Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
By J.K. Rowling
Reviewed by Kenny Brechner
The central theme of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the struggle to manage emotion so that the mind’s lens is able to remain in focus. Subject to profoundly biased newspaper reporting regarding himself, a diabolical new high inquisitor of Hogwarts, the onset of adolescent angst and anger, the inexplicably removed behaviour of his mentor, Albus Dumbledore, and the dangerously subtle manipulation of his mind by his nemesis, Lord Voldermort, Harry Potter’s ability to accurately interpret the desperate events encircling him is strained to the breaking point.
This theme is peculiarly appropriate to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because the unique degree of anticipation and attention thrust upon the book and its author have rendered its interpretation by reviewers to be as subject to variance in perspective as the variances to be found amongst the book’s characters.
Indeed, one reviewer found that "All the qualities that marred the fourth book - the loping, uneven pace of a novel that seemed churned out rather than written - have evaporated. Indeed, the faux gothic horror of the fourth has been replaced by a return to the wonderful, textured writing of the three earlier novels." Yet, another reviewer wrote that "J.K. Rowling has fallen victim to the Stephen King syndrome. Pile on the words. Adjectives! Adverbs! The longer the book, the better! Whoopie! ....At 870 turgid pages, it is the least satisfying in the series. The plot is cumbersome. Most characters haven’t bloomed; they’ve only aged...Rowling is not a hopeless writer, but her boundless success is gutting her prose." Our first reviewer, however, reflects that "one of the delights of this fifth book stems from Rowling returning to familiar characters, offering new insights into their psyches...(which) allows the reader to savor Rowling's remarkably fertile imagination."
Well, as Harry must interpret the events occurring during his fifth year at Hogwarts so must we. It should be noted that while the intertwining of Harry’s destiny with Lord Voldermort’s have made him more isolated than ever, it has also deepened his fallibility and his reliance on his friends, whose loyalty and perspectives are crucial to him. This being so it seems relevant to report that Harry’s other friends, the young readers who devoured Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2-3 days, have universally reported being delighted and fascinated by the book. The consensus is that the third book is still the people’s favorite, but that The Order of the Phoenix is a close second.
Speaking for myself it will be said that when all is duly considered, Rowling, like Harry, should be judged on whether or not she succeeded in maintaining the integrity of her voice and vision through the gauntlet of unprecedented distractions which confronted her. To her very great credit, Rowling entirely succeeded. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is neither over written, nor static, nor loosely constructed. There are exceptionally developed new characters, the old characters are just that, older, the writing is entirely in Rowlings’ distinctive voice, and the storyline has progressed to a fine point. There are many, many satisfying scenes and observations. In short, the excitement which surrounded its release has been well rewarded, the anticipation which will surround Book 6, well earned.