Friday, August 26, 2005

Book Review - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As I had stated once before, it was not until just recently that I had paid all that much attention toward the Harry Potter book series. The films, on the other hand, I was quite intrigued by, The Prisoner of Azkaban being the most artistic and creatively captivating in the series thus far, but I had held neither the desire nor the curiosity to pursue reading through the novels. The Goblet of Fire of course changed all that and upon finishing the fourth book I quickly proceeded onto the fifth, expecting the same breeze read as I had with the last novel.

Unfortunately for readers The Order of the Phoenix is not quite as exhilarating or fast-paced a ride as The Goblet of Fire was, this of course in large part due to the significant reduction in action throughout the novel until at least two-thirds of the way in. Needless to say this is a bit of a drawback for those who were drawn in with the last novel and this may turn some people off. Nonetheless, it remains a fascinating read right to the very end.

The only vital piece of criticism I have concerning the contents of The Order of the Phoenix lies with the death of Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black. For me at least his death near the end of the novel comes off as a bit anti-climatic. It happens so fast and without much detail directed toward it after words that it can only come off as being a bit of disappointment, especially considering the amount of hype Rowling herself put behind her hints prior to the novel’s release that a major character would be killed off. Granted, there is only so much which can be accomplished on paper that can provide the proper effect of the scene which always be drawn out more emotionally speaking onscreen, which I fully expect from the future film adaptation. But as soon as Black dies, that’s that it seems. The reader is not even given a reason as to what happened to Black when he fell through the archway behind the veil in the Department of Mysteries. There is no expectation, or at least there should not be one, that his character will reappear in the last two books in the series, with the exception of course for flashbacks, but an explanation as to what happened to him would be nice for new readers. There may be hope that this may be cleared up, if only in passing conversation, in The Half-Blood Prince.

The Order of the Phoenix does take a stand on a specific political issue, in this instance government involvement in private education, but not to extent as the blatant criticism evident in The Goblet of Fire or even The Chamber of Secrets. The fifth novel uses the introduction of a new secondary character, Professor Umbridge, an official acting on behalf of the Ministry of Magic to spy on Albus Dumbledore and the help tighten its control over the activities of Hogwarts, to criticize government involvement in private education. Immediately there is this sense of animosity toward Professor Umbridge with her arrogant interruption of Dumbledore’s opening speech and speaking down to the students as if they were nothing more then a bunch of mindless five year olds. This detestation increases as the reader proceeds through the novel and what happens to her in the end, though not as satisfactorily as one might hope, is quite amusing.

The last third of novel, in spite of the shortfall which is the death of Sirius Black, makes the novel worth reading. Dumbledore’s lengthy yet tantalizing explanation of the Lost Prophecy and its direct relation to young Harry is the most intriguing aspect of The Order of the Phoenix, something of which will undoubtedly play further in the last two books of the series. This should act as a main source of motivation for those who find themselves bored by the lack of action.

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