Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publication Date: June 21, 2003
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Rating: 4.75 stars

“You are sharing the Dark Lord’s thoughts and emotions. The Headmaster thinks it inadvisable for this to continue. He wishes me to teach you how to close your mind to the Dark Lord.”

Dark times have come to Hogwarts. After the Dementors’ attack on his cousin Dudley, Harry Potter knows that Voldemort will stop at nothing to find him. There are many who deny the Dark Lord’s return, but Harry is not alone: a secret order gathers at Grimmauld Place to fight against the Dark forces. Harry must allow Professor Snape to teach him how to protect himself from Voldemort’s savage assaults on his mind. But they are growing stronger by the day and Harry is running out of time…

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This should really be considered a book talk instead of a review, but let’s just roll with it. I thought I could finish this book in a week. I was wrong. This book is huge plus I got really swamped with school and fell a week behind with my re-read schedule. In my past reviews, I mentioned that I would provide a spoiler warning if I needed to. Well, let’s get it out the way now: SPOILER WARNING. Unfortunately, I can’t coherently unpack this book without spoilers given it’s size and the revelations. So, please read another one of my reviews or just close out of this if you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. If you’re thinking, “It’s 2017. Who hasn’t read Harry Potter?” then grab a cup of tea or coffee, and lets get into it because I have so many thoughts and feelings:

When I sat down to write this review, I thought I could quickly summarize the book and talk about the plot and writing; however, the longer I sat in front of my computer the more I just wanted to write “SIRIUS BLACK DESERVED BETTER. THE END.” It’s still the only thing I want to write, but I’ll try to use self-restraint and save that for the end. SIRIUS BLACK DESERVED BETTER. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series and while it’s not the turning point of the series, it’s monumental, it broke my heart, and was filled with so much insight. This book was emotional, complex, and very character driven.

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When we meet Harry in the Order of the Phoenix it’s the end of summer. Harry is isolated, completely out of the loop and hasn’t received any updates about Voldemort from anyone. When Harry and Dudley are attacked by dementors, Harry is forced to use magic to conjure his patronus charm. Harry’s aunt and uncle are furious and decide they want him out, but his aunt receives a howler letter from an unknown person and decides he can stay. Harry also receives notice from the Ministry of Magic that he must attend a disciplinary hearing to determine if he will be allowed to return to Hogwarts after using magic around muggles. Harry is eventually cleared of all charges and allowed to return to Hogwarts with the help of Dumbledore and Mrs. Figg, his neighbor.

All the while, Voldemort is back and the Ministry of Magic is filled with a bunch of idiots who are more concerned with maintaining the status quo than proactively taking measures to keep the wizarding community safe. I didn’t expect many people to believe Harry and Dumbledore, but the Ministry pushing anti-Harry propaganda instead of investigating or looking further into this was maddening. The Ministry did everything in its power to discredit Harry when they could have used their resources for something good. I feel like I could easily show how the response parallels our own society, but I’ll save that for another time and place.

In this book, Harry also learns about the connection he has with Voldemort through his scar. Harry begins taking Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape to protect his mind from Voldemort, but of course he doesn’t practice outside of his lessons or take this as seriously as he should. In my opinion, Harry not taking the the lessons serious is quite understandable as he doesn’t quite comprehend the nature of his connection with Voldemort. In addition to this, Harry also has to deal with the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Dolores Umbridge, because the turnover in that position is still 100%. Dolores Umbridge is the epitome of the Ministry’s denial propaganda. She doesn’t teach the students how to defend themselves against the dark arts but instead focuses on teaching theory.  She is an evil woman who deserved to die a violent death. She used archaic and torturous methods to discipline students and did so with no one checking her. I was upset throughout most of this book because I desperately wanted Harry to report what she was doing to a professor. Eventually, she becomes the high inquisitor at Hogwarts and uses her position to intimidate professors and punish students. She was cruel, abusive, and condescending. What an awful woman!

Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts was arduous. Dumbledore isolated him, he learned that his parents weren’t who he thought they were, he experienced another great loss when Sirius died, and learned that his fate is directly tied to Voldemort’s. I have to admit that I was really frustrated with Harry and his misplaced anger towards Ron and Hermione at the beginning of the Order of the Phoenix; however, I was happy Rowling made the decision to explore the emotional impact of being isolated. This made Harry more authentic and the chapter after the battle at the Ministry of Magic, “The Lost Prophecy”, was probably the best chapter in the series. It was such a raw, vulnerable, and emotional moment between Harry and Dumbledore. Rowling’s writing made me want to weep. If I could have flipped a table, I would’ve done it too. It was painful, but so poignant.

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Speaking of painful. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix completely broke my heart. Shattered it into a million little pieces. I knew Sirius’ death was coming, but I was not prepared for it at all. One, it happened so fast! I had to read the pages in that chapter a few times because of how fast it happened. I was broken and enraged. God, I hate Bellaxtrix Lestrang for taking Sirius from me and Harry. He had so much love to give Harry. He needed more time. SIRIUS BLACK DESERVED BETTER.  I know people probably say this often, but I need to say it and explain why he deserved better. Sirius Black was wrongful imprisoned for 12 years in Azkaban and spent two years in hiding as a fugitive. He lived in a cave and ate rats just so he could be close to Harry. He was locked up in a house he hated because he would have done anything for Harry. In my last review, I mentioned Sirius Black was a father figure that Harry needed. He was. He was also a friend to Harry. Harry and Sirius needed each other. Harry needed an adult in his life who cared about him. Sirius needed a piece of his best friend that he lost. SIRIUS BLACK DESERVED MORE THAN TWO YEARS WITH HIS GODSON.

As emotional as it is to talk about Sirius Black, we need to talk about the elephant in the room: Albus Dumbledore. I feel like I was tricked into believing Dumbledore was a good guy as child. He wasn’t. I enjoy morally ambiguous characters, but Dumbledore was something that you just didn’t see coming. It’s very obvious from the beginning of the series that Dumbledore always knew more than he let on. The man has secrets. However, when those secrets directly impact someone’s life you need to take a step back and examine your choices. I completely understand that Dumbledore had his reasons for the decisions he made. He choose to leave Harry with his abusive family because of the protection charm. He choose to avoid him the entire year because of Harry’s connection with Voldemort. I get that there were reasons for doing these things. However, this book revealed that his decisions were not purely for Harry’s sake. I was annoyed with Dumbledore for avoiding Harry.

I was annoyed with Dumbledore for isolating Harry given that he witnessed Cedric’s death and Voldemort used him to come back. It was foul to not keep him in the loop after experiencing this trauma. I also felt that some of the things that transpired in this book could have been avoided had Dumbledore TALKED to Harry. I’m not saying Sirius wouldn’t have died. He probably still would’ve died in battle or in a very creative way that only JK Rowling could conceive, but Harry would have understood the circumstances better and the nature of his connection with Voldemort better. Given the chance, Harry may have made the same decisions, but we’ll never know because Dumbledore is playing chess.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix does so many things well. It’s because of Rowling’s writing that I can sit in front of my computer raging about one character and become emotional about another character. This book is the longest in the series and honestly there’s nothing Rowling could have done to shorten it because everything that happened needed to happen, except Sirius’ death. He deserved better. This book explored themes of isolation, grief, and death. We also see the difficulty people face when they learn someone is not what they believed. The world-building continues to amaze me and our hero is no longer in the dark about his fate.


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