Voldemort might use you to get to me"). Don't you think Dumbledore could have told another member of the Order to pass along the message to Harry as to why Dumbledore can't even look at him for 800 pages?
4) The failure to resolve the conflict between Harry and Snape, or at least to have some dialogue between them about Snape's anger towards Harry's deceased father. I realize there are more books to follow, but there should have been some attempt to hash this out.
5) The length of this story is ridiculous. It could have easily been told in 200-300 less pages. A very slow beginning and plodding detail about things that had no influence on the outcome made this a long-winded marathon, rather than an exhilirating sprint to the finish.
Having said all of this, I look forward to the next issue! EBHP
on September 2, 2003
First off, let me say that I am nearly 30 years old, an avid reader, and I love Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling has a wonderful style that makes it easy to emmerse yourself in the world of witchcraft and wizardry. So often when I read fantasy books such as these, it becomes difficult to identify with the characters and the world the author presents. Thankfully, Ms. Rowling does not fall into that trap, and I think its because the series is not a fantasy story, its a coming of age story that happens to be set in a fantasy world. Ms. Rowling does an excellent job of never letting the reader forget that this is a story about Harry, not about Magic. Similarly, she keeps the readers in mind: as Harry grows, so do the books. They become longer, more complex, even darker, as the readers who began reading the books at a young age will be able to keep reading and identify with Harry as he grows to adulthood.
With that said, this book was not as well written as it could have been, given the time it took to write, and especially when it is compared to the other books in the series. There were also a couple of plot elements which went unexplored, though I'm sure that Ms. Rowling has plans for them in the future. The climax, too, left me a bit unsatisfied; I wanted more to happen, and a better explaination of the events which occurred than what was offered.
Now for the good parts. It is true that the narrative is a bit slow in the beginning, but I think it sets the right tone for Harry's mood to begin the book. Most of the criticisms that I have read have also mentioned how whiny and unpredictable Harry is, but I remember when I was 15, and Harry's behavior is very familiar. Ms. Rowling keeps the story about Harry and the growing pains which come with adolescence. Finally, the whole of the story, the back plots and what not, are truly gripping; for example the confusion that Harry feels when he finds out what his father had been like at his age was wonderfully done.
All in all, Order of the Phoenix is a great read, and the critiques I listed above did not interfere with my enjoyment of the book. I recommend this book, but I do suggest reading the rest in the series first. It adds more to the readers' understanding of the back story and references made throughout the book. Otherwise you may be lost and miss out on a great read.
on September 2, 2003
In response to some mild criticisms of the Order of the Phoenix, I think that the reader should understand this: While Harry is growing, so is the story. The story has taken higher grounds than ever before. Before we saw Harry fighting basilisks, dragons, trolls, and all manner of monsters. In the Order of the Phoenix, the battles have become personal. Harry is fighting his own anger, his inner emotional battle with others. Most of the conflict loops around the dreadful Professor Umbridge. Sometimes the reader cringes with Harry's pain. You end up feeling both sorry for and angry with Harry. The conflict intensifies as the plot thickens. Another sign of the maturation of the story is the growing good vs. evil theme. We all know that Voldemort is evil and those on Dumbledore's side are good. But the book also reveals how even good people make serious mistakes and sometimes seemingly evil people have a soft side to them. We learn more about Sirius Black and James Potter and the conflict with Snape. The reader may be left crying in the end. It also becomes very exciting in the end with the Department of Mysteries, where the answer to many mysteries comes.
My overall point is that what makes the Order of the Phoenix so good is that the story has really grown. It's not a child's story. It's a new awakening of life. For that reason, I encourage people to read it.
Another thing that fascinates me with this book is how the characters shine. Hermione is so Hermione. The Slytherins are all brats again. Umbridge has no soft side to her. She rudely interupts, she dresses and talks girlishly, she's racist, she loves seeing pain. Then again, it goes to show how even people who aren't Death Eaters can be just as evil. Harry has really grown in the end.
I am a college student and I've seen the problem where other girls my age say that they don't want to read the book because it's so long. Anyone in that age group should be aware that legnth doesn't matter; this is a very easy read. I read this book in only two weeks and if it weren't for my college classes I would have read it even faster. The main reason why I got into my college budget to buy it is that I was jealous of those who had finished reading within two days. Besides, once you've read the first three shorter books, you'll be left in suspense for what comes next. You're missing out on a lot if you don't read these five wonderful books.
I look forward to what happens next in the battle against Voldemort.
on June 21, 2003
It's certainly fair to say that J.K. Rowling has done it again. No fan of the series so far will be disappointed by #5 - 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' offers more of the same - much more, given its substantial length.
I went out and bought it and, on account of being bedridden, read it from start to finish in the one day - so for me at least, it was certainly no less unputdownable than its predecessors. The plot is as exciting and dramatic as ever, and Rowling's remarkable gift for keeping readers guessing until the end remains strong, even though the eventual reveal of the novel's secret felt like familiar territory. In fact, the novel's climactic pages contain so much protracted drama that they left me positively exhausted.
Every novel so far has been darker than the one before as Voldemort becomes ever stronger. This book is so bleak that our now very adolescent Harry spends the entire length of the book in a state bordering on fury, and throws several hissy fits that were disturbingly reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker in 'Star Wars Episode II'.
Whereas previous novels have seen Harry isolated for a period, this time the sense of isolation is his major emotion throughout the book. And Rowling is so eager to crack on with her weighty plot that the novel is only occasionally lightened by moments of humour or romance.
Rowling is no longer really writing books for young children, so it's probably fortunate that her original audience will have aged with Harry. Pre-high school children may find the book's more intense and adults emotional world hard going - so perhaps it's lucky that its length makes it that much more difficult for younger readers to get through! Even the saccharine touch of Chris Columbus couldn't make this novel into a feelgood kiddy flick like the two we've seen so far.
The earlier delight as Rowling articulates new parts of her wizarding world is far more muted, with the wizard hospital probably the only addition that gives the reader any of the feeling of wondert that made the earlier books such a success. She's a long way from the Roald Dahl-esque creative whimsy of the first few novels now - no longer the feats of sheer imagination we saw even in Book 4's Quiddich World Cup. By the end of almost 800 pages, Potter's world is not greatly enlarged - this book is about seeing old relationships in new ways.
While it was still an exhilarating ride, it was a pretty gruelling one. No fan will be disappointed by this meaty addition to Harry's world - you can see why it took Rowling so long to write, and why she was apparently in tears at one point. But it would be great to see Rowling balancing up her surfeit of shade with more light the next time around - particularly if she's going to keep making each book longer than the last.
I suspect that within the series as a whole, the Order of the Phoenix will come to be seen as its Empire Strikes Back or The Two Towers - a dark, rich exploration of character, but without either the sense of wonderment at being introduced to the world or the triumph we will doubtlessly feel at the story's ultimate conclusion.
on June 25, 2007
Don't be intimidated by the fact that this book is almost as thick as Tolstoy's "War and Peace"--Harry Potter 5 is, in my opinion, the best one so far and has also been the only one that I've felt a desire to write a review about.
I have to admit that with the Harry Potter series I've been experiencing some of the same "Deja Vu" that I have with some of the earlier "Wheel of Time" books. In either series, it seems like the protagonist is fighting a new "boss" or antagonist in every book.
However, in HP5, we meet what I consider one of the most despicable antagonists yet . . . Professor Umbridge.
From the way JK Rowling describes her, you instantly start hating her. Everything from her frog-like smile, her stupid rules and annoying cough to her closed-mindedness of the truth. In fact, for me, Professor Umbridge came across as more despicable than Volde--er, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
HP5 is also the first book in the series where some of the characters get romantically involved and I have to say, it was done really well. There were times I was close to yelling at a character for their stupidity and then there were other times I was cheering for them with glee.
Even better than the new antagonist and romantic parts, HP5 has some really excellent plot twists, something that a novel of this length definitely needs to make the 800+ pages fly. The chapter with the trial, the chapter with the arch and veil (a mystery until later), and the last chapter especially, are truly amazing.
So if you're wondering if the Harry Potter starts going downhill with each progressing book (like book 6 on of "The Wheel of Time" series), the answer is a strong, resounding NO! After reading this book, it's easy to see why so many people love this series so much.
on June 24, 2003
Incredible Fact #1: I'm 35 and only began reading Harry Potter at the bedtime pleadings of my elder son [now 9] a mere 4 years ago. I'd never read for recreation since I was 16, having had that joy squashed by an all-too-Umbridge-like high school teacher - until that is, I picked up Sorcerer's Stone. Needless to say, I was hooked. And I am now an enthusiastic and unapologetic adult Harry Potter fan for the following Incredible reasons:
Incredible Fact #2: The kind of creativity and sheer story-telling genius that went into the first four books, resolves like a Seurat - a point here, a point there, and a thousand more everyplace else - into a wonderful and glorious piece of art stretched across an ever-expanding canvas. Rowling answers enough questions and resolves enough by the end of the book to satisfy our curiosity and thirst for the story, but leaves plenty open avenues to pave the way for Book 6. At the same time, the death of a significant character not withstanding, Rowling maintains a sense of order in the Wizarding world by making sure that some things never change - Fudge is still an incredibly self-delusional, irrational, moronic, manipulative weasel of a politician; Fred and George are still the greatest jokesters; McGonnagall is unflappable and the consummate professional and protector, Malfoy is still an evil, malicious little git, despite a major negative development in his own family; Crabbe and Goyle still speak in monosyllabic grunts and Hagrid is still trying to tame the most dangerous creatures known to wizarding kind at his own peril. Incredibly, OOTP is the best yet, and Rowling shows no signs of losing any of her magic;
Incredible Fact #3: I was standing in a bookstore awaiting midnight with my whole family [wife, sons (6 and 9)], and even now I couldn't tell you who was more excited to dive into a nearly 900-page book - which my wife and I both finished by 10:30pm Monday night;
Incredible Fact #4: My 9-year old stopped reading the other 3 books he was reading to focus on OOTP exclusively - he's on page 268 after 4 days;
Incredible Fact #5: Harry Potter proves magic is real and dreams do come true - for ex-poor author J.K. Rowling, every reading teacher in the world, and book publishers who in recent years have seen their sales dwindle as the masses turned their favor towards TV, movies and video games. Right here in the Muggle world, Harry Potter single-handedly saves a woman and a family, while breathing new life into educator's desires for their students to read, as well as reviving a dwindling publishing industry;
Incredible Fact #6: While Rowling's books keep getting bigger by leaps and bounds, I could've read a 1,000-page OOTP. I am now looking at the original Sorcerer's Stone, resolving to read the whole series again and thinking "man this is a tiny book;"
Incredible Fact #7: OOTP [a book] outsells the Incredible Hulk [a movie] on its opening weekend, which amazingly was also the top-grossing June-release movie;
Incredible Fact #8: I will be counting the days until I am standing with my whole family at midnight once again, waiting for the release of ... does anyone know what it's going to be called? ... pining for the continuing episodes of Harry, Ron, Hermione and everyone else - minus one... :'(