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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Review
on 21 November 2017
Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author: J. K. Rowling
Review: This is obviously the fifth book in my all-time favorite book series and after the darker event of the Goblet of Fire, we re-join Harry after the Dark Lord’s return. While Goblet of Fire signaled the turn in the series for happy to sorrowful the Order of the Phoenix is the first book that really explores these new themes and atmospheres. The opening chapter of Order of the Phoenix truly sets the dark tone with Harry cut off from the wizarding world while stuck at Privet Drive and it all culminates in a dementor attack on the streets of Little Whingeing. This really sets the stage for later events in this book and the remaining too especially with the Ministry of Magic still ignorant to Voldemort’s return. One thing I liked about this book is we get more inside into Petunias history with the wizarding world and more information about Lily’s childhood. As Harry learns of the Order and its members he feels cheated and isolated which will become a major theme in this novel.
One thing I prefer in the book to the movie is the way Molly and Sirius constantly butt heads over the correct way to raise Harry, as Molly sees him as a soon while Sirius is his godfather. This wasn't played on in the movie apart from a very small scene and it does not do the power struggle justice here. We also begin to see Harry differently here, we no longer see him as a boy but rather a boy who has faced more than many adults but isn't acknowledged as an adult just yet because he is only 15. Harry's personality has also changed compared to previous books but avid Potter fans know this will be explained later in the novel. We also get more information on bloodlines in this book, it was interesting to learn that Tonks, the Weasleys, Sirius, the Malfoys and the LeStranges are all related either by blood or marriage explaining some of the strain between the characters.
As Harry prepares for his hearing at the Ministry for use of underage magic and being the Statute of Secrecy, we still haven't seen the appearance of a major character; Dumbledore. That is until Harry’s hearing where he makes a surprise appearance with Mrs. Figg to defend Harry’s actions. Despite this, he doesn’t speak or even look at Harry the entire time and leaves swiftly after the hearing is concluded. The conversation between Dumbledore and Fudge is also interesting as it hints heavily at the events of the previous book and the different stances the two wizards are taking on those events. We are also introduced to a new character we will come to know intimately throughout the novel; Dolores Umbridge.
I loved the differences between the books and the movies especially with Order of the Phoenix, there are three scenes that are far better in the books than the movie. The first isn't in the movie at all and it should have been; Molly Weasley’s boggart. As we know boggarts take the form of the person's greatest fear and seeing Molly's was sad but great. Molly's boggart is seeing her family dead and she can't get rid of it despite knowing the spell as the thing that kills of a boggart is laughter. The interesting thing about this scene is Harry is among the dead children meaning that Molly truly sees him as her son and worries for him. This scene also shows us how far she had come and how much she has developed between Order of the Phoenix and the Deathly Hallows. The second scene is the introduction of Luna Lovegood, in the movie she is presented as a dreamy soft-spoken girl which for the most part she is but the books show a different side to her, a forceful and prideful side. This is shown when Hermione insults the Quibbler which Luna’s father edits and she becomes quite snappy and very different to her usual persona. This Luna makes much more sense considering what happens in the rest of this novel and the role Luna plays. The final scene is the thestral scene, this is the first time Harry has ever seen the thestrals which Luna can also see although he doesn't know what they are yet. This scene is important for two reasons; first because it his home that darkness and war are upon the students as thestrals can only be seen by those who have seen death in Harry's case Cedric and second because it gives nods to earlier novels when Ron didn't believe what Harry was telling him i.e. the Mirror of Erised in Philosopher's stone and the voice in the Chamber of secrets. Ask these small details were left out of the movie but are key for character development especially in secondary characters and plot progression.
It doesn't take long for Umbridge to appear again but this time in the role of Defence Against the Dark Arts professor rather than Ministry official. Slowly but steadily more and more signs at the dark times to come are appearing and Harry is reminded of dark times past. We can see from Umbridge’s first lesson that she doesn’t plan to teach the students anything and does so in a way that makes you loathe her from the second she is introduced at Harry’s hearing. Umbridge certainly makes Harry’s blood boil especially when she hints at him being a liar and saying that the Dark Lord hasn’t returned, she is very much under Fudge’s thumb like most other Ministry officials but we get the feeling she has some ulterior motives as well. Seeing Umbridge’s detention with Harry really made my blood boil and I have always believed she is in fact worse that Voldemort on the evil scale – Voldemort has his reasons for being evil, Umbridge is just evil for the sake of being evil. Harry's relationship with Sirius is also portrayed very differently. In the books there is a lot more strain on them especially since Sirius can't go outside as he is still a wanted man and he does come across as rather petty when he compares Harry to James in a negative way. It is no wonder Harry has a saviour complex when loads of people put him down only increasing his need to please others. As the first month of school closes and the first Hogsmead weekend approaches Hermione comes up with the idea to get Harry to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts in secret away from Umbridge`s tyranny. While Harry doesn't like the idea at first, he is eventually persuaded by Hermione and Ron, but not just to teach them to each everyone that wants to learn. Much to Harry's surprise a lot of people turn up for the meeting but they may have been overheard by someone as Umbridge enforces educational decree 24 to disband all the school's clubs, organisations and teams.
The group find somewhere to practice; the room of requirement which will become a key location in the rest of the series. They also come up with a name of Dumbledore’s Army thought of by Cho and Ginny. As the year wears on the group learn from the basics up but are making progress. One thing we see between book and movie is in the later movies the focus is on the upcoming war while the books still focus on the everyday lives of the wizard's like lessons and Quidditch. As Umbridge gains more control over the school she gives Harry, Fred and George lifetime bans from school Quidditch thus practically destroying the team but this downer doesn't last long as finally Hagrid returns although not in the state he left in. Among all the other stuff going on the gang still has time to cope with homework and teenage relationships. This book also reveals the relationships between characters and their history. We are also greeted to one of my favourite quotes courtesy of Hermione: "just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon, doesn't mean we all have". I honestly must say that Stephen Fry’s narration was beautiful, his impressions of the characters are amazing, my personal favourites are Snape, Harry and surprisingly Umbridge. Things get serious when Harry witnessed a vision of Arthur Weasley getting attacked by a snake which turns out to be true. As Arthur recovers in the wizard's hospital St. Mungo’s the children learn using the twins’ extendable ears that the snake belongs to the Dark Lord and the Order believe that Harry was possessed by Voldemort in his sleep. Considering recent events the gang spend Christmas at Grimmauld Place with Sirius and two of the smaller story lines are heavily posted upon; the divide in the Weasley family and Harry's dream. Despite all the doom and gloom there are several humorous moments that really make the story enjoyable rather than depressing which it aims to be.
As the return to Hogwarts is approving Harry learns he is going to be given occlumency lessons by Snape. In hindsight probably not, Dumbledore’s best idea given the history between the pair. We also get some background into Sirius and Snape’s tense relationship that almost results in a fight between them, although we learn more about this later. It is around this point I start feeling sorry for Snape, as a true potter head I know what he went through with not only Sirius, but Lupin and James Potter also and given what is to come you can help but sympathise with him. As Harry starts his occlumency lessons he feels that maybe they are doing more harm than good but before the trio can dwell on it they learn of a mass breakout of death eaters from Azkaban prison including Bellatrix LeStrange further developing Neville as a character. Slowly Harry starts putting the pieces together about his dreams and visions but his occlumecy isn't as bad as the movie makes out. Harry and Snape’s relationship also depends when Harry gets to see some of his feared professor's memories although completely by accident.
I really like the fact that a lot of the secondary story lines that were under played or completely cut from the movie are well considered in the book. For example, Harry and Cho’s relationship is a little fling while Cho deals with her grief after Cedric’s death in the movie but in the book, it is a lot more than that. The Harry vs the Ministry story line also under played in the movie is stronger in the books with Harry fighting back against Fudge whenever he can like in his interview with Rita Skeeter that is published in the Quibbler. It is only a matter of time before Umbridge finds out about the DA and Dumbledore takes the blame leading him to leave Hogwarts temporarily allowing Umbridge to assume the role of Headmistress. Alongside all this Harry is getting closer and closer to finding out what is hidden in the department of mysteries, but he is still naive to the fact that Voldemort is getting closer too. While he has been attended occlumency with Snape for months he has made little progress into closing his mind and while he has witnessed some of Snape’s memories, Harry literally sticks his nose where it isn't wanted revealing Snape’s worst memory.
This memory Harry sees practically destroys the perfect image Harry has always had of his father and shatters the illusions other people had built around James. While Harry is slightly sympathetic towards Snape having dealt with a similar problem with Dudley, he is more anger that Snape has taken away the rose-tinted version of his father despite the fact it was of his own doing. After this Harry feels he needs to talk to Sirius about what he saw and confirm whether it as right, but I felt Harry was looking for any excuse not to believe Snape. Another secondary storyline that is superb is the constant conflict between Umbridge and McGonagall and how their conversations frequently end in shouting matches. Harry armed with this new information plans to break into Umbridge`s office to use her unmonitored floo to contact Sirius with a diversion from Fred and George. Both Sirius and Hermione are under the impression that Harry should continue his occlumency lessons with Snape if he is willing, but Harry makes no attempt to do so. As their O.W.L’s draw closer Harry is side-lined from his attempt to find out what is hidden in the Department of Mysteries with Umbridge and exams. Fred and George also make a spectacular departure from Hogwarts in true Weasley fashion to officially open their joke shop; Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.
As we draw closer towards the end of the novel we can literally feel the tension rising as both Harry and the Dark Lord get closer to getting their hands on whatever is hidden in the Ministry of Magic. As the students sit their exams things take a dramatic twist with Hagrid being forced from Hogwarts grounds and a new vision from the Dark Lord of Sirius being tortured to remove the object from the department of mysteries. Knowing what is going to happen next I was very apprehensive to actually finish Order of the Phoenix as the ending of this book truly signals the return of the Dark Lord that is accepted and the beginning of the second wizarding war. In a fit of rage and sadness Harry is attempting to go to Sirius’ aid but Hermione tries to convince Harry not to go to the department of mysteries. Although after trying to contact Sirius and only getting to speak to Kreature they get caught by Umbridge who attempts to force the answers she wants out of Harry.
After McGonagall is sent to the wizarding hospital Harry feels there is no one left he can't turn to with both Dumbledore and Hagrid gone, but he forgets there is one member of the Order remaining at the school; Snape. Harry pins all his hopes on Snape relaying his coded message to someone who can help Sirius as he is stuck with Umbridge. Some quick thinking from Hermione allows her and Harry to take Umbridge away from the Slytherins holding their friend’s captive under the guise of finding Dumbledore’s secret weapon. After far more trouble than they planned the group consisting of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Luna and Neville name it from Hogwarts to the Ministry only to face more challenges finding the correct room in the department of mysteries.
When the finally find the correct place, Harry has been seeing in his dreams for months there is no sign of the Dark Lord or Sirius, in fact it is completely deserted. After a short search for Sirius, Ron stumbled across an orb bearing both Harry's and Voldemort’s names. And before Harry can figure out what the orb is the death eaters appear wanting the orb from Harry saying it is a prophecy that holds the answers to ask the burning questions he has had since learning he was a wizard all those years previous. Harry quite sensibly plays for time and the group manage to temporarily escape the death eaters, but it is only a matter of time before they must fight. The group puts up a good fight but outnumbered and out skilled the group slowly decreases in number until only Harry and Neville remain. To save his friend Harry hands over the prophecy to Malfoy the very second that member of the Order begins to arrive including Sirius who they had been looking for this entire time.
As the Order and death eaters clash with Harry and Neville caught in the cross-fire things get out of control, the prophecy is smashed, and its message lost to Harry but the worst thing is Sirius falls through the veil from which he can never return. In his rage Harry chases Bellatrix intent on revenge for his last remaining family member. On the upside Dumbledore has joined the fight and the battle is more evenly matched now. As he taunts Bellatrix Harry ends up coming face to face with Voldemort once more only for Dumbledore to arrive and save the day. As the old foes face off once more Voldemort tries to possess Harry only to be thrown out by the force of Harry's emotion. The possession scene in the movie is far better than the book although Fudge’s realisation is better here than the movies. When out of all over Dumbledore realizes that he must tell Harry the truth once and for all although it seems that much of the pain and devastation Harry has suffered could have been prevented if Dumbledore had come clean earlier.
In the final chapters of Order of the Phoenix after the action has ceased and the students prepare to return home for the summer, it is clear to see that Harry isn’t coping well with Sirius’ death and even looks for ways to see his godfather again but nothing works. This doesn’t really upset Harry it just seems to make him angry and depressed. While this book heralds the beginning of the second wizarding war the ending isn’t all that sad it has a very hopeful tone. This is the longest in the series and is sadly my least favourite although my favourite book is the next in the series which is mine to spotlight.