Saturday, October 30, 2010

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

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author: J. K. Rowling
Pages: 870
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction
Source: My bookshelf
What you'll love: Even further character development, more and more questions answered.
What will bug you: The teenage angst.

I'm getting to the point where I need to admit I will not finish this series before Halloween. Crap. Well, let's change it to "before the movie comes out". My blog. My rules.

The story begins, as usual, with Harry finishing up his summer with his horrible Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin. Voldemort has returned, and Harry is feeling very cut off from the wizarding world - resorting to eavesdropping on the nightly news in an effort to glimpse any "unusual" stories. When he finally returns to the magical world, he learns that the Ministry of Magic is denying the return of Voldemort, painting Harry as an insane, attention seeking teenager in the process. Back at Hogwarts Harry has the pleasure of meeting a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor - Dolores Umbridge. The story is layered with lots of small storylines, and lots of character development driven by Harry's need to know more about the Department of Mysteries, which he has been dreaming about all year.

I'll give you the same disclaimers I've been giving for the other books in this series. Given the fact that these books are sooo well known, I'm not holding back on, or warning about spoilers. If you have not read this book and would like to... you should probably skip this post!

This book is just massive. There are so many story arcs happening, it really reveals Rowling's talent as a writer. I'm sure I'm missing some, but I saw...

  1. The Order, and the work that they are doing.
  2. The battle against the Ministry of Magic.
  3. Professor Umbridge vs. Hogwarts.
  4. The DA.
  5. Harry and Cho.
  6. Harry's mysterious dreams and Occlumency (or lack thereof).
  7. The final fight scene at the Department of Mysteries.
  8. The "silent war" between Harry and Dumbledore.
  9. The final understanding of the prophecy.
Have I missed any?

This is not my favorite in the series. It's so incredibly dark. I have a new appreciation for it the second time around, though. Most importantly, the story of Harry and Voldemort really moves forward. The reader comes away from this book with a far better understanding of the severity of the situation. So many questions are answered - the connection between Harry and Voldemort, why he must be at the house of his Aunt and Uncle every summer, what he is ultimately destined to do.

I love the character development for this story, as well. I really think that Neville begins to emerge as a more important character, with more confidence. He is far from perfect, but he's loyal and has courage. He's one of my favorite characters.

We learn more about Snape - and begin to understand him as more than a teacher. The image of James and Sirius bullying Snape is tough to take. For me, the most heart wrenching part is James causing Snape to hang upside down revealing "skinny pallid legs and a pair of graying underpants." They were just horrible - just as bad as Malfoy, if not worse. Reading this the second time around, knowing that Lily saw all of this was so sad. I almost don't blame Snape for insulting Lily when she tries to help him - he must have been so embarrassed. Knowing the complete story this is really a scene that breaks my heart. I'm sure that James straightened out - but he seems like kind of an asshole at this point in the story. I think it really shows Harry's true character that he is really upset by this and wants to confront Sirius and Lupin about it. Harry may look like his Dad, but he is not the kind of person to ever do that to another student. This is something that Snape is just unwilling, or unable to understand about Harry.

Oh, Dolores. How I hate you. Am I alone in thinking she has a lot in common with the "big nurse" from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? She's a horrible human being, in every way. This is a big part of why this book is so dark - she makes the reader feel constant anger. Everything about her is so wrong. I've worked with people like this and it's infuriating. There's this sense of "these are the rules" and there is no deviation away from what is technically considered to be correct. She represents so much about how the Ministry is putting on blinders.

I love the DA. This is one of the places where we see Neville begin to break out of his previous role and begin to be more confident and sure of himself. I think the prison outbreak - including those responsible for what happened to his parents - had a huge part in this. Also, Harry's first kiss is adorable. Although in all honesty, I think that Cho is a little nuts. Ginny is way cooler...

The entire scene at the end was fantastic. I love the fight at the Department of Mysteries. I also have to admit that I kind of love Bellatrix. She's completely insane and kickass. Yeah - I know she killed Sirius. I can't help myself. She's this creepy powerful wizard - and she has curly hair, which in my book is a major bonus. I was very proud of Neville in this scene. He really held his own and didn't cave in. I think his parents would have been proud. It was so sad losing Sirius - he was such a grounding presence for Harry. At least he still has Lupin - who is not his Godfather, but was close to his parents all the same. Even though Sirius' physical part in the story was minimal, his psychological role was huge - it's a big loss.

One of the major story arcs is of course Harry, Voldemort, and the distance of Dumbledore. I'm so glad that this all gets explained at the end of the story. The major explanations are really one of the reasons this book is so important. You finish the last page in such a state of conflict, it seems as though there is little hope left. (...and reading the beginning of book 6 does nothing to ease this feeling...) I also think it's one of the first times when it becomes very obvious that Dumbledore really has a true affection for Harry - he doesn't care only for his physical well being, but for his happiness.

The one thing that kind of annoyed me about book 5 is all the teenage angst. Maybe it's just that I deal with it too much in my work/daily life - but it was almost too much to handle sometimes. Harry just flies off the handle constantly. It almost got a little better upon his return to Hogwarts, but the beginning of the book was really driving me crazy. Constant overreaction.

As always I'll leave you with a list of things that just scream "Order of the Phoenix".

  1. The high security involved in taking Harry to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.
  2. Harry's hearing - it's obvious from the start the the Ministry has it in for him.
  3. Everything about Umbridge. Her stupid cat pictures. Her stupid "hem hem" when she wants to speak. Her stupid pink outfits.
  4. Harry serving detention with Umbridge and "I will not tell lies" being cut into his hand. That give me the shivers.
  5. The DA meetings. I need a room of requirement...
  6. Harry dreaming of Mr. Weasley. You start to realize how deep Harry's connection with Voldemort really is.
  7. Occlumency lessons.
  8. The massive fight in the Department of Mysteries and the death of Sirius.
Great story - I know I'm missing a lot!

See you at the end of book 6!

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