Monday, June 27, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Book Jacket

There is a door at the end of a silent corridor.  And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams.  Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

Here are just a few things on Harry's mind:

-A Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey
-A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
-Ron as keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
-The looming terror of the end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

...and of course, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  In the richest story, Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back.


Thus continues my epic reread of the Harry Potter series before the final movie comes out on July 15!  (What will we do when there is no longer a new Harry Potter creation to look forward to?)

If you haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?  Go out and read them immediately.  Thank you.  For the rest of us, spoilers are ahead, because I will talk about each book with the revelations of the whole series in mind.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my least favorite of the series, and during this reread, I tried to pinpoint why.  I've decided that it is because, despite not being the middle of the series, it is the middle of the plot.  It is in this book that things are the darkest, that Harry is the most clueless, and that things seem most hopeless.  During the sixth book Harry gains knowledge, and in the seventh he gains power. 

But here?  He's just a teenage boy who witnessed a murder and was tortured by the man who killed his parents, was then sent back to his abusive relatives without any word of how the wizarding world had changed because of Voldemort's return.  I used to really hate Capslock!Harry, but after five rereads, I completely sympathize with his frustration.

Another thing I hate?  The willful blindness of the Ministry of Magic.  I just want to punch Cornelius Fudge so hard his bowler hat flies off.  Choosing to believe Voldemort is not back (and therefore endangering everyone) simply because it would really suck if he had returned?  I'm sorry, that's stupid.  Sometimes we have to face the bad situation we're in and fight, even though it would be more comfortable to close our eyes.

I have a love/hate relationship with Umbridge.  I mean, she is a truly excellent villain.  Her pleasant, neat exterior masks a horrendous interior, bristling with discrimination, pride, and a little bit of torture (that blood pen detention?  deliciously evil).  So even though I think Rowling does a great job creating her, maybe she did too good a job?  Because she wins for too long!  She kicks Dumbledore out!  She is AWFUL.  It gets to the point that I feel like I am an oppressed Hogwarts student alongside Harry and Hermione and Ron.  Which duh, is good writing.  (I also think Umbridge as DADA teacher is a fantastic example of those people who are respected in society, but have a vendetta against teaching anything "dangerous" i.e. book banning....but that's another post for another website to tackle).

What did I love?  The last 100 pages are brilliant.  Seeing Dumbledore in all his power is chilling and fabulous.  Realizing that Dumbledore cares for Harry makes my heart melt.  Understanding that Harry and Voldemort are linked by prophecy (and by horcrux, as we'll later learn) blew my mind first time around.  The prophecy in general is so good, mixing free will with destiny in a truly mind-bending way.

And Sirius.  I kind of want to punch Harry too, for not contacting Sirius more often, especially once he had that mirror.  I just imagine Sirius gazing into it, waiting for Harry to talk to him, and he never does.  The poor man escaped from prison only to be imprisoned in his own home, full of memories of the life he tried to run away from but ultimately couldn't.  And then the one time he finally gets out....he dies.  SIRIUS.  You were too young!  (For reals, he was too young.  According to the books, Sirius/Remus/Snape should be 35 at this point....people responsible for the movie casting...FAIL.)

Still excellent, but too much pain for me to give full marks.

Four out of five ominous dreams.

Release Date:  August 2004
Reading Level:  Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL ROW

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