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    Review of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX by J. K. Rowling (see her website)


    Arther A. Levine, Scholastic, June 2003

    After another miserable summer, Harry Potter is briefly rescued by the Weaslys and his god-father, Sirius Black and then allowed to return to school at Hogwarts. Year five is a critical year--spent in preparation for Ordinary Wizard Level (O.W.L.) exams, but this year is worse than usual. The Ministry of Magic has decided that Harry's warnings about Voldemort are a self-indulgent attempt to attract attention and that Dumbledore has finally begun to crack with senility. A new Defense instructor, Professor Umbridge, is assigned not by Dumbledore but by the ministry itself. Umbridge quickly sets about reforming the school--with a special eye on Potter and his 'lies' about Voldemort. Worst of all, Harry's scar is acting up, signalling a greater connection between himself and Voldemort. The connection allows him to sense Voldemort's strong emotions--and sometimes to provide a warning to his friends, but the cost is incredible pain.

    At 15, Harry is no longer the sweet child we met in the early Potter books. He's angry about being forced to spend summers with the Dursleys, angry that no one believes his warnings about Voldemort, angry that Dumbledore spends so little time with him, and generally angry at the world. Even signs that Cho might be attracted to him don't overcome the anger--especially as he generally feels and acts like a clod when he's around her.

    Author J. K. Rowling (see more reviews of novels by Rowling) delivers the longest and most complex Harry Potter novel yet in ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. Harry's persistent anger makes the book a little hard to get into--but seems appropriate to Harry's age and situation. He is also treated with less of the adulation he was used to. The other characters, especially Ron and Hermione, also continue to mature and deepen--becoming more than sidekicks and actual heroic counterparts to Harry.

    ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is a transitional book--the danger that Voldemort represents is developed more fully, and Harry becomes less lucky and more aware of his own limitations, even as he becomes more powerful as a wizard. It is darker, not just in Potter's anger and pain, but also in the results for those around Harry--and those who try to help him. It is, however, highly satisfying, hard to put down, and an important addition to the Potter ouvre. Fans will definitely want to grab this one. Those new to Potter will probably want to start with one of the earlier novels in the series (listed below).

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 6/17/03

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