on May 6, 2004
"The Order of the Phoenix" is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series, and centres mostly on Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. Orphaned when an evil wizard called Voldemort killed his parents, the attack left a strange lightning-shaped scar on Harry's forehead. Voldemort disappeared for many years after that attack, and Harry - although he didn't know it - became something of a celebrity in the magical community. Since the age of 11, Harry has been attending Hogwarts, a very prestigious school for training young witches and wizards. Unfortunately, since then it has become apparent that Voldemort's disappearance was only temporary, and his desire to kill Harry has not lessened.
It proves to be a particularly tough year for him, both academically and personally. In fifth year, Hogwarts students take their OWLs - wizard's exams - so his workload has increased dramatically. Also, after the events outlined in "The Goblet of Fire", both Harry and Dumbledore are being viewed with scorn by the Ministry of Magic and the Daily Prophet. Neither organisation is willing to believe that Voldemort is back, fully recovered - and seem determined to discredit both Dumbledore and Harry. In fact, it is said that any Ministry employee is in league with Dumbledore will be fired immediately.
Luckily, there are those who know better. The Order of the Phoenix is a secret society formed by Dumbledore, consisting of people who had fought Voldemort previously. Several of its members have appeared in previous books, and include Mr and Mrs Weasley, Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, Mad Eye Mooney and Severus Snape. Unfortunately, they seem determined to tell Harry and his friends as little as possible about their plans and what Voldemort is up to. The Order's headquarters are at 12 Grimmauld Place, the ancestral home of the Blacks. Like Harry, Sirius is having difficulty coping with the situation. As an Azkaban escapee, he can't leave the house in case he is spotted - even though he'd much prefer to be offering more practical help.
There have been a couple of changes at Hogwarts also. Almost inevitably, there's a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge. A thoroughly obnoxious woman, she is also Senior Under-Secretary to the Minister of Magic. In a speech she makes after the sorting of the first years, she basically admits she is there to interfere with the running of Hogwarts. As the year progresses, she proves true to her word - additionally her teaching is woefully inadequate. Another new teacher introduced at the start of the school year is Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be teaching Care of Magical Creatures - previously taught be Hagrid. Hagrid, of course, had been sent on a secret mission by Dumbledore at the end of the previous school year.
As with the previous instalment, "The Goblet of Fire", this is a very long and very enjoyable addition to the series. It's very easily read and will be enjoyed by both children and adults. However, before reading this book, I'd suggest reading "The Goblet of Fire" at the very least. Much of what happens there has a direct impact on the events of this book. Ideally, though, I'd recommend reading all the books in order - there are all very enjoyable!
on August 14, 2003
I consider myself an authority on Harry Potter, since I have listened to each book at least 4 times, and am not bored yet. I put a tape in my walkman while I do household chores. It really helps. J.K. Rowling's writing PULLS you in and won't let you go. I have the entire collection (thus far) on tape, which is read by Jim Dale. The different voices that he uses are so dead on for the characters. I can start a tape at any point and know exactly who is speaking! I had to listen to Book 5 twice, as it was full of little clues along the way that I did not want to miss. Even so, I could not predict the ending. Each character is SO WELL developed that there can be a countless number of spinoffs from the Harry Potter series. My only problem with Book 5 was the lack of description on a romantic situation. By comparison, a gruesome situation in Book 4, was more visual than I would have liked. That aside, Book 5 made me cry. I have become so close to the characters because in J. K. Rowling's writing, we can all see a part of ourselves or others that we know. I really felt their joys and pains, as they reminded me of my own.
on July 20, 2003
I enjoyed this book like the others. I once read that in making movies, every scene should advance the plot. What I like about this books is that as elements are introduced, some of which seem unrelated or unimportant to the plot, they are always re-introduced into the plot later. This is true even with material from earlier books, and so, for instance, one of the teachers who seems worthless and pointless in the earlier books, ends up having a huge role in the history of Harry's life and an important reason for being at Hogwarts.
It's been sad that this is this generations Star Wars. I (and I'm 38) think it's better then Star Wars, because it has a consistant quality throughout the books that the Star Wars movies lost after the 2nd movie.
On the negative side, people have said that Harry was angry in these books and didn't like it. I felt differently. What I didnn't like though was that he did seem increadibly irresponsible. A major character made a huge sacrafice for Harry in the middle or this book in order to get Harry to do something. Harry didn't do it and it resulted in the death of another character. Although there were some explanations for this, I found it hard to respect Harry for being so irresponsible. Towards the end, Dumbledor (don't know the spelling as I get the audio tapes!) takes responsibility for this, but I think Harry is mainly responsible and it influenced my enjoyment of the book and my respect for Harry. To continue the Star Wars comparision, this book is somewhat like Empire Strikes back in that way, with the main character not keeping his responsibilities and faultering. But in Empire, Luke did it to save his friends (over his larger responsibilities) , here Harry faulters in a way that betrays the sacrafice of a friend and results in the death of another.
on July 13, 2003
This review is STRICTLY a critique of the audio performance of Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix, performed by Jim Dale. (Four word critique of book: Joanne Kathleen Rowling ROCKS! That is all.)
I've collected all of the audio recordings of the Harry Potter books, and up to now I've loved every one of Jim Dale's readings of the first three books. Starting with Goblet of Fire, however, with so many voices to keep track of, I've started to notice some inconsistencies in the voicings of certain characters (compare Dobby in the COS recording with Dobby in GOF and OoTP, for example). Also, in my opinion, some of the more dramatic parts of the books seem to lose some of the urgency when he reads it. It could be because he has to read somewhat for accuracy, and slower reading can sometimes take the steam out of "scenes" that happen much faster or have a more urgent/emotional tone. As a reader (and a fast one, at that!) I can hear and dramatize what's happening in the books to my liking, rather than let someone else interpret the voice inflections and emotional tones for me, so I qualify this observation by saying that it is completely subjective to my own personal tastes.
Having said this, Jim Dale's reading/performance still has the magic touch. Still soothing, still spot-on with most of the important voices, still great with most scenes in the story. Again I note some voicing inconsistencies, but to be fair there has to be at least a gaggle of voices to keep track of all at once (over 130, I think, has been reported). With that in mind, Mr. Dale's reading is a towering achievement.
In summary, if you've collected all of the audio recordings thus far, I wouldn't stop now--Jim's on a roll! If you've never purchased any of the Harry Potter audio books and are wondering what kind of quality you will be in for when purchasing this set (whether CD or Cassette), listen to the audio clip here on Amazon.com. You're in for a real treat.
on July 3, 2003
... What makes Harry a great character is that he is very deep and certainly not perfect. So what if he spent the most of the book brooding over his problems? Thats 15 year olds do. He's going through [stuff] that you can't even imagine, and he has all the right in the world to be upset about it. Personally, I like it that he has become darker, it makes him more real to me. Now I can actually relate to him, insted of him annoying me with his foolish shows of unnessary nobility. Anyway, back to the review. I thought that Ootp was outstanding. The pages flew by at a remarkable rate. The action scenes were well written, keeping my eyes glued to the pages, and the character development far surpassed any of the previously installments. I felt Harry's pain. However, I have to say it wasn't quite as good as POA or GOF because it lacked the incredible plot twists that those books possessed. Everything was pretty straightforward. But despite this minor complaint, this was an excellent book that does a great job of moving the series along, and causing me to salivate over the next installment. (Hopefully it comes within 3 years).
on June 25, 2003
I think the entire Harry Potter series is PHENOMENAL. I think we're all lucky to be alive as these books are coming out. They're a part of history now. About the fifth book in the series, "The Order of the Phoenix." First, lets talk weaknesses. I thought the book was a huge bummer. It literally got me down a little bit. There's so much negativity. Also, I thought that there were a little less of the part of the book that happens to be my favorite, and that is the magic itself, as far as cool things...it seems like in each book we learn about a new kind of food, or a new kind of magical gadget, and it just didn't happen as much in this one. I didn't think it was nearly as scary as the last one, probably because Harry wasn't alone. It did not sadden me to see the character that dies die.
Strengths: This book is kind of a transitional book, gearing us up for years 6 and 7. They're going to be the best two, I can tell already (warning: skip this sentence if you haven't read the book!!!) I REALLY like the fact that Harry and Cho are no more. I'd like to see him with a character that isn't so flat. And whiny! Besides, it isn't his time yet. Maybe next year.
The depth of Ginny Weasley surprised me, and she sounds older than she is, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I missed Dumbledore.
The book isn't the best in the series, but will be the one that ties the "child Harry" books with the "of age" Harry books.
on June 24, 2003
Expecting the local bookshop shelves to be completely bare, I was very suprised to find this book easily available only an hour after its release. However, it was on special, so I grabbed it, took it home and started reading. Two days later I was done, it was that compelling.
I found Harry to be slightly less likable in this book, although I could understand the reasons for his changes in character. Possibly a small complaint is that Hermione and Ron have hardly changed at all since they were 11, while Harry has become a full blown angst ridden teenager. This is handled quite well, although his moping does grate after a while.
The series is maturing, presumably apace with the readers. There are some themes here that weren't even hinted at in earlier books, and the suggestion that its going to get darker and more mature still. I found the experience of reading the book as a whole slightly depressing, similar in a way to some of Harrys experiences at Hogwarts, which he describes as 'Odd notes in a familiar tune' (I forget the exact quote). We're used to the routine of the books by now, and it's slightly altered in this one, which is disconcerting. This is not necessarly a bad thing, and I'm still greatly looking forward to the next in the series.
It's not all doom and gloom however. Theres a few laugh out loud moments, mostly involving the Weasly twins, which I won't divulge.
All in all, greatly recommended, with a little bit of excessive wordiness stopping it from being a perfect 5...looking forward to book number 6.
on June 24, 2003
Now I know, at least I think I know, why J.K. Rowling seemed to agonize so much over this book before she allowed it to be released. In this story, Harry Potter has become a full-blown teenager and while reading the book I felt like I was going through that wonderful, dreadful period of my life all over again. For Rowling to pull off this portrayal so wonderfully is truly a testament to her abilities as a story teller. The story in itself is more mature than any of the previous four books, dealing with themes of love, death, and human fraility in a very unflinching way. I really enjoyed the story and am hesitant to say much about the plot for fear of denying someone else the full pleasure of reading the book. The only disappointment I had was the big secret, hinted at in the press releases leading up to the sale of the book, wasn't really all that major and something that I pretty much figured out before I had even started reading the fifth book. However, Rowling does add some much appreciated spice to it. All in all, a wonderful book and I look forward to more in the future.
on June 24, 2003
Through most of this book, I could not put the book down. I enjoyed watching Harry grow up a little bit as he continued in his journey to fulfilling his destiny. Even if he spent the first half of it being a big jerk to nearly everybody he (and we) cared about. But, it was a good reminder that, yes, he is human. And a teenager.
It was also nice to see some questions finally answered... and I eagerly await the next edition as the war continues between him and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
The only reasons I knocked it shy of 5 stars was that I didn't think this was the best of the series. Book 4 (or at least the second half of it) was a lot better. Also, there were a lot of errors in the book, but that probably occured because of the great lengths JK Rowling took in keeping the story a secret. Though I should consider giving her back that star for how well she DID keep it a secret (I was surprised that I hadn't found an illegal copy of it on the Internet before release date). There were also a few bits of the book that seemed to drag for some unimportant reasons, which might have more relevancy in future books for all I know. If it were an option, this book would really deserve 4.49 stars, but I rounded it off.
One thing I did notice while reading this book, it did remind me of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. The many similarities between these two books are astounding. D.A. could easily have stood for Dragon Army.
Looking forward to Harry Potter 6!
on June 24, 2003
Oh I think I might be the first person to review this book. Any way.
Like The Goblet of Fire and.. actually like most of the books, a great deal of the beginning of the book is during summer vacation. Things become fishy when Harry and Dudley are attacked by dementors right there in Little Whinging. A bunch of stuff follows, involving a hearing and Harry having to live at the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, a group of witchs and wizards against Voldemort. Any more would be revealing the plot and I know that that was a horrible synopsis, but if a synopsis is what you want, then read the editorial reviews.
The book has the same quality that makes you not want to stop reading until you get to the very last page. And when you get there, its hard to tell if you were cheated or not. 850 pages and a lot less plot twists than Goblet of Fire. But even then, there are a lot of moments worth savoring. For example:
Ron is on the quidditch team?
What's up with Harry and Cho?
Who's the crazy new Defense against the Dark arts teacher?
I personally thought that the highlight of the book was The D.A., otherwise known as Dumbledore's Army. Formed as a 'screw you movement' against the tyrannical Professor Umbridge.
My main problem with this book and the series in general is the close mindedness it displays. The whole moral backdrop is gryffindor=too cool for school heroes. Dumbledore was one. Harry is one and he's cooler than you. Slytherin= Bad, incredibly weird looking people. Stupid, ugly followers of Voldemort. Harry=Hero Everyone else= bystander
Of course, it isn't all as cut and dried as that, but that's the gist of it. I find it hard to believe that death eaters (Voldemort's followers) are never from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. They are from Slytherin. Harry too, must always be the hero, a theme that is explored in the book. Knowing that even when Harry rages and pities himself in the beginning of the book, he will bounce back with the incentive of pretty, shiny heroicness.
And that is why I gave the book four stars instead of five. It shouldn't get five just for being Harry.