Sunday, February 27, 2011

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives..."

Well, folks, I did it! I finished the Order of the Phoenix and I am ready to move on to the next lovely read.

Getting through this book was quite the challenge for me and I nearly let it get the best of me. After  reading number four, The Goblet of Fire, I think I went into the fifth installment expecting a fair amount of suspense as the Dark Lord returns and the second war begins. The Goblet of Fire packed a pretty amazing punch--Voldemort has a body full enough to come back into power and he and Harry come face to face, full being to (almost-) full being for the first time! In The Order of the Phoenix, Rowling saves much of the action for Harry's haunted dreams, an unexpected Dementor attack, and a battle between Dumbledore's Army, the Order of the Phoenix, and Voldemort and his faithful Death Eaters (Disclaimer: the latter battle was brilliant, but I had to wait until the 34th Chapter to experience it!). The tension at Hogwarts as Cornelius Fudge and his minions, led by the sly, quietly-maniacal Delores Umbridge, is fairly predictable, but all in all it makes for a sufficient amount of conflict that keeps the reader interested.

What I admired about the first four books of the series were Rowling's unique and unexpected characters, and the Order of the Phoenix is no exception. Delores Umbridge is absolutely infuriating with her decrees and zero tolerance for students who think independently and desire to become skilled witches and wizards; Fudge runs a close second with his insistent denial of the Dark Lord's return and his strong beliefs that Dumbledore is plotting to take over the Ministry of Magic. I also enjoyed the back stories Rowling supplies for Sirius, James Potter, Snape, and Harry. She has a knack for bringing in small details of each character's personal story and weaving pieces of them together at just the right moments in the storyline.

I read of an interview that Rowling did where she admitted regretting the immensity of the fifth book and told the interviewer she wished she had spent more time editing the manuscript. There are many sub-plots being told throughout the story (which is not unusual for a novel in a series), but many of them add little to the main storyline (the storyline readers ultimately want to develop in front of their very eyes). Overall, I think the book was still enjoyable, and I think that kids might have a little more patience with the downtime in between battles and suspenseful chapters. It is undeniable that the thrill of magic, fantasy, mythical creatures and evil villains is enough to keep the reader enthusiastic to turn the page and see what sort of challenge Harry and his comrades face next.

On a side note, I will not be moving on to HP6 right away; I'm making a detour through some other YA fiction and some rockin' picture books first. Thanks for sticking around, and as always, thanks for reading :)

3Q: Original, fun storyline that stays true to the first 4 books in the series; interesting themes, plot, and characters that would be easy to teach from in a classroom setting; entire story could use some paring down to keep certain sub-plots from becoming too "played" or boring.
5P: We all know this book is still flying off the shelves. Children and Young Adults LOVE the magical Wizarding world of Hogwarts!

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