Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5), by J.K. Rowling

Nine stars

The Harry Potter experience has little time for rest and relaxation, with this fifth book in the series. Things take a significant turn towards the dark and eerie, yet the story remains captivating as magic politics takes centre stage. What began with a boy wizard has become a fight for survival with the evil Voldemort appearing in strange and mysterious ways throughout the piece, even as many deny his presence. The reader will have to pay close attention to connect with all the plotlines that J.K. Rowling offers, though the dedication does not go unrewarded. Rowling surely has outdone herself here as readers push into what might be called the ‘maturation’ of the series, no longer short books that rely solely on humour. Perfect for those who want something more adventurous and without the guarantee of a happy ending!

Harry has again been forced into a state of boredom all summer long. Still stuck living with the Dursleys, Harry must bide his time and hope the days pass quickly before it’s time to return to Hogwarts. While out one evening, Harry and his cousin, Dudley, are set upon by Dementors. Harry does the only thing he can think to do and accesses his magical capabilities, in direct violation of Ministry of Magic regulations. Harry is forced to attend a disciplinary hearing when his actions are made known, one that could cost him a spot at Hogwarts during his important Fifth Year!

After an intense process, Harry is exonerated, but not before he learns of a secret society, the Order of the Phoenix. Created by his headmaster, Dumbledore, the Order is currently housed in the home of Sirius Black, who remains wanted by the Ministry. Harry’s eyes are opened to the inner workings of wizardry and the politics that keeps the Ministry of Magic at arm’s length.

Harry’s return to Hogwarts brings a great deal of change. Not only is it Fifth Year, but the OWL exams await students, a set of tests that help streamline further educational and career aspirations. Plus, a new professor has joined the faculty, Delores Umbridge, who has strong ties to the Ministry. While Ron and Hermione are eager to see what the year brings, an ominous cloud hangs over Harry, not to mention the constant ache of his forehead scar.

While Harry tells anyone who will listen that he had a run-in with Voldemort, many follow the Ministry line and deny that it happened, choosing to consider that Harry and Dumbledore are mad and seeking to steal the limelight. Leading the denials is Delores Umbridge, who does all in her power to break Harry down in secretive and destructive ways. The reader discovers the pains Harry must endure at the hands of Umbridge, who appears to be power hungry herself.

As the Ministry of Magic seeks to put Hogwarts in its place, they nominate Professor Umbridge as High Inquisitor, allowing her to vet and remove any on the teaching faculty deemed out of line. Umbridge is also given the iron fist to bring the students in line, putting Harry in her crosshairs from Day One. Harry and Umbridge clash repeatedly, which eventually leads to a monumental decision that could ruin Fifth Year.

Through a series of secret communications, Harry tries to explain himself to Sirius, who offers support but cannot come to the aid of his godson as effectively as he would like. Harry does the only thing he can do, rallying students who feel the squeeze of the High Inquisitor. The creation of Dumbledore’s Army is a protest movement that will pit Harry against the Ministry in a standoff like no other. Things go so far that one senior member of Hogwarts will have to pay the price.

As the OWLs approach, Harry must juggle his studies, his ongoing romantic interest in one of his fellow students, and a series of dark dreams that he cannot fully comprehend. He receives help from a completely unexpected source to help block his mind from the powers that Voldemort appears to be trying to push. The scar aches repeatedly, which can only mean that evil awaits, though no one is entirely sure when or how!

As Umbridge takes further control at Hogwarts, it is an epic battle over the future of the institution, as well as a clash of good versus evil. Harry and Voldemort are destined to collide, which could end badly for everyone. With Hogwarts in shambles, Harry can only hope that he will be able to wrest control back to the good side, or face likely expulsion for good. Then again, if he’s dead, school won’t matter at all!

J.K. Rowling offers her readers, young and old alike, a story full of excitement and thrills on every page. As usual, there are nuances that appeal to various reading levels, making the story highly intriguing.

Harry Potter retains the protagonist role, always maturing and finding new way to show this to the attentive reader. There are moments of significant backstory to offer, should the reader be paying close attention between the action-filled narrative in the present. Rowling again addresses the scar and its symbolism, providing more for the reader who has surely come with more questions. The reader gets another look at the personal side of Harry’s life, talking about his romantic interests as a more regular concern. Balancing that with an important school year provides needed depth for Harry’s character. With added struggles related to Voldemort, Harry proves to be one character who refuses to turn stagnant. The reader also sees the morose side of Harry Potter, especially in the final section of the novel.

Rowling continues providing strong supporting characters for her readers, both individuals present throughout the entire series and those whose one-off status was specifically designed for this novel. The ever-evolving aspect of the story permits Rowling to add new perspectives to Hogwarts and focus on an ever-growing group of humans and creatures alike. There is some development in a handful of the characters, which helps contrast alongside the advancements that Harry makes and permits readers to see growth in their favourites.

This was another of the ‘truly complex novels’, books that exceed the basics of what I would expect Neo might want to handle. However, he has been devouring them with relative ease. This was the longer of all the books, but it needed every pages to hash out some of the more complicated plot lines that could not have effectively been divided over a few novels. I can only hope that this does/did not scare some readers away, as there is such an attachment to a number of the characters that can develop for the dedicated and attentive reader.

The book uses a strong narrative to push it along and leaves the reader wanting more with every chapter. Much is revealed in relation of the Ministry of Magic and some of its more nefarious plans, as well as the darker side of the Potter-Voldemort clashes. Both of these appear to be essential to understanding the larger story arc that Rowling injects into the narrative. I can see many of the truths unveiled in this book are to be important parts as the series progresses, so I am trying to stay alert. Longer chapters help build a deeper story and entertaining the eager reader. I cannot wait to see what awaits me in the final few novels, as Harry surely is not done learning about himself, his family, and his role in the larger Hogwarts/Ministry struggles.

Kudos, Madam Rowling, another stellar piece of writing. I cannot wait to see what else you have for your reading fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons