Word of the Day: Navel!
Every book has a word or phrase that J.K. Rowling uses way too many times. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the word is Navel! Used about nine times. Runner-up goes to Curtly, which was used seven or eight times.
In my last review, I started by saying, “This book started off with so much promise, but ended up becoming almost as messy as Chamber of Secrets.” Well, I have a nearly identical statement to make for this book, and I’m really not happy about it.
This book started off with so much promise, but ended up having one of the weakest middle sections of any of the books. Luckily it had a good recovery. (That’s what I call the part after the climax. The actual climax was meh.)
So, while Goblet of Fire had absolutely garbage pacing, and felt like two or three books mixed together, Order of the Phoenix is better. Here we go.
It seems that ever since the Quiddich game at the beginning of Goblet of Fire, Rowling has been adding more and more things for Harry to do or deal with before he actually reaches Hogwarts. This time around, it’s really far more exciting than a Quiddich match followed by Death Eaters and a dark mark.
This time, Harry and his cousin Dudley get attacked by Dementors! Harry uses the patronus charm and drives them off. Well, if you remember, he got his final warning not to use magic outside of Hogwarts in Chamber of Secrets, and so now he’s facing expulsion.
Before we get to that, I’m going to talk about the changes in Harry Potter as a character.
I was so happy that Harry started to show some teenage angst. As a young man myself, I completely relate to this, being angry at everything as a teenager? You bet that’s how it is. Especially when your guardians are the Dursleys! Sadly, later on in the book anger becomes less of a teenage issue and more of a character trait. Harry is just angry 26/8, all the time, to his friends and enemies alike. It’s… well it’s a great way to ruin a good thing. You can almost say that that’s the theme of the book, ruining great things.
So, another great thing about this amazing beginning is that Harry finally has a chance to be frank with the Dursleys. The Dursleys have been showing their human side more and more since book one, and this is probably the greatest example of that. Harry explains about how he’s in trouble for casting magic, what a dementor is, that they guard Azkaban, and so on. Petunia Dursley also receives a howler about keeping Harry around even though he’s being so angsty, which is interesting, and elaborated on later.
So, Harry gets picked up by a few members of the Order of the Phoenix and brought to their hideout, which is Sirius Black’s house. On the way, J.K. tries, and fails, to pull a Bleach. That is, she introduces a lot of characters at once that will be around in the future. They are, Lupin, Moody, Tonks, Sirius, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and Kreature. The only real issue here is that doing that is a lot harder when you’re not using a visual medium.
Anyway, when he gets there, Ron and Hermoine fill him in on what they know about what’s going on and what the order is, which is almost nothing. Luckily Fred and George are amazing and they have developed extendible ears with which to spy. Mrs. Weasley had taken these devices from them, but of course they had extra, as, and I quote from my notes here, “YOU CANNOT STOP FRED AND GEORGE.” They’re probably the most driven characters in the series. I mean, Mrs. Weasley and the entire faculty of Hogwarts are probably more difficult enemies than whatever Voldemort has had to face, so that’s that.
Well, Harry Potter uses the only emotions he’s allowed to in this book, and gets angry. Lupin decides that they might as well fill him in, and so he and Sirius do so. Mrs. Weasley gets really angry about this. In fact, it seems she too only has one emotion in this book, and that’s the unending compulsion to nag for no good reason. Undoubtedly she is the most irritating character in this book, and to make matters worse, she’s given almost no redeeming qualities.
They think Voldemort is after some sort of weapon. That’s basically it.
So, finally, it’s time to go to Hogwarts.
Oh right, Ron and Hermoine are prefects now, so they have to sit in the prefect car and oversee people. Now, I actually really liked what happened here. Harry is separated from his normal friends, giving him and the reader a chance to explore a few other characters, namely Ginny, Neville, and Luna Lovegood.
Luna Lovegood is tied with Sirius Black and old Lupin (I can’t be the only one who noticed him get boring after leaving Hogwarts!) as my favourite character.
Needless to say, she’s my favourite Hogwarts student, and in the span of only one book! I hope she gets more screen time in later entries. Anyway, Loony Luna Lovegood is a girl Ginny’s age. She’s one of those characters that seems odd, or even a bit crazy, but behind it all has a very wise attitude. Luna is probably, no, Luna is the most mature student that we encounter.
I’ve only been inspired to draw two characters, Lupin and Luna. Having yet to read the last two books, I’ll state that Luna is currently my favourite ship for Harry. I mean, Cho is of little value, Ginny has potential, but they haven’t really hung out properly since… the Chamber of secrets, and Hermione… Well I think she’s going to end up with Ron. However, in the last couple books (including this) Harry and Hermione have grown rather close, spending a lot of time together without Ron.
Speculation aside, Luna and Harry have some very interesting synergy. They relate to each other, and have some of Harry’s deepest conversations outside the infodumps we get from Dumbledore. At the beginning, she reassures him about Thestrals. At the end, she gives him solace about the veil. Harry and Luna have really only had two one-on-one conversations, but she’s brought more to the table than most other characters. And in only one book.
I hope to see more of this strange young woman.
This time around, the sorting hat gives a warning against division. Awesome, I always thought that it was odd that the houses divided the students. Division is one of the greatest weakness of humans after all, why cut the lines even deeper?
I have a quote written down with no context, but I think it’s about Harry’s dreams or about Umbridge.
She said, “It’s best to know what the enemy is saying.” And I simply wrote after it, Hermione needs more power.
I wonder if she becomes head girl, or maybe even future headmaster of Hogwarts?
Anyway, additionally, some problems were addressed, so that was good. Sadly, they aren’t solved, just pointed out, but is sure is a start! I believe in you J.K.! So, first it’s Harry’s anger. He starts to get backlash from his friends about him raging at them for no reason. The second is Ron and Hermione arguing. Harry begins to tell them off about it. We’ll see how it goes in later books.
Also, Harry gets bonus points for actually standing up to Malfoy. Finally.
Professor Umbridge is probably the worst thing about this book. Here’s the problem. She’s awful and oppressive, but aside from her detentions, there’s nothing really there to make me hate her, to make me want her to get hurt. In trouble? Yes! But hurt or attacked by centaurs? Not really. That scene actually felt a bit awkward.
Harry Potter and the Deus Ex Room
Have a problem Harry? Don’t worry! J.K. will get you out of any problem. Need to sneak around the halls late at night to move the plot forward and overhear stuff? Here’s an invisibility cloak. Need to make sure no one catches you, and that you can find all the secret passages in Hogwarts? No problem! Here’s the Marauder’s Map! Need a place to practice defence against? Don’t worry! J.K. will send Dobby to answer all of your troubles!
Damn, this room of convenience! Why not have the characters actually solve their damn problems? Why feed them with solutions to problems you didn’t have the forethought to figure out a real answer to? Gahh!!
My Poor Nerves!
So, under the tyranny of Umbridge, Harry’s options for help being snuffed out one by one (letters then floo network), and he won’t talk to Dumbledore, and we get the creeping suspicion that Voldemort might be messing with his dreams. Worse, he skips out on his Occlumency lessons with Snape.
It was about halfway through the Order of the Phoenix that the story began to stress me out. I got that feeling you get in your heart, like something’s stuck there. I call it dark adrenaline, but I’m certain it’s actually a form of anxiety.
Look, I get that a book making you feel emotion is a good thing, but I don’t really want to feel like garbage, and I’m sure Harry Potter feels the same. Can we chill out with all this oppression Rowling? It’s like the awful first third of Chamber of Secrets all over again! Tell Umbridge to chill!
“His life had seemed to become a long series of worries and problems”
– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
That’s a direct quote from the book.
Oh yeah, and it gets even worse when Harry starts to think he’s the weapon Voldemort wants. When he starts to think that he’s the enemy. Thankfully, this awful arc gets left behind as the climax winds up.
Cho’s romantic arc was fairly typical. Not sure why she kissed him, but I know a cop-out when I see one, and Rowling not describing the kiss as it happened, instead doing it through recollection was a clear dodge.
So, it turns out the whole reason we haven’t seen more of Cho’s character is because there isn’t any more. She’s just a girl who is pretty and dates important boys. That’s it!
For whatever reason (to string the plot along I’m sure), Harry Potter doesn’t want to tell Dumbledore about his dreams, or his scar’s pains or anything. No important information regarding Voldi is to reach Dumbledore’s ears!
Further on stringing the plot along, not being able to talk to Sirius really inhibited plot progression. It’s probably one of the many reasons this novel is so damn artificially long.
Overall, everyone acts in an irritatingly predictable way except for Sirius Black and Dumbledore.
Also, because of the Bleach that was pulled, I can’t keep track of names. I’ve finished the book and I still don’t know who Sturges or Bode are. Like, at all.
Occlumency with Severus
So, Harry doesn’t study and doesn’t improve, despite Dumbledore and Sirius telling him it’s immensely important. Go figure. Worse, Snape actually ends lessons when he finds Harry in the pensive watching his darkest memories, a memory of Snape being bullied by Harry’s father.
I got excited. I thought they were going to have some sort of awkward heart to heart, and finally realize how similar they were to each other. For Snape to see Harry as Harry, and not his bullying, smug father.
It didn’t happen, but there are still two more books. I’m watching you Rowling. You better give Snape his liberation. He clearly deserves it. Dumbledore trusts him, will Harry?
This Book Starts at Chapter Twenty-Seven
Luckily the beginning was so good.
Also, props to Fred and George. They decided they were done with school, and went balls to the walls with pranks against Umbridge. They exited after turning a section of the school into a swamp. Those two are amazing.
I’m not sure why, but that’s in my notes. So, go Luna?
Also, yeah that point on poor Ron. Let’s talk about poor Ron, shall we?
Ronald Weasley is not a Main Character.
What did Ron do in Order of the Phoenix? I’ll wait.
Yeah, I couldn’t think of anything either. Poor Ron! He’s been through four books, and each one he becomes less and less important. The last time he’s been useful for a climax was Chamber of Secrets, and that wasn’t even the main climax.
Hermione is now taking up his tasks. The only main characters in this book are Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Albus Dumbledore. Ron is a side character now, and it sucks. I liked Ron a lot. I hope we see him reinstated as a real character in the next two books!
Was pointless. They went in to save Sirius, who wasn’t in trouble. This wouldn’t be a bad thing really, but the problem is that if your climax is a mistake then the characters aren’t fighting for anything! That’s a really good formula for a really bad climax.
Worse, the death of one of my favourite characters made no sense, and is only vaguely explained by Lovegood (bless her soul).
The Redemption of the Phoenix
After the climax, Harry has a long, hard talk with Dumbledore. This talk explains a lot, and was well executed. It’s not an infodump, it’s just well performed exposition. It made me feel a whole lot better about this book.
And then, on the way back home, Lune Lovegood explains the veil that killed Harry’s friend during the climax. At least, she tries. She empathizes.
- RIP Ron
- RIP (spoilers)
- Will Harry ever calm down?
- Will Molly ever stop nagging?
- Kreature is a troll.
- Snape won’t teach Harry
- Causes stress and anxiety
- Climax was weak
- Luna Lovegood was introduced
So, as you can see, the pros outweigh the cons, so this book is getting more than 50/100. I’ll give it a 64, which Incidentally is one point more than Chamber of Secrets.
I’m a little ways into Half-Blooded Prince. So far it’s good, but Order of the Phoenix started strong too, so I’m wary. I honestly hope that it stays this good.
You can find all the reviews at the Harry Potter Table of Contents.
Till next time,
Interested in getting the book yourself? You can buy it here, Order of the Phoenix (Amazon Affiliate Link)