Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
By: J. K. Rowling
Reviewed By: Matt Berman
It's a potent and volatile brew that Rowling has mixed up in her largest cauldron yet (870 pages!), and there's hardly a literary genre left out: fantasy, mystery, suspense, horror, humor, coming-of-age, school story, allegory, political thriller, buddy story. Rowling is also picking her way carefully through the minefield of having her characters age realistically, not only through the obvious devices of increasing moodiness and interest in the opposite sex, but through a general graying of the black-and-white world view of the earlier novels. The heroes (Harry in particular, but also Dumbledore and Sirius) have notable flaws, and the villains (especially Snape) become more human and sympathetic. Hermione provides Harry (and readers) with some useful insights into relations between the sexes, and Sirius, with wonderful British bluntness, has the best line of advice in the book; "A lot of people are idiots at the age of fifteen."
Rowling's achievement in this and the previous books is as magical as anything that happens in the story -- not only does she hold the reader's interest on every page of the longest children's novel ever published (including the 50 or so pages that come after the climax), but she provides a rich emotional subtext that never strays from the completely believable and realistic.
Rowling does here what few, if any, in either the literary or film world seem to be able to accomplish; to create a rip-roaring action/adventure/suspense thriller, loaded with the literary and wizarding equivalent of loud special effects, explosions, battles, and chases, in which the human elements, character, emotion, motivation, relationships, are more important and believable than the action.
And, perhaps equally importantly in a book with a high level of violence, when characters die, their loss has a profound and lasting impact on those left behind. Throughout the series Harry has been coping with the loss of his parents in his infancy. Throughout this book Harry and Cho are dealing with the death of Cedric at the end of book 4. Even Aunt Petunia is not without feelings about her lost sister. As if to highlight this, Rowling introduces a new magical creature, thestrals, that can only be seen by those who have seen death. With only two more books to go in the series, the reader can already see Rowling beginning to line up the elements for the finale: Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Dumbledore and his Order of the Phoenix to oppose him, the house elves and Draco set to play significant parts (my own prediction, we'll see if it pans out), the Ministry and the media in the middle, and the giants and centaurs (not to mention the muggles) up for grabs. Harry's anger and volatility are as much a liability as his power and courage are assets, Hermione's large heart may turn out to be even more important than her brilliance, and two previously overlooked characters, Neville and Ginny, may be essential as well.
With a two year delay since the previous book, many wondered if the phenomenon would have staying power. That question has been triumphantly answered with the largest presales and first printing in history. Now the only question remaining is ... how long will we have to wait for book 6?
From the Book:
There was something in the alleyway apart from themselves, something that was drawing long, hoarse, rattling breaths. Harry felt a horrible jolt of dread as he stood trembling in the freezing air. ... His stomach turned over. A towering hooded figure was gliding smoothly toward him, hovering over the ground, no feet or face visible beneath its robes, sucking on the night as it came.
Other Books in this Series
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)
This book review was republished with permission from Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a national organization led by concerned parents and individuals, with experience in child advocacy, public policy, education, media and entertainment. To learn more about Common Sense Media, and to read more reviews and information about this book, visit http://www.commonsensemedia.org.