Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: J.K. Rowing, June 13—June 23, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
There’s more Potter for your pound in this, the longest instalment of the Harry Potter series. The fifth book introduces the Order of The Phoenix, a resistance to Voldermort that reforms in view of the Dark Lord’s return.
At Hogwarts, things get extremely interesting with the arrival of Delores Umbridge as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, at the Minister of Magic’s behest. Political interference is rife and it falls to Harry to lead a secret resistance of his own. It’s an absolutely delicious development, and painful to watch Dumbledore and Hogwarts be stripped to its core by the usurper. Her iron grip provokes reactions from all the major players true to their natures and every new change is more shocking, more loaded and more game-changing than the last.
Many of the series’ arcs continue on a micro- and macro-level, from Sirius’ continued fugitive status, now at the Order, to Harry’s romance with Cho Chang. But it is Rowling’s ability to expand the universe with each book that gives context and grounding. We are treated to multiple trips to the Ministry of Magic itself, as well as St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries (holla Gilderoy!), while the Daily Prophet and women’s magazine The Quibbler play an increasing role.
Snape’s greater role is an absolute gift. He’s a standout of the series and comes into his own here, basking in the ambiguity of his actions. His backstory is explored, contextualising in part his bitter animosity towards Black and Potter, and his present-day malevolence is tantalising with every appearance, and even mention.
The totality of Phoenix has humour and heartbreak. It’s a thrilling ride, for sure, but the story is less complex than Goblet despite its longer running time. Though it’s so easy to remain in Potter’s universe for as long as possible, the odd section drags a little and a trim here and there wouldn’t be unwelcome, especially around Hagrid’s storytelling.
The ante is upped yet again in Phoenix and Rowling’s world keeps on giving. Another phenomenal adventure, with brilliant character development combined with yet more unforgettable additions.