Friday, August 21, 2009

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling

Summary: There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

Here are just a few things on Harry's mind:
--A Defense Against the Dark Arts teach with a personality like poisoned honey
--A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
--Ron as keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
--The looming terror of the end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

...and of course, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In the richest installment yet of J.K. Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the importance of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back. (Summary from book jacket - Image from amazon.com)

My review: I started this book with a slightly heavy heart. Having read it before, I wasn’t too terribly excited to delve back into a book that I remembered as being a bit heavy on the whine and lighter on the humor than I have come to expect from Rowling’s work. However, I discovered on reading it again that it all made a bit more sense to me, and what bugged me before about the book was part of what made it truly amazing. Throughout this book I was completely at the mercy of J.K. Rowlings writing ability as she took me on a roller coaster of human emotions. I laughed out loud and was tied into wicked little knots. I was surprised and unnerved, and I loved every minute of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to rip pages out of this book (gasp). There are parts of this book that are extremely frustrating but (and you’ll just have to trust me on this because I’m not going to spoil it) they are vital to the plot and while they grated at me so completely, the book would not have been half of what it was without them.

Harry is your typical whiny, volatile teenager. I mean, I understand that he just saw a boy killed and the Dark Lord restored to power, but you’d think he could still manage a little civility towards his friends and family. He’s moody, irritable, and sometimes just plain annoying, though it turns out he has a very good reason that you don't fully understand till the end.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the book is one of J.K. Rowlings best characters ever – Dolores Jane Umbridge. She is a loathsome, horrific, undeniably misled, and unbelievably aggravating character who is exceptionally well written--so well written in fact that I wanted to crawl into the story and claw her eyes out. I. HATED. HER. I mean, quite possibly more than I was supposed to, as she was near to edging out Voldemort on my “List of HP Characters Who I Want Killed Off.” Incidentally, also on that list is Lucius Malfoy, Peter Pettigrew, Bellatrix Lestrange, and for some reason Pansy Parkinson. What can I say? I knew girls like her in high school. Having to read about Umbridge and her insanity throughout the book was enough to make me want to throw the book across the room. The only thing that kept me reading (other than, well, faith in J.K. Rowling) was a strong desire to see her get her comeuppance.

While Goblet of Fire was darker from a magical standpoint, this book was darker from an emotional standpoint. There is a mysterious connection between Harry and Voldemort that is creating all sorts of turmoil inside Harry, only compounded by outside factors like Dumbledore’s lack of communication, and Umbridge’s reign of terror. These intensely written portions of the book are part of what make it so powerful. The result is that this book is incredibly full of conflict. It definitely has it’s humorous moments, that I adored, but on the whole this book was much more angst-filled than its’ predecessors.

Rowling's plot development is amazingly intricate, with clues and foreshadowing dropped chapters, if not books, in advance that help weave the story together seamlessly. On a second time through, I was more able to pick these things up, and occasionally ended up just staring at the page in slack-jawed amazement at her ability to plan ahead.

Order of the Phoenix allowed me to see more of the intentional flaws in all the characters – Mrs. Weasley’s fears, Hermione’s torrential temper during O.W.L.S., Ron’s inability to overcome his Quidditch insecurities, and Harry’s emerging darkness and deepest fears. It made them more real as characters and ultimately even more likeable. My husband pointed out, and I agree, that one of the best things about this book was that it was the first time where so many characters worked together in the end, actually applying what they had learned at Hogwarts. It was no longer Harry alone. He had people by his side, fighting with him, and it was marvelous!

SIDENOTE : For me, this book (and to be honest, most of it’s predecessors) set to rest the recently argued “Twilight vs. Harry Potter” dispute. Other than a wide fan base, they don’t have much in common. While Meyer is great at pulling at the heartstrings of innumerable women of any age all over the world (I myself have fallen victim to some literary swooning) and transporting us back to that moment in freshman year where we were just going to DIE of love, it is simply no match for the evocative writing, humor, cleverness, foresight, and insane character development of J.K. Rowling. Hands down. Rowling wins. No contest. I’m a fan of both, truly, but I have to be clear on this. Hate me if you will. I can take it.

My rating: 5 Stars. I know I keep saying that each is my favorite. But seriously. Best yet. There was much LESS swearing this time (yippee) and, while still dark in spots focused more on character relationships than dark magic.

Sum it up: An outstanding, entertaining, and frustratingly marvelous work of young adult fiction that emphasized the importance of teamwork, loyalty, friendship, and love.

1 comment:

Mel said...

Mindy, I have to sayy tht I agree with your comparason between Meyer and Rowling and for the same reasons. Meyer has a great plot but her characters are not as multidimensional as even the secondary HP players. She is not the writer that Rowling is, although I too enjoyed the Twilight saga.
In Order of the Phoenix, Harry is written precisly like a moody, whiny teenager.
Great review!

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