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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Guest Review: Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Reviewed by Achala Upendran)

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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Ah, now we come to it. The fifth book of the Potter series, the one that polarizes the fandom. You either love or hate Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I am of the former party; I love the fifth book, chiefly because of the Harry I met in its covers.

Order of the Phoenix gets off, I will admit, to a rather slow start. Contrary to what we might expect based on the close of Goblet of Fire (where Voldemort returned in his full glory), the wizarding world at large does not appear to be gearing up for war. Instead, Harry is spending his holidays as usual, cooped up in Privet Drive with his horrible aunt, uncle and cousin. To make matters worse, he hasn’t heard much from his best friends, Ron and Hermione.

Being Harry Potter of course, this state of affairs does not last long. A Dementor attack on Harry and his cousin results in Harry’s expulsion from Hogwarts and his subsequent remove from Privet Drive. He is spirited away by an elite group of witches and wizards, to the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. There, Harry meets many new faces, but also gets back in touch with some favourites from the past, including Professor Lupin and, of course, his godfather, Sirius Black.

The plot of Order of the Phoenix, so far as it can be said to exist, is relatively simple. The Dark Lord is back, but the Ministry of Magic does not seem ready to acknowledge it. In an attempt to quash Headmaster Dumbledore and Harry (who insist on parroting this inconvenient truth for all to hear), the Ministry sends its own spokesperson into Hogwarts in the guise of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher: Professor Dolores Umbridge. Professor Umbridge seems less concerned with teaching her students how defend themselves against ‘what’s out there’ and ensuring that they learn only those lessons she considers ‘suitable’. Needless to say, not all of these lessons are ones Harry and his friends can, or should, stomach.

So not only does the wizarding world at large consider Harry a liar and attention-seeker, but Harry’s dreams, spilling over from his fourth year, don’t seem to be giving him any rest. He appears to have a strange connection to Voldemort, seeing what the Dark Lord is up to, feeling surges of his emotions. And when the lines between himself and Voldemort start blurring, that’s when Harry knows he, and the people around him, cannot take distance from the Dark Lord as any indication of safety.

Why do I love this book, despite its rather tenuous plot-line? I love it precisely for that reason. Order of the Phoenix is propelled, not by a magical mystery, nor by a series of quests, but instead, by Harry himself. Harry Potter is finally growing up and growing away from the people around him, dealing with the emotional crises that come with being a hero. Whether the betrayal of a world that has, usually, shown him considerable support in his heroic endeavours and now chooses to paint him as a deranged liar, the sheer terror of being connected to a wizard as devious and evil as Voldemort or the relatively less dangerous but no less confusing muddles that come with teenage romance, Harry’s got a rough deal. And is he going to buckle down and take this all with his customary good nature?

Of course not. Harry is going to angst his way through Order of the Phoenix, and depending on your frame of mind, you will either love and sympathize with him, or find him a miserable, whiny teenage brat. For me, since I read this book at almost precisely Harry’s age (when it released I was just turning fourteen), I welcomed his teenage surliness. Others, however, disliked it.

I think it was an important step for Harry, however, and for Rowling to make him a difficult-to-like figure in this book. Here she shows us that Harry is really, really not perfect, nor is he in any way ready to be the saviour the wizarding world seems to implicitly expect him to be. The moment he acts in a manner that does not accord with the pretty fiction the authorities condone, he is ridiculed and punished. When he buckles to pressures that no fifteen-year-old should have to face, he, quite understandably, goes into what fans have dubbed his ‘Capslock mode’, yelling at people he would once have unquestioningly followed. Rowling reminds her readers that Harry is, for all his magic and heroism, a teenager and thus makes him a more human hero than many fantasy authors have managed to craft.

And that, really, is what makes Order Of The Phoenix my favourite book of them all.


GUEST REVIEWER INFO: Achala Upendran is a freelance editor and writer based in India. She blogs about fantasy literature, with a special focus on the Harry Potter series, at Where the Dog Star rages. You can also follow her on Twitter at @AchalaUpendran

Achala will be reviewing all of the seven Harry Potter books, so enjoy her thoughts as she brings a special focus on the series, characters and world that have enchanted so many of us.


canciones de Goku said...

I like harry Potter. I read everythings... jeje.


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