Book review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (2003)

Poor Harry. It's a tough year, this one.

When he thinks the Ministry of Magic is going to expel him from Hogwarts for prohibited use of magic he is desperate to go back to school. When he gets there and discovers the dreadful Professor Umbridge he'd rather be somewhere else. And if he only had his OWLS to think about at school he might just about manage, but there's so much else going on.

And most of it is going on at a personal level. For a start, Harry suddenly seems to be the object of public contempt and derision in an attack spearheaded by the Daily Prophet newspaper. As we all know, what you read in a newspaper must be true, so most of the students at Hogwarts now doubt the truth of Harry's assertion that Voldemort is back. Professor Dumbledore doesn't seem to want to support Harry. In fact, Professor Dumbledore won't even look Harry in the eye any more. What has Harry done to offend the professor?

Mind you, Professor Dumbledore has problems of his own. The Daily Prophet is waging a bit of a personal war against him too, and worse, the Ministry of Magic seems to be critical of him. That's why the dreadful Professor Umbridge appears at Hogwarts. She is the Minister of Magic's right hand woman, and is also the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. As she relentlessly increases her power and influence at the school, Professor Dumbledore's authority apparently diminishes. Actually, with Professor Umbridge it is hard to say whether she is For or Against the Dark Arts:

Harry raised the sharp black quill, then realised what was missing.
'You haven't given me any ink,' he said.
'Oh, you won't need ink,' said Professor Umbridge, with the merest suggestion of a laugh in her voice.
Harry placed the point of the quill on the paper and wrote: I must not tell lies.
He let out a gasp of pain. The words had appeared on the parchment in what appeared to be shining red ink. At the same time, the words had appeared on the back of Harry's right hand, cut into his skin as though traced there by a scalpel - yet even as he stared at the shining cut, the skin healed over again, leaving the place where it had been slightly redder than before but quite smooth.
Harry looked round at Umbridge. She was watching him, her wide, toadlike mouth stretched in a smile.

And where are Harry's friends through all these trials? Well, Hagrid's not around and nobody seems to know where he is. That's a worry. Ron and Hermione are there, but they have been made prefects, and while Harry isn't exactly jealous, it takes a bit of an effort to be pleased for them. Then there's Cho Chang. Harry still goes a bit weak at the knees whenever she comes within range, but he is a bit of a novice when it comes to understanding girls:

But they're all on the same side when it comes to fighting You-Know-Who. Erm, at least, I think so:

The room was suddenly full of shouts of Expelliarmus. Wands flew in all directions; missed spells hit books on shelves and sent them flying into the air. Harry was too quick for Neville, whose wand went spinning out of his hand, hit the ceiling in a shower of sparks and landed with a clatter on top of a bookshelf, from which Harry retrieved it with a Summoning Charm. Glancing around, he thought he had been right to suggest they practise the basics first; there was a lot of shoddy spellwork going on; many people were not succeeding in Disarming their opponents at all, but merely causing them to jump backwards a few paces or wince as their feeble spell whooshed over them.

What can I read next?

If you haven't already met Harry Potter face to face, you should read book one first, just to get the lie of the land. After that, it doesn't really matter, but Harry does grow up!

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

If you enjoy Harry Potter, there is a new book by Diana Wynne Jones that you might like to look at:

And I still think one of the best magic books around at the moment is this one by Philip Reeve:

Or you could have a bit of fun with this one by Debi Gliori:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

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