Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Harry Potter Books

Published: 2003
Author: J.K. Rowling

A long, frustrating wait is well rewarded


JK Rowling made us wait for three long years after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came into bookshops.  Three years for us to speculate, wonder and quite frankly obsess over what happens next to Harry and what the newly-returned Lord Voldemort is up to.  When the book finally arrived – all 766 pages of it – we find Harry is just as frustrated and eager for information as we are.  Isolated at the Dursleys he is becoming more and more unhappy at the lack of contact with the wizarding world and angry at his friends who are telling him nothing in their letters.

A Dementor attack in Little Whinging and Harry’s subsequent removal to 12 Grimmauld Place, the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, does nothing to ease his mind.  Indeed he becomes more resentful towards Ron and Hermione who at least know something of what has been happening over the summer.  Voldemort is recruiting followers, but so too is the Order of the Phoenix, a secret group established by Dumbledore during the First Wizarding War to fight Voldemort and his supporters.  Members of the Order include Harry’s godfather Sirius Black, former teacher Remus Lupin, Ron’s parents Arthur and Molly Weasley and, much to Harry’s disgust, Potions master Severus Snape.

Harry’s return to Hogwarts does nothing to ease his sense of isolation with many of his schoolmates believing newspaper reports that he is attention-seeking and delusional, Dumbledore is mad and Voldemort is no threat.  Further agony at school comes in the toad-like form of Professor Dolores Umbridge, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and Ministry of Magic apparatchik.  The regime at Hogwarts changes dramatically under Umbridge’s control and fellow students beg Harry to help them develop their magical skills.  The novel ends with an epic battle in the Ministry of Magic between Hogwarts students (now known as Dumbledore’s Army) along with their adult counterparts in the Order of the Phoenix and Voldemort’s Death-Eaters.

It’s almost impossible to give a brief rundown of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and fans of the series will undoubtedly point to important plot points I’ve missed.  Order of the Phoenix is a massive book full of action, new characters and plot development.  For all that it includes it never feels too big or unwieldy, JK Rowling has a lightness of touch which keeps the reader thoroughly invested in the story.  The new characters including Nymphadora Tonks, Luna Lovegood, the aforementioned Umbridge and Bellatrix Lestrange all come fully formed and fit nicely into the story, but existing characters aren’t ignored and some develop particularly well including Ginny Weasley and Neville Longbottom.  The large, and ever-expanding, cast of characters never feels too big for the story, there is no confusion, they all just belong in the book.

Dolores Umbridge is a magnificent villain, a truly sadistic character despite her outwardly prim and fluffy persona.  Her punishment of lines of blood carved into the back of the hand is terrifying enough to give an adult long out of school nightmares let alone kids still living under the threat of detention.  It was widely trailed that a major character would die in this novel and throughout the story there are a number of incidents which could lead to the loss of a character and don’t.  The danger in the wizarding world, to Harry and his friends and loved ones, is now ever-present.  When the death comes it is both mundane in its near-ordinariness and a heart-breaking loss.  Rowling shows she knows how to create moving, dramatic moments without over-playing them.

In the midst of all the drama there’s a great, fun cameo from an old character who no longer plays a part in the story.  This is one of Rowling’s great gifts – even when there is almost total darkness in the narrative she knows when to insert a little bit of humour and stop the book becoming overwhelmingly bleak.

The connection between Harry and Lord Voldemort is further explored causing Harry to worry about his own actions, abilities and desires.  The theme of personal choices and responsibilities mentioned in previous installments becomes much more prominent in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince >>
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