It was with some trepidation that I started reading ‘Order of the Phoenix’, the longest book in the Harry Potter series. Reading ‘The Goblet of Fire’ last year had been at times somewhat of a chore. That compounded with the fact that the film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was also my least favorite of the movies and Umbridge was a character I detested on a visual cutesy level.
Well…. ‘Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix’ is the best of the books so far and perhaps tops ‘The Philosopher’s Stone‘ on my favorite Harry Potter Book list. What the book has this time round is a clear sense of direction. Goblet of Fire clearly had problems which Rowling herself has admitted to, that so many questions and plot points had to be addressed at the end of The Goblet of Fire that parts of it had to be re-written due to plot holes and unanswered questions raised in the first 400 pages. Order of the Phoenix seems to me to be clearly planned out. The momentum of the book doesn’t falter quite like it’s predecessor and while there is the standard explanation by Dumbledore at the end of the book it’s not a bombardment of information but rather a culmination of plot points converging into one. The main focus is kept on Harry and his dreams, while Umbridge and school going ons are in the background. Neither storyline muddies the other too much.
As for Umbridge. What a nasty piece of work. Worse than Voldemort. Voldemort is the personification of evil, he is just a force of nature, pure and simple, but Umbridge is the worst kind of evil that’s ingrained in society, using evil for some ignorant sense of defense against forces which one deems to be a threat and thereby seeing themselves on the right side of justice. Dumbledore puts it well at the end saying that wizards have brought a lot on themselves through indifference and having abused their fellows they are now reaping the rewards.
As usual the greatest character Dumbledore is hardly in the book. When he is he totally pwns the pages, but there is a growing sense that keeping so many secrets from Harry is far more destructive than telling the truth which Dumbledore finally admits at the end of the book. He displays a mother’s intelligence and it’s no wonder why.
In comparison with the movie; Umbridge was turned into a more comedic character while the book got down to the nitty gritty parasites that were running through the ministry of magic making it a far darker and sinister story. The other problem with the movie is that the A and B stories aren’t so clear. Is Umbridge the focus of the film or is it Harry being taken over by Voldemort?
The ending of the book is fairly sombre and for all Harry has been through in Books 1-4 the 5th book is the most affecting. Take this scene where he stands alone by the lake near the end….. “an invisible barrier separated him from the rest of the world. he was – he had always been – a marked man.”
The Book departs from one world of fun and adventure into something darker and more adult with those lines and it’s almost as if it crosses age boundaries. Certainly the deeper allegory of Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic would be lost on younger readers.
Favorite Quote: “Youth cannot think how age thinks and feels. but old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young…” – Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore