18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2003
Where to start with an 870-page novel that brings us once again into the world of our beloved hero Harry Potter? How about with the fact that our hero of old is getting older and turning into a real teenager?
While I admit that it depresses me to see Harry so depressed, and in fact I was downright angry that Harry seems to have morphed into an even more selfish brat, it is only after I finished that I realized that he is modern youth. Harry is growing up and this is his transcription of growth. Ms. Rowling has captured male adolescence with such an accurate view that it pains me to read this brooding self-loathing fifth installment of our young hero.
Harry starts out as he does at the beginning of every year, at the Dursley's house of torment, only this year, Harry is changing. Gone are the days of easy simple luck and easy heroics, Harry is starting to pout because it isn't going his way. What he learns through the course of this book is the life lesson we all learn at one point or another, sometimes it isn't always about you.
In the course of this weighty novel, we watch as Harry goes from hero to zero, from having a hold on things to breaking apart inside and out. Will Harry be able to pull through this one? Can he survive the biggest loss of all? More importantly, is he ever going to learn to control that temper of his?
I must confess, Harry's new attitude has taken a sour note with me. I find myself bothered by people who think that it is okay to treat others with contempt and let their tempers get the best of them. I find that Harry rarely receives the appropriate discipline and that even in the end of this well-crafted and riveting story, he still finds himself being rewarded for the wrong things and commended for the attitude he should not be holding on to. How can a boy retain his friends when he shows no appreciation for them? Don't get me wrong, I can completely understand his feelings and see his point of view, but I have to agree with Phineas' last chapter statement regarding Harry (SPOILER) when he says "Never try to understand the students. They hate it. They would much rather be tragically misunderstood, wallow in self-pity, stew in their own -"
Granted Harry is growing up, but where is his conviction? Where is his heart? How can a young man so full of rage really win over the "Dark Lord?" I thought the game was love > evil? Not anger = passion > evil. I suppose I'm confused.
Despite its dark and brooding overtones, it is still a fabulously well written book, and I did not put it down until I had completed it. While I feel that Harry is really a short-tempered spoiled (and undeniably lucky) brat, Ms. Rowling has done little to endear him to me in this novel, if anything, I was left with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth towards him by the time the last page closed. This book has its moments and I'll continue to read the rest of them, I just feel that we aren't reading the same things we started with.
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2003
I was rather disappointed by this book, as the ending did not surprise me much, unlike the previous books. For anybody who has read the previous books, he/she should have easily guessed the prophecy - wasn't it the pounding point in the previous four books?! Overall, I feel that it was a winded way to deliver a simple prophecy that all of us knew before reading the book.
On a separate note, Rowling portrayed Harry's in a more angry tone than a lot of us have gone through in our adolescence. Such anger, lack of deliberation, and endless rash decisions make one wonder whether Harry does possess what Dumbledore said that Harry has in abundance. I found that quite unconvincing.
Additionally, I found that Rowling overemphasized the heroism in Harry and failed to give due credits to Hermione and others for their loyalty and teamwork. For example, Hermione continued to amaze me with her knowledge and skills, and without her, Harry might not have bothered with Daily Prophet and a lot of other sources. I would think that by cutting down on Harry's self-pity and developing other characters more, Rowling would have made the book much more intriguing.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2005
"S. Alix" needs to calm down, and get over his/her self. The Harry Potter series has been a breath of fresh air to the children's literature world, and just as wonderful for adults as well. If you don't enjoy these books, then don't read them. Don't place your higher-than-mighty criticisms in front of us and expect that we will see the morons that YOU think we are. Please don't insult the people who enjoy these books for what they are. I know many extremely intelligent adults who enjoy the Harry Potter books for the underlying messages Ms. Rowling places in between the lines, and the fantasy she creates. The stories transport young and old alike to another world where following your heart can get you into trouble, but always gets you through to the end. I think there are many lessons, some more noble than others, to be taught from these books, even though some people are too jilted and self-righteous to see it.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2004
I have to laugh at myself for writing this review. 5,251 reviews and counting! I can't imagine that more than a handful of people will ever read it. However, after reading some of the other reviews, I just had to throw in my two cents about this book. I brought this book home from the bookstore on a Friday evening and had finished it by Sunday morning. I literally could not put it down! I also - literally - had tears running down my cheeks as I read the last pages. I am a 38 year old computer programmer who is not normally given to emotional outbursts like this, and I also don't normally read fiction. However, I just happened to pick up the book in the bookstore and begin flipping through the pages out of curiosity. 30 minutes later, I couldn't put it down, so I had to buy it and bring it home. The book really grabs your interest and holds it!
I have read comments by other reviewers to the effect that the Harry Potter books are not terribly original in their plots, characters, settings, etc., and I have to agree - that is true. However, the books are EXTREMELY well written. If you want to become a novelist, you should study these books just for the writing techniques they use. Almost nothing happens that is not foreshadowed in some small way hundreds of pages earlier in the book, and the foreshadowing is subtle and seamless. The overall effect is that, even though there ARE surprises, everything makes sense. (Many things are even foreshadowed in the previous books.) It gives all of the fantastic events a feel of "reasonableness". There is nothing in the book that does not have a reason for being there. All of the events fit together perfectly, like the pieces of a puzzle.
The use of language is superb. The descriptions of people, things, situations, etc. are very engaging. It is hard to use the word REALISTIC about a fantasy setting, but the descriptions really draw you into the story. You feel that you are THERE - almost as if you were living the story. You can truly feel the emotions of the characters within your own heart. You can feel Harry's powerful, heart-rending sorrow and remorse at the end of the book as if it were your own. At other points in the book, you can feel the fear, suspense, anger, joy, laughter, etc. that you would feel if the events of the story were truly happening to you.
However, it is the characters, in my opinion that are the most engaging aspect of the book. They are so, so well done that you can immediately relate to them. The setting may be fantastic, but the characters are very, very real. More than that, you come to truly care about the characters. What happens to them matters to you. I don't want to give away the ending for the five or six people in the English-speaking world who haven't read it yet, but when someone dies in the book, you feel the loss personally. It is as if someone you knew and liked - someone close to you - had died.
This was the first book in the Harry Potter series I had ever read. I hadn't even seen any of the movies. After I finished this one, I just had to have more. So, I bought the other four books and read them through (in reverse order, actually). In my opinion, the fifth book is the best of the series so far, and I can't wait for number six to come out. I liked all of the other books, but I thought one and two were a bit childish and the boy-hero (at age 11 and 12) just a bit too unlikely for me, but perhaps that is what appeals so strongly to children. If, however, you haven't read any of the other books in the series, don't feel that you have to slog through the other four before diving into this one. The writer (or more likely, her editors) gives you just enough information about prior events to be getting on with the current story without bogging down the narrative. (It also doesn't give away so much that the other books are spoiled for you. I found the other books, particularly number four, quite engaging, even though I read them in the wrong order.)
I feel that some of the other reviewers are overly fussy in their criticisms of the main character and the feelings he displays in this book. (Perhaps they are mothers with young children.) Two of the main themes of this book - death and the turbulent emotions of adolescent men - are more mature than those of the previous books. Book four did deal with death, but it was a "clean" death in that the main character could not reasonably feel any responsibility for it. Death, in this book, is "messy" in that there is plenty of guilt to stir in with the sorrow and remorse. As for those turbulent emotions, I certainly remember what it was like to be 15. Don't you? (For those readers younger than 15, don't worry. You'll understand what I mean when you get there.)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2003
Let me first tell you - in case you weren't aware before - that the Harry Potter books are definitely not just for kids. And "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is, confirming all hopes and expectations, quite the most brilliant, mature, and *tragic* adventure yet.
Harry is in his fifth year at wizarding school and has much more than his OWLS exams to worry about. The Ministry of Magic is stubbornly denying Lord Voldemort's return, and doing its utmost to discredit the names of both Harry and the Headmaster Dumbledore and make them objects of ridicule and incredulity - with not a little success. The sanctuary of Hogwarts is violated by Professor Umbridge, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, who also happens to be the Ministry's representative; and with its authorisation, she carries out an Inquisition within the school. No student or teacher is safe. Professor Umbridge tops even Snape for pure spite. Meanwhile numerous Death Eaters have escaped from Akzaban to join their master, and Harry starts to have disquietening visions in which HE is Voldemort.
J. K. Rowlings has never shrinked from showing her characters as anything but flawed and complex. Harry, at fifteen, is now a teenager, and frustrated that he is still being treated as a child. His moments of angst and rebelliousness ring true. The author's heroes are not lily-white and perfect, and Harry during the course of this book learns some things about his beloved parents and godfather Sirius Black that tarnishes the image he'd held of them and makes him almost sympathetic towards Snape. Even Dumbledore is proved to be fallible. By the end of the book, Harry will have experienced as much of the pain and hypocricy of the world as any adult - and yes, a main character does die, and I won't say which, only that if you're anything like me, you will cry - but he has still more burdens to bear. That is not to say that there is no light at the end of the tunnel; this IS a story for children after all. If you're still wondering if "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is over-rated and over-hyped, let me say that it will deliver everything the hype has promised and then some. I don't have the authority to say whether this is a certifiable classic (I find Austen and Hemmingway unbearable, to tell the truth) but you'll finish it with the feeling that you have just read something EPIC.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2003
People who complain about the length of a book really shouldn't read books: allowing the physical thickness of a novel to detract from your enjoyment of the storyline shows that you're probably not all that interested in the story in the first place. A story should be judged on its competence, its use of language and its general enjoyment factor, and while these are very personal rules to measure, the length of a story is irrelevant because if the story is good, why should the length matter?
Anyway, this fifth installment of the by-now infamous Harry Potter series sees our hero, Harry, dealing with the return of his nemesis, Lord Voldemort, and the ostracisation and disbelief of the rest of the Wizarding Community. Harry's older, wiser and more inured to violence and darkness, and this is what sets the tone of the plot. From the first few chapters on, JK Rowling quickly establishes that these are dark times for Harry, and unapologetically illustrates the plight of the boy from the initial shock of the return of Voldemort, to the final, shocking climax.
My hat goes off to Rowling: it's a difficult thing to live up to hype and expectation, and to take such a brave step in her writing is no small feat. Harry is growing up quickly, learning hard lessons along the way. Gone are the heady, child-like days of the first three books, and we're left with an understandably angry teenager with more on his plate than most. He shouts (IN CAPITAL LETTERS :-) and fights and has emotional responses appropriate for his age and experiences. She may have alienated a part of her audience who are caught up in the hype of the Harry Potter Series For Kids - this is a clear and marked departure from that tone of writing. Harry, Hermione and Ron all have new depth and characteristics, while retaining the old ones that we love them for.
She introduces a host of new characters, too, the most memorable of which is Delores Umbridge, a hateful and vitriolic woman whose powermongering almost causes the death of our central characters. Memorable, too, is Nymphadora Tonks, a young and vivacious witch who provides some much-needed comic relief at various points in the novel. There's also a wonderful sense of resolution with characters like the Weasley parents, and Snape - their personalities are more carefully illustrated here than in previous novels. Finally, we discover exactly why Snape hates Harry so much. Dumbledore is made more human in this novel, and through this we begin to understand why he cares so much about Harry.
The narrative is set at a slower pace, with more time and description devoted to what the characters are feeling, instead of driving the events. The plot comes together towards the very end of the novel, by which point we have a fully-realised set of central characters, and we understand their reactions during the climactic scenes better.
Harry, and JK Rowling's initial audience, is growing up. This book is the fifth in a series where you do need to start at the beginning in order to appreciate the later novels. It's darker and more adult than previous works, but then again, so is Harry. Kudos to Rowling for taking the time to develop Harry as a complex young man, and producing the most rewarding novel for followers of the series to date.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2003
Oh, J.K., what have you done?
First of all, this book could have been about an inch thinner. The beginning chapters and the last five or so were enough without the pages and pages of dragging, boring, uncreative prose in between. I have never skimmed a Harry book before, but I found myself doing it quite frequently in OOTP. The dialogue is stilted, with characters I've come to love acting in completely bizarre ways. Teenage angst is one thing (trust me, I'm not that long out of it myself) but for the majority of this book I simply did not like Harry, and that was hard for me. I was one of the few people who identified with Hermione...at least until now. I found her an irritating, whiny pest in this book. Everyone seems to have nothing better to do but whine and complain. I see enough of that in real life.
Second, character development took a major downswing in this addition to the Harry Potter series. Most characters either seem to sit and stagnate (most of the teachers) or actually revert to less dimensional forms (most of the students, Dumbledore). And as other reviewers have noted, there is absolutely no depth to Umbridge. I couldn't care less about her character, and most of my skimming had to do with her sections. BORING!
Third, plot holes!!!! I found the book to be most poorly written in regard to plot: a) there was nothing to keep it going...no underlying sense of unease or evil at work, no mysterious happenings, nothing that really made a difference. b)no real reason to care. c) no resolution...TO ANYTHING. We even have to wait until Book 6 to find out how the O.W.L.s went!!!!
Fourth, I am very very very disappointed in which character was "killed off" and how that came about. There really was no why and it didn't serve much of a purpose. Of all the ridiculous, anticlimactic deaths! J.K. couldn't even afford the character (of whom I was particularly fond) a dignified death!!! And as many other reviewers have said, the major fight scene was very poorly written...another skimming point.
As a children's literature writer myself, I am incredibly proud of J.K. and the steps she's made to further this genre. She has proven that dark subjects can be tackled and very long novels can be written and children WILL READ THEM! This is so important to the literary world in general. I have a great deal of respect for her in this instance.
However, there are some things I simply don't agree with. Many characters' insistence to cling to grudges and torment each other "for the fun of it" without any discussion of the consequences for all involved does nothing to encourage a sense of morals or compassion in children. What do we need more in this world than a desire to make it a better place? Also, I found the increased use of questionable language and references to major characters swearing diappointing. Please don't think I'm some kind of upstanding citizen who thinks swearing should be banned...there is a time and a place and sometimes it's just the right word for the situation. But I don't think that we should be teaching young people that swearing is okay, anytime anywhere. That's one of my biggest pet peeves in children's lit...and it seems to be getting worse.
If you've gotten this far, thanks for hearing me out. I will read 6 & 7, but at this point simply to finish out the series. I hope they are better than 5.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2003
Just for kids, or just for adults? _Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix_ has the most sophisticated and passion-inducing plot of the series. Through the thin veneer of broomsticks and teenage crushes, Hogwarts sees the rise of a fascist regime on its very own grounds. Harry faces a world terrified of war and renewed strife, filled with closed-minded, powerful people who would rather throw Dumbledore in Azkaban than look beyond their own front doors.
Not for the nervous or faint of heart, _Order of the Pheonix_ shares the usual Harry Potter medley of fun and games mixed in with battles of good vs. evil, life vs. death, but the struggle against Voldemort is clearly becoming the main focus of the series. We see the last four years of strife finally catching up with Harry's psyche, and even catch a few long-awaited glances into the nobility, strength, and sheer power that is Dumbledore.
This is a book of transition: transition for Harry from innocent youth to adulthood, transition for the wizarding world from safety into mortal peril, and transition for the series from fun-loving adventure to profound lessons and insights that both the characters and we the readers must acknowledge and confront about both the wizarding and the real worlds.
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2003
J.K. Rowling continues to flourish her pen with great style, and this new installment in the Harry Potter series does not disappoint her readers. Although this lengthy tome may dissuade some, the number of pages speaks to the extraordinary plot and character development that lies within.
The first 200 or so pages of this book are rather torpid and monotonous, and the reader feels the frustration of Harry, who had not received any word from his friends or Dumbledore over the summer. Thus the beginning of the book centers on Harry's quest for more information regarding the state of the magical world, especially the actions of Voldemort. When Harry arrives back at Hogwarts, the pace of the book begins to quicken as Rowling spins her usual fast-paced and suspenseful yarn. There, Harry fights both internal and external enemies as he uncovers dark secrets that hit surprisingly close to home. Once again, Rowling proves that she has a knack for creating her own magic that entices and ensnares both children and adults, whether they are veteran wizards or green Muggles. This is a worthy addition to the Harry Potter series.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2003
Halfway round the world from home, I tracked down a copy on 6/21, then read swiftly and eagerly for the next two days. It was nice to be back at Hogwarts after so long away, yet ....
I'm reluctant to say it, but I think the book disappointed me.
Perhaps JK's mega-success, coupled with an eagerness to get "Phoenix" out as quickly as possible, daunted the book's editor(s). Here's some of what I wish an editor had said:
-- Even at the risk of being formulaic, the book needs a mystery/purpose to pull readers along. The Dept. of Mysteries dreams sort of do that, but they're not quite compelling. And the payoff (a prophecy that contains no great shock) is, alas, disappointing.
-- Lose half the subplots, then flesh out the rest.
-- Those interesting twists and nuances about old characters (Mrs. Figg, Aunt Petunia, Snape, etc.) need more developing. Otherwise, they're just distractions.
-- Lupin deserves more airtime, especially since he's probably the only teacher (aside from maybe Dumbledore) that Harry has really confided in. And heaven knows Harry could use an adult mentor/confidant. (Even the moodiest teens usually trust *someone*.)
-- The Order of the Phoenix (the group) needs texture. What do its members do? How do they do it? Given that they don't seem to act in concert, why have they all decamped to London?
-- You set up Harry and Snape up for a dramatic confrontation/connection, but let it fizzle. Having Snape continue to tutor Harry would be far more interesting. Sooner or later, those two need to talk.
-- Umbridge comes close to being a caricature. She'd be more believable if we had some sense of her perspective and motivition. Doesn't she really think she's doing good? Ditto for Fudge.
-- Too many ancillary characters (Tonks, Rita, even Lana to some degree) don't quite earn their keep. Instead, they add needless complexity to the story.
-- Why is Harry so drawn to Cho? Readers need to *feel* some sense of her allure. Couldn't he talk to Ron about it?
-- Part of what made the earlier books magical was all those cool glimpses into wizard life (Owl Post, Tom Riddle's diary, the Knight Bus, etc.) "Phoenix" could use one too--aside from Umbridge's sadistic quill. Maybe our teen wizards can learn some magical way to deal with acne, for instance?