As with the four previous Harry Potter titles, J.K. Rowling takes readers on a satisfying, stimulating excursion into her richly imagined world in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix . But much has changed in Book V. The usual over-the-top, comi-tragic scenes of Harry’s life at the Dursley’s that open the previous volumes are toned down here, replaced by more foreboding events. Harry’s usual delight when reunited with his Hogwarts friends is far less pronounced. It’s complicated by his self-righteous anger over a summer of isolation from the wizarding world at a time when Lord Voldemort has risen and much is at stake. That anger possesses Harry on and off throughout the novel. It is one of the ways Rowling is addressing the transition of her main character from courageous, open-hearted boy to a young man weighed down by all he has seen. Harry is also struggling, like many adolescents, to adjust to changes that he doesn’t always understand in his relationships with friends and mentors. The truth is that teenagers aren’t always easy to be around, and Harry embodies that truth, his overwrought emotions seemingly justified one minute, self-centered the next. But while Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is certainly less lighthearted than the overall tone of its predecessors, it’s not an altogether dark and ominous story. Hope—and Rowling’s humor—still shine. The author is adept at sly wit, broad humor, and satire. Older readers may especially appreciate her sharp, sometimes chilling commentaries on government. Her inventive imagination has created surprising new material in a world that already seemed complete. (Remember those horseless carriages at Hogwarts?) She also has expanded the cast and range of characters. While some familiar faces, like Dumbledore and Hagrid, aren’t seen as often as readers have come to expect, others, like Ginny Weasley and Neville Longbottom, are shown in a new or brighter light. Newcomers like the Ravenclaw student Luna Lovegood and the Auror Tonks enliven the mix that, as always, includes Harry’s best friends, Ron and Hermione, each with a few surprises of their own. Rowling also continues to develop the intricacies of the ongoing plot of good versus evil, answering some of the looming questions from the past while raising others about what is to come. The overall fast-paced novel lags more than its predecessors at the start but picks up quickly, building to a riveting climactic battle followed by a prophecy revealed. The sense of urgency that marked the close of Book IV is absent here. Instead, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix leaves us wondering what now awaits the world of magic so many have come to know and love. What new surprises, challenges, and changes, will Books VI and VII hold? (Age 9 and older)
CCBC Choices 2004 . © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2004. Used with permission.