on 14 November 2005
I think that this book is the best written of the series. What I loved most about it was the development of Harry through this book. I think this book was very much a character development novel. I’ve loved many fictional characters over the years, but none quite as much as Harry. Because we’ve been with him from the start, we’ve been allowed to see every side of him, the bad and the good. JK Rowling has created a complex, and deeply human character who isn’t perfect and makes mistakes, and is the better hero for it. I’ll even go so far as to say that I think he’s the best hero ever created. I think we see Harry at his most vulnerable in this book. Still deeply disturbed by his frightful ordeal of the previous term, Harry is not helped by the fact that no one in authority will believe his story and seeks to silence him in any way they can. Harry’s frustration often gets the better of him in this book, and a devastating loss brings him close to despair.
Stephen Fry captures Harry’s moods brilliantly. The scene in Dumbledore’s office is powerful as much for Stephen Fry’s incredibly moving performance as for JK Rowling’s beautiful and sensitive prose. I really was moved to tears, and my heart ached for Harry.
Other characters were also developed in this book. Neville and Ginny really came in to their own. In fact, the theme of friendship was very strong throughout this book. We also learned much more about Snape, who I’ve always felt was Rowling’s most interesting character. I really felt for him in this book. I do think Order of The Phoenix is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
on 25 June 2003
Harry Potter is now a phenomenon. Who would have predicted 4-5 years ago that youngsters would be clamouring for a hardback book numbering more than 750 pages making it the fastest selling novel of all time?
Book 5, The Order of the Phoenix is the next stage of Harry's journey from uncertain and unhappy childhood to fully-blown adult hero. But his journey is not an easy one, for as this installment opens he is unpopular and mistrusted by almost the entire wizarding fraternity, victim of an all-too familiar press-campaign to besmirch his previous good name.
If you're already a Harry Potter fan, chances are you've already bought this. If you're not then it would be unwise to read The Order of the Phoenix without having read books 1-4 first. JK Rowling litters the text with references back to her previous novels, and the impact of certain key moments would be greatly reduced if you aren't familiar with her characters and world (and that most definitely means the BOOKS, not the film versions, to which she makes few concessions).
As with the fourth book The Goblet of Fire, Rowling presents us with an extended sequence before Harry and his fellow-pupils reach Hogwarts. Unlike the overlong and frankly rather tedious Quidditch World Cup chapters in the previous novel, however, the episodes building up to and containing Harry's trial are quite engaging, and serve to introduce a significant number of new characters.
Unfortunately the extended page count does not mean an increase of action in The Order of the Phoenix, and to be brutally honest this book is the slowest paced yet of the series. While the third novel The Prisoner of Azkaban is the most wholly satisfying, this is just good in places, there being three or four stand-out chapters. The rest is often overlong and overwordy and readers will not miss much if they skim through some pages.
The Ministry of Magic, headed by Cornelius Fudge takes a central role in this book. Rowling is unafraid here to call into question the motives and methods of politicians and the media, a bold move which allows older readers to make useful parallels with the real worlds and which could even encourage younger ones to develop an open-minded attitude to what they see and hear on TV and in the papers.
It is interesting to note that while the characters of Harry, Ron, Hermione et al are now aged fifteen, their behaviour and attitudes haven't really changed that much since they were eleven. They are still worried about House points, scoff chocolate frogs and swop cards, and think that owning your own joke-shop is the pinnacle of unorthodox achievement. And there's nothing wrong with that. Rowling's principal readership will be several years younger now than the characters they are reading about and will have no problem identifying with their feelings and priorities. The prospect of Harry and his pals undergoing a more realistic adolescent transformation into unsociable and unlikeable brats is enough to make this reviewer shudder with apprehension.
The love-story between Harry and Cho is tastefully handled, and again is more akin to what might happen between younger readers than genuine 15-16 year-olds. And Rowling avoids the anticipated outcome quite slickly, with Hermione's deconstruction of their disastrous date something of a master-stroke on the writer's behalf.
The much-heralded death-sequence is effectively handled, and Rowling slyly foreshadows it with a series of 'death-moments' involving almost every other key-character in preceeding chapters. Though whether the character involved will be resurrected despite what Nearly-headless Nick tells Harry, remains to be seen. My money would be on some kind of later involvement in the remaining books.
Of the regular characters, Hagrid is kept almost entirely in the background, while we are allowed some pretty revealing insights into Snape's past. We also find out what the adolescent James Potter was really like, a complexity Rowling has built into the storyline which makes Harry question his previous hero-worship of his dad.
Finally a word on the new characters. Umbridge is easily identifiable as the sort of teacher every school has at least one example of, and the mutiny against her by staff and pupils alike is staggeringly effective. She stands alongside Gilderoy Lockhart (who makes a cameo appearance-- hooray!) as one of Rowling's best creations. Tonks is underused but has potential to be a key figure (and another positive female role-model) in the remaining books in the series.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book, but feel it could have lost 200-300 pages without compromising either the characterisation or storyline. The sequence in which Dumbledore takes responsibility for the DA and the moment when the Weasley twins leave Hogwarts are genuinely uplifting and memorable. Dumbledore's revelations towards the novel's end of the link between Harry and Vol- sorry, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named set up the remainder of Harry's journey and point to a potentially very dark conclusion.
on 21 June 2003
At fifteen years old Harry Potter is no longer the bespectacled moppet of the earlier books. He is a stroppy, angsty teenager forced by circumstances to grow up just a bit too fast. However the book retains the same magic as the others - a magic that kept me reading for about thirteen hours more or less solidly, in fact. For make no mistake, this is a big and complex book. Not too complex - people underestimate kids - but certainly challenging, especially for younger readers.
The book starts with a bang and grows dark in the middle as injustice, indignities and failures are heaped upon Harry without any apparent redress, (I had to break here for a while, and found it hard to start reading again) but events lighten up as he responds and adapts to his circumstances and finds new inner strength and new resources among his friends and allies.
A familiar message from Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings - the important of acknowledging and conquering your inner rage and hatred - is becoming a central theme. The themes of courage and tolerance are, as always, absolutely core, but the theme of resistance and even rebellion against authority, albeit corrupt, unfair and cowardly, sounds a new and more adult note.
A number of new characters include one of the most unpleasant and least redeemable personages ever to grace the pages of a children's book. No spoilers, but perhaps this character is a little too close to home and a little too unpleasant. The button of the reader's righteous indignation is pushed just once or twice too often, I think.
The book does have flaws, the greatest of which is that there is just too much going on. Some characters are underused and some subplots could just as easily have been left out. Those who have read previous Harry Potter books may well find themselves suspecting absolutely everyone's motives and analysing every throwaway line in an attempt to second guess the author. In the end, however, this is a deeply readable and very powerful book which I would highly recommend both for children and adults.
on 11 August 2003
There has been a distinct strain of bemusement in reactions to this book. It's as if people recognize the features of the first four books - the cracking plot, great characters, hilarious episodes - but sense that there is something, well, a little bit different about this one.
And they'd be right. Because this is a more mature, more serious, more political book than the previous volumes in the series. The problem is that people don't like to recognize the fact that books are political. Especially children's books. Many adults are absolutely desperate to read their favourite kid's classics as fluffy, cutesy, comforting works, which have no engagement with their "real" world. So when a text like this comes along, which mixes contemporary satire with fantastic and magical elements, they become slightly uncomfortable.
The problem for this type of reader is that it cannot be denied that this book deals with some highly contentious current issues. Most obviously, it's a satire on government regulation of secondary education. But it also has some serious things to say about action and appeasement, about truth, narrative and the press and, above all, about cultural imperialism.
For example: the house elf plot. In book four this seemed to fizzle out into acquiescence in the "naturalness" of their oppression. But in book five it becomes the lynchpin of an impassioned argument for respecting difference. The central image of the novel (cleverly used by Bloomsbury on the back cover) is the statue at the Ministry of Magic - look out for Rowling's rather wonderful description of Harry's reaction when he first sees it. From a distance, it looks great, but closer to, Harry is able to see all of its weaknesses as a representation of the different magical beings. Measuring the extent to which it falls short of his own personal experiences of other "races", Harry gains an insight into the ideological work which the statue performs. Art, in this novel, is political. It's a real "Tom Brown" moment, - the fact that Harry's adventures have taken him outside of the normal confines of the wizarding world enables him to achieve an important insight into the workings of inequality.
Similarly, there are other elements which one wouldn't expect to find in a fluffy children's novel - in particular, Rowling's trademark treatment of pain. Few children's authors can write about the suffering created by death and loss in children's lives with such pathos. But here we also have a darker side of pain, the operations of torture and sadism in the actions of both Umbridge and Belletrix. Rowling manages to achieve the impossible, dealing with such subjects in a manner suitable to the youth of her readership, while maintaining a sense of their deeply disturbing nature. And while the much-hyped death of the "major character" is understated, Rowling uses it to ground Dumbledore's extraordinary view, which could come straight out of Dickens's Christmas books: that it is suffering which acts as the ground of humanity.
on 8 July 2003
I was adamant that I would not be sucked in by the hype of Harry Potter and consequently did not read any of the books until I finally relented when the fourth came out. Shortly after this, I had read them all to my daughter and we have waited with baited breath for this one.
I think the timing of the books is excellent. My daughter is now old enough to appreciate the more adolescent story lines. I don't think the intended readers of say the Chamber of Secrets are the intended readers of Order of The Phoenix (OotP) but they are not that far away in ages.
I am sad to say that I have now read OotP and now have to wait for the next one. It was full of JK Rowling's colourful writing although it didn't give very much away. There weren't the surprises that there had been in the other books, especially the best of them all so far, Prisoner of Azkaban, but much was alluded to which will no doubt come into Books 6 and 7.
I have to applaud JK who is reputed to have more money than the queen but can still be bothered to finish off the set. It would have been easy for her to just decide to call it a day.
I cannot wait for the next one.
on 14 December 2004
I came late - and reluctantly - to Harry Potter, despite buying the first 4 books as a boxed set for my son. Only after observing him reading them and then re-reading them did I give in to the urge to find out what all the fuss was about. I read the first (wafer thin) book and, to be truthful, still wondered what all the fuss was about. Yes, it was amusing (a devil dog called 'fluffy'? I ask you!) but the laughter was not enough to explain what everyone was raving about. I almost gave up but curiosity kept me going. The fuss must be about something - right? By the end of book two I was hooked. What I have seen in these books is an evolution. Harry as a green, untested, frankly (with the exception of events as a baby), uninteresting individual. Then as the book ended and the story moved into book two, Harry started growing up and developing meaningful relationships. As he grows and matures, the trials he faces become harder and more sinister. The books developed to reflect this growth, from wafer thin to tome-esque, from lightweight to, frankly, dark.
I enjoyed this latest offering immensely, I think because the prose seems to straddle an undefined boundary between children/adult prose incredibly well. This time the writing was dark from the outset, picking up from where Harry Potter 4 finished, with the resurrection of the Dark Lord (he who should not be named). There were many touching moments, particularly when observing Mrs Weasley's maternal nurturing of Harry (who has never ever been nurtured by the horrible muggles he lives with). And I thought it was sweet that despite the fact that Harry has faced more trials than many an accredited wizard, when it came to love and romance, he was as unschooled and naive as the rest of us.
I have given this book the full 5 stars because I enjoyed this one more than the others. That is not to say Harry Potters 3 and 4 were not excellent - they were, but in different ways. Now JK, please hurry up and publish number 6!
Ignore some of the naysayers who dislike Order of the Phoenix, as it is perhaps JK Rowling's best installment of the Harry Potter series to date. Readers are given a wider vision of the wizarding world, with lots of new locations including the Ministry of Magic and 12 Grimmauld Place; and the consequences of one's actions becomes an increasing focus. That is not to say that the book is faultless; for example, less time could have been devoted to the subplot involving Hagrid's brother, Grawp. However, this is one of a handful of negative aspects to the book, which are outshone by a compelling storyline in which the boy wizard gets a taste of the real world, after four books which tended to follow the same pattern. I didn't like aspects of Phoenix when I first read it; however, on a second reading, I realised that I preferred its story to the usual "there's a mystery to solve, lots of red herrings, the wrong person is suspected of being the villain" etc that we had become used to fromthe Potter books.
With Phoenix, JK builds upon the more adult aspects to Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, and creates a story in which Harry faces government bureaucracy head on, embodied by the vile Dolores Umbridge, who's obsessive adherence to rules and constant interference in the running of Hogwarts makes her a believable, recognisable foe. Umbridge's inevitable downfall from her position of power contains some of the funniest moments in the entire Potter series, and it is a comeuppance that will have readers cheering. Phoenix also reflects the tricky teenage years, when hormones are raging and tempers often fray. Harry's attempts to cope with the events of Goblet of Fire, and his anger at the Ministry of Magic's attempts to use the media to portray him in a negative way, are manifest in angry outbursts, which should be familiar to many readers, and reflect the changes in both the characters and the younger readers.
Order of the Phoenix is the most ambitious of the Harry Potter books to date, and it shows that villains come in a variety of forms, from murderers to bureaucratic tyrants. If you haven't read it yet, buy it now, as you won't be disappointed!
This is a fantastic fifth instalment of the Harry Potter series of novels and left me eagerly anticipating the sixth (whenever it may hit the stores!) My copy of the book arrived at around 8am and was snatched from the postman's hand. I read it voraciously, devouring every page. All I can say is - it was definitely worth the three year wait!
Rowling's writing has matured, developing a new depth and, although I would have though it impossible, greater magic and grace. New characters pop out of the pages (some nice, some not so) and there is a superior quality of writing in this fifth offering, a richness which makes for even more rounded characters and an even more convincing Harry Potter world!
Everything Rowling offers us here is fantastic - new insights into the wizarding community, the realisation that even though these people possess magical powers and wands they can't just wave them and right all the world's wrongs! This magical world is just as complicated as the Muggle world and good and bad isn't just a simple matter - there are lots of grey areas. In this book Harry encounters corruption in places of power, people's willingness to believe almost anything - as long as it's not the fact that Voldemort has returned, and learns something that Dumbledore should have told him long ago - the answer to a question asked in the very first book!
Overall, this is a book any Harry Potter fan should not be without. If you don't already have it then my question would be - WHY NOT? Buy it now - you won't regret it. Buy it, read it, enjoy it and be sure that you'll be left enthusiastically waiting, almost salivating, for the next offering JK is working on right now!
Rather than focusing on the merits of the book itself, this is a review of the Cover to Cover production featuring Stephen Fry. Having listned to all of the previous installments as read by the great man, I finally bit the bullet and shelled out the almost £60 for the latest chapter. And boy, was I not dissapointed!
28 hours after it began I have just reached the end of the Order of the Phoenix (I spread that out over 3 weeks, I couldn't quite manage one sitting!). Stephen Fry is truly amazing providing significanlty differnt voices for each of the many characters contained within the book. For me Fry is Hagrid! It is easy to get swept up in his telling of the tale, its almost addictive, you may find yourself having listned to 3 cds in a row, and at 75 minutes per CD this is no mean feat!
Even if you have read the books (and in this case I had) go back to the beginning and buy his reading of the Philosophers Stone. Lie in bed at night, turn the lights out and enter the world of Harry Potter through a different door...
on 23 June 2003
Okay! I admit it! I bought the book in Saturday and read the whole thing in one sitting! Are you HAPPY now???
*ahem* Let's get on with the review. As just about everyone in the world now knows, this is the 5th book in the famous Harry Potter series. The books tell the tale of a young orphan who has been raised by his Aunt and Uncle. Neglected by his adoptive family and tormented by his bullying cousin Dudley, Harry is startled to discover on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard, and that he has been accepted to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
This book follows Harry in his 5th year at Hogwarts. It's not an easy year for Harry. Having witnessed Lord Voldermort return to life and power (and barely escaping with his life) this year Harry finds, to his immense frustration, that only a handful of people believe him. Worse still, the Ministry of Magic has been seeking to discredit Harry and his staunch friend and supporter, Professor Dumbledore. When Dumbledore refuses to stop warning people of Voldermort's return, the Ministry decide that its time for some changes at Hogwarts.
After the runaway success of the previous books, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has a great deal to live up to. Fans of the series will be delighted to know that this book does not disappoint. While it's the longest book of the series (over 700 pages) the story never drags. Instead, the reader becomes immersed in Harry's fight against Lord Voldermort, compounded by the Ministry's refusal to accept what is happening and that universal dread of all school kids - exams.
Rowling's writing is of her average standard - which is to say that the pages practically glow with the world and characters she creates. Familiar characters make a welcome return in this book, and Rowling introduces some new faces as well. My favourites were the dotty schoolgirl Luna Lovegood, and the detestable Ms. Umbridge. Key questions are also answered in this book. Why did Dumbledore allow Harry to be raised by a family that so obviously hate him? What is the connection that Harry has to Lord Voldermort? And above all, why did Voldermort try to kill Harry all those years ago when he was just a baby?
Overall an immensly enjoyable book. Now please excuse me while I go and read it again.