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HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

A novel by J.K. Rowling (2003, Bloomsbury)
Harry Potter, book 5

While the Ministry of Magic denies the return of the evil Valdemort, the students and teachers at Hogwarts endure heightened scrutiny, and Harry rages against the lack of information being sent his way.

 

 

Read March 4th to 19th, 2016 in hardcover  
    I didn’t like Harry’s angry attitude throughout the entire book, no matter Dumbledore’s explanation. It got really tiring, really quickly. On the other hand, it was nice to see more about the classes, and nice to see how the students are actually learning how to perform magic.

Spoiler review:

This is by far the largest Harry Potter novel of them all, and I’m not sure it’s worth all those pages. I believe this is the first of the books to be published since the first movie came out, and I suspect that people wanted to see more about magic, and how it was taught, and how it was used. Maybe the author wanted to show that without hearing it from the fans. Regardless, we get a lot of magic classes here, much more than in the previous books.

Unfortunately, the fact is that most of the book is about waiting for things to happen. Most of the book is about how Harry is angry, and how he gets into so much trouble because he is angry. It is probably realistic, in that adults don’t tell kids everything, and it is often for their own protection, but sometimes because it just didn’t occur to them. But Harry has a vested interest in knowing about the battle against Valdemort, and he is not getting the information he thinks he needs. At the end of the book, Dumbledore suggests that he was to blame, as he know Valdemort would use his connection to Harry to his own nefarious purpose, and didn’t let him know. But maybe this would have tipped Valdemort off to the fact that the Order knew about the connection.

But everything depends on Harry being angry. He needs to be angry enough to ignore the good advice of his friends and teachers, and especially Dumbledore, so that Valdemort can lure him into a trap.

The book starts, as always, at his aunt and uncle’s house, where Harry stops a Dementor attack on his cousin Dudley. Having used magic, he is immediately expelled from Hogwarts, but interference by Dumbledore reinstates him pending a hearing. I’ve always wondered how the wizards could tell that Harry was using magic. Do they tag all magic students? It seems to me that could be dangerous “technology”, as they could probably track Dumbledore through his use of magic, or even Valdemort himself.

The lack of information through the summer really gets on Harry’s nerves, but after the incident with the Dementor, a group of wizards and witches come to take him to a secret headquarters, where the enemies of Valdemort are organizing, the Order of the Phoenix. The Order includes Moody (the real one), Sirius Black, Lupin, the Weasleys, among others –and even Snape. But once there, information is seriously lacking, because the adults are the ones who are actively working against Valdemort, while the kids aren’t permitted to even use magic, never mind fight him. Sirius, in an obvious effort to ingratiate himself into Harry’s life, tells him, and therefore the readers, what has been happening since Harry’s encounter with Valdemort at the end of term last year.

Harry’s hearing occurs at the Ministry of Magic, and it goes well, despite Ministry efforts to unnerve him. Apparently, they’ve been denying Valdemort’s return, and painting Harry and Dumbledore as unsettled and lying all summer. When Harry returns to school with his friends, he is still regarded as a disturber of the peace. I liked the way Hermione and Ron (who has taken up Quiddach) try to reason with him, though he is in no mood to be reasoned with.

The return to school allows us to see so much that goes on during the various classes. It starts off benignly enough, except for Harry’s continual detentions (which earns him the ire of his new Quiddich captain) for speaking out against Umbridge, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and Ministry informer. Eventually, things spiral out of control, as Umbridge brings teaching style differences to the notice of the Ministry, and becomes Inquisitor. This allows her to interrogate and assess teachers, which eventually leads to two of them being sacked (including Hagrid, who was away trying to gain the trust of the giants). It’s interesting to get some backstory on many of the teachers, as well, such as when Dumbledore was going to eliminate the Divination course until Trelawny showed up with a real prophecy.

The stress level at Hogwarts goes through the roof, even to the point where all clubs are cancelled, and even the Quiddach teams need permission to re-form. Harry and the Weasley twins are banned for life from Quiddach due to their attacks on Malfoy when he taunts them, and eventually, after setting off many pranks against Umbridge, they leave the school for good to go set up their joke shop, financed by Harry’s winnings from the last book.

The fifth-years are stressed about passing their OWL exams. I really liked the descriptions of the exams, from the theoretical to the practical ones, where the evaluators had different opinions from Unbridge herself. Harry got to see how the exams were taken by his father through a memory from Snape’s head. While teaching Harry how to shield his mind from Valdemort, at which he fails miserably due to their mutual hatred, Snape has to leave the room briefly, and Harry looks into the memory storer (against all honor, but understandably, given the feud between these two) to see Snape’s worst memory, at being seriously humiliated by Harry’s father and his friends.

The fun in this book is scattered around, though there isn’t actually much of it. Harry’s love life is funny, as he tries to find a way to court Cho, not knowing anything about romance. Between her and Hermione, Harry decides to teach the students of Hogwarts how to fight the dark arts, from simple charms to casting petronuses. Of course, somebody eventually tells, and the club is busted up, but not before Harry is brought to Dumbledore’s office, and the headmaster is forced to leave before he is arrested.

There are more scenes in and around London, such as the hospital where they visit Ron’s father after he is attacked by Valdemort’s snake, and they find other characters that they know from the previous books.

But the climax of the book takes place at the Ministry of Magic itself, where Valdemort has tricked Harry into thinking that Sirius Black was attacked. Harry’s friends convince him that they should join him, so they go on the flying horse-like creatures that only Harry and Luna can see. I find it strange that the entire ministry is empty, and that anybody can go in anywhere at any time. Did the death-eaters kill or incapacitate the people at the front desks? Do the people who work there never lock the door at the end of the day? That’s really the most glaring omission in the book –explaining how all of them (death-eaters and Harry with his friends, and then the Order of the Phoenix) could get in so easily. When Harry asks Malfoy why Valdemort himself could not come and get it, he scoffs asking if Harry thought Valdemort could just walk into the ministry of magic. But that’s what they all did! And Valdemort does exactly that at the end of the book.

Harry finds a prophecy attached to him. By the rules of magic, only people about whom the prophecy speaks can pick it up. Harry of course refuses when the death-eaters tell him to hand it over. And that’s where the battle begins. It seems that Harry’s small group of kids is just as good at spell-casting as the evil adults, who have decades more experience. By the end of the battle, Hermione and Ron are seriously hurt, Neville dropped the prophecy which shatters, and Sirius Black has been killed. It’s a pretty somber moment.

Both Dumbedore and Valdemort fight within the ministry walls, which forces the Ministry to recognize that yes, the Dark Lord has actually returned. And we get a cheat, in that Dumbledore actually heard Trelawny’s prophecy, which tells of Harry and Valdemort, and that one will have to murder the other, or else both will continue to exist. It wasn't worth the time Valdemort put into finding it. This will not be good for Harry’s mood, but I hope he gets a little more happiness by the next book.
 
   

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