Friday, December 3, 2010

Canon Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Canon Review's series of reviews on the Harry Potter series continues with the fifth book in the saga, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The book is once again written by J.K. Rowling and is the biggest in the series at a massive 870 pages. It's Harry and the gang's fifth year at the wizardry school Hogwarts, and things have never been worse for Potter. Not only is his nemesis Lord Voldemort back in power, Harry also has to endure a smear campaign spearheaded by the Ministry of Magic, who denies that Voldemort is back in power. To make matters worse for Harry, a new teacher comes to Hogwarts whose sole purpose seems to be to punish Harry Potter, and Potter finds himself more and more alone, as Hagrid and Dumbeldore have bigger problems on their hands. He even gets into a feud with Seamus Finnegan, which ticked me off because Harry was slightly in the wrong there. But enough about that, here are a few notes from the book, and yes there are SPOILERS, so be careful.

- After witnessing the revival of his arch-rival Voldemort, the death of one of his fellow students, and not only enduring a smear campaign but also a plot to have him expelled from Hogwarts from the Ministry of Magic, well it's safe to say that Harry Potter is just a bit angry in this book. Naturally, he does what most people do in situations like these and takes out his frustration on those unfortunate enough to be close to him. It seems like half the book is spent on Harry yelling at whoever he happened to be talking to at the moment, whether they deserved it or not. The other half of the book is usually Harry either wallowing in self-pity or making the dumbest decision possible at every turn. While this may be the way that most teenagers would act in this situation, it does make Harry a lot less sympathetic in this book than in any of the previous titles.

- Then again, Harry's not the only person that has seemingly taken a turn for the worse. His two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger, seem to not be able to go more than five minutes without bickering at each other about even the smallest little thing. Granger in particular becomes more and more annoying, as she seemingly can't wait for any opportunity to boss her friends around. Even some of the adults of Hogwarts change for the worse, as head master Dumbledore seems to make a concentrated effort to have as little contact with Harry as possible (although it is later revealed that he had a good reason for this behavior), Snape becomes more and more hateful of Harry (although Harry certainly did not help himself in that matter), while Hagrid crosses the line between being a bit reckless and irresponsible to becoming a downright health risk for his friends to be around. At least Neville Longbottom actually changes for the better in this book, as he shows signs of being more than just a clumsy wizard, but rather a quite capable wizard, at least in a few subjects.

- Since there's another year at Hogwarts, there is also a new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher. This time it's a particularly nasty woman from the Ministry of Magic named Delores Umbridge. Umbridge doesn't seem to be too interested in Defense Against the Dark Arts, rather, her main goal is to gain enough power to take over Hogwarts. Umbridge also has a secondary role, to make Harry Potter's life a living hell. Umbridge is very successful in her goal of tormenting Potter, to the point where it gets tiresome. After a while, you can start predicting just when Umbridge comes in to foil whatever plan Harry and his friends have going on at the time. Also, it's never really made clear why Umbridge hates Potter so much, to the point where she orders Dementors to attack Potter and even attacks his owl, Hedwig. But, there's never a reason given as to why Umbridge is so strongly against Potter other than he may be a threat to her power. Surely, there is some deeper reasoning behind Umbridge's behavior.

- Like all the previous Harry Potter books, we are introduced to quite a few new characters, which is a good thing because it takes up time which otherwise would be spent on Harry being grouchy and/or Hermoine being an unbearable pest. Most of these characters are part of the titular Order of the Phoenix, which is a group put together to fight off Voldemort, although some of the members like Mundungus seem more interested in their own personal desires than fighting off Voldemort. The only one of these characters that were remotely interesting was the metamorph auror Tonks, and she only has a minor role in this book. The most fascinating new character is a fellow Hogwarts student named Luna Lovegood, who has a very different outlook on life than anyone else. It's actually somewhat refreshing to have someone with a different outlook on things for once, as Luna adds a new element to the story and is one of the few endearing characters in this story.

- Once again, Harry Potter and his Quidditch team (with Ron as goalie) takes on Draco Malfoy and his team and once again, Harry gets the better of Draco by catching the snitch first. Shouldn't somebody point out how bad Draco is at Quidditch the next time he insults Harry or the Weasleys or whoever? In fact, Draco is seemingly more inept than ever, as the only time he can seem to do anything right is when Umbridge tells him what to do. You would think that with Draco's lack of success against Harry Potter, he would learn to lay low and not antagonize his rival as much as he does, but considering the events at the end, I don't foresee that happening.

- Also, once again, some unpleasant news or events happen to Harry Potter, and once again, the student body of Hogwarts turn their back on him nearly en masse. Of course, the story of Harry's narrow escape of Voldemort isn't really told until the middle of the book, but even so, considering how many times Harry and his pals have saved the school from certain doom, wouldn't you think they would cut him some slack? But no, the newspaper with a habit for sensationalizing stories is knocking Potter, so he must be a lying buffoon who is worse than Stalin. Yet once again, Harry is proven right, and only Seamus seems to be a big enough person to apologize.

Overall, this was by far the least enjoyable book in the Harry Potter series thus far. Most of the characters spent most of their time either yelling at each other or doing mind-numbingly stupid acts, the over reliance of Umbridge as Potter's new foil became rather tiresome, and there were quite a few plotholes in this book which I'm not going to spoil here, but still rather annoyed me. The book probably would have been better if it were at least 200 pages shorter, and the big revelation at the end was nothing that most readers probably didn't figure out after the first book. It wasn't a terrible book, but it wasn't all that good either. Overall, I'd give Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a 5.045 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments about this or previous posts, or ideas for future reviews or posts, than share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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