Monday, January 16, 2012

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling took me longer to read than the previous volumes and knew part of the reason was that I don’t especially love this volume in the series.  I don’t hate it but there are times when a novel series has a weaker volume that serves more as a transition, moving the plot forward and maybe introducing a few new characters but not a lot happens and after the big bang of volume 4 this book falls a little flat.

Having confessed all of this, there is still much to commend it.  Rowling does what too many writers never risk doing—she allows her hero to be obnoxious.  And it makes sense.  Harry is, after all, becoming a teenager and, as such, is bound to become more abrasive.  It doesn’t help that Professor Dumbledore is seemingly avoiding Harry and his godfather is outright miserable.  Adding insult to injury, unlike his friends, Harry has been left out of the loop regarding the Order of the Phoenix and he’s fed up with being an outsider.

Of course, feeling like an outsider is not unusual for teenagers.  Which is why I think it is an excellent choice on Rowling’s part to just let Harry be a brat.  It also helps that Luna Lovegood is introduced in this book.  She’s such an interesting character and her addition allowed for some softness and quirkiness, all at once. 

There is also the intrusion of Dolores Umbridge at Hogwarts.  I confess that there is something truly sinister about this well-meaning yet horribly abusive person who seems cloyingly sweet and at the same time sadistic through to her core that makes her more frightening than anyone Harry’s had to face before excepting, perhaps, Voldemort himself. 

In spite of all of this, however, most of the book is a bit ponderous.  Nevertheless, having read the last two books, I can see why so much has to be laid out before the rest of the story can be told.  And Rowling does a masterful job of maneuvering each of the characters into place without compromising the integrity of the personalities nor manipulating the reader.

There is something, however, that is explained in this book, something that is virtually dropped from the movies, which has been hinted at in previous novels regarding Harry and Neville.  I certainly don’t blame the screenwriters for not including every detail from the books and I can even agree with the decision to leave such details out.  This is why, even when the movies are very good and lots of fun to watch, the books really are better because they offer subtlety that would be too easily lost on a big screen.

But the ending of this book more than makes up for whatever weaknesses there are in the story's tension.  The 

And so the Harry Potter rankings are as follows:

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