Saturday, 30 August 2014

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

JK Rowling

   Voldeort is back but the Wizarding world is reluctant to accept it. The ministry of Magic, keen to do everything in its power to suppress the voices of Harry Potter and Dumbledore, begin to interfere at Hogwarts. As their methods become ore and more restrictive, Harry and his friends are forced to take matters into their own hands.

   This book is definitely the hump in the series. Many people, myself included, were turned away from the Harry Potter series after having this monolith drop into their laps. While the Goblet of Fire presented a much longer story than previous instalments, it did so without ever feeling like padding. The Order of the Phoenix however, presents a story that’s even longer but feels to be made up almost entirely of padded scenes.

   It’s perhaps a necessary evil, as the series passes the halfway point and begins to move toward the conclusion, there’s a lot of information to get across and a lot of threads to tie together before we move on, the result though, is a book with far too many plotlines running throughout it.
   There’s the efforts of the ministry to get rid of Dumbledore by strangling Hogwarts, there’s the reformation of the order of the phoenix, the group of wizards brought together by Dumbledore to fight Voldemort, there’s Dubledore’s army, the defence against the dark arts group Harry founds when their new teacher refuses to give any practical lessons, there’s the new teacher herself, Dolores Umbridge, who works for the ministry, is the one responsible for the new restrictions on the school and who literally tortures Harry during their detentions together, then there’s the secret that Hagrid is hiding in the woods, the Dementors joining Voldemort  and breaking the death eaters out of Azkaban, the talk of prophecies, the psychic link between Harry and Voldemort, Harry and Cho, the aftermath of Cedric’s death, ….there’s just too much going on and none of it is glossed over, each story is given full attention and enough detail and pacing to make it the focus of its own novel let alone a small subplot…

    All of this would be fine of not for the fact that, for all that’s constantly happening in this book….nothing ever really feels like it’s happening. In fact, much of the real action seems to be taking place off page. The order of the Phoenix is constantly going on raids and missions, learning all sorts of new information about Voldemort’s movements, but Harry is never let in on any of this. He asks constantly for an opportunity to prove himself, to help out, but is never granted one. The result, is a book where the main character is frustrated that he is left out of the main story and the reader is frustrated by this also.
   All of this is not to say I didn’t find any enjoyment in the book, I tend to prefer stories with a slower pace, where characters and dialogue take precedence over action and this instalment definitely has me covered in that regard. As a result, there’s actually a lot here that I really enjoyed.
   The new characters are great, from the shape shifting Tonks to Umbridge herself who may well be the most despicable character in the whole series apart from Voldeort himself. She’s a great villain and her frustrating proclamations that smother the school throughout make her the type of character you just love to loathe.
   Likewise, the plots ad subplots are gripping and exciting and despite how many of them there are, you do want to see the through to the end to see where they lead.

   This is still a great book and a fine addition to the series. It gets across all of the information we need as we move into the closing chapters of the saga and it’s entertaining. The main problem is simply that, after the huge cliffhanger of the last book, the events that take up the majority of book five just seem so…minor…we’re introduced to a hundred new characters all of whom are important but only in minor roles, and we’re given a hundred new plot threads, all of which are important but only in a minor way…meanwhile, Voldemort is still around, building his army in the background, away from the eyes of the reader, the main plot continuing to unfurl without us.

   Despite my problems with the novel, I can hardly tell you not to bother with it. It contains a lot of info you’ll need if you’re to see the series through to the end. Instead I’ll say, it’s a weak point in the series, it contains soe really great stuff, but it’s one of the weaker books overall. I’d urge you, if you find yourself struggling with it, as I did myself the first time I read it, to power through it. Because from here on, the series only goes up. 

JK Rowling
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