Thursday, 24 October 2013

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The reread continues.

The longest of the series manages to pull off the difficult feat of (mostly) not seeming too long. There is a slightly swampy middle where Umbridge's reign of terror drags on longer than it really needs to, but otherwise it's well-paced, and the battle near the end would be worth wading through a lot more to reach.

Speaking of Umbridge, I think the movie casting improved on the book. Book Umbridge is toadlike and ugly, in the unfortunate code that says that villains are unattractive. Movie Umbridge is all the more sinister for her relatively normal appearance, in exactly the kind of bureaucratic, falsely nice way she should be. And, of course, the movie has the wonderful callback moment: "Tell them I mean no harm!" "I'm sorry, Professor, I must not tell lies."

I had a good smile at the insight that banning a publication is a great way to ensure that people will want to read it, something the author had plenty of experience with by this point (not to mention her youthful experiences in Amnesty International).

As well as a fine portrayal of what it's like to live under tyranny (and how to resist it), this book has a strong theme of family. The whole series does, but this book does in particular, with Hagrid giving voice to it specifically, while many little touches, like the way Molly Weasley regards Harry as another son, or his relationship with his godfather, reinforce it.

Unfortunately, this is the book of Angry!Harry. He's angry pretty much throughout, and although being psychically linked to Voldemort offers some excuse, it's still tedious to have so much teenage anger. As the Chosen One, he can be lacking in discipline and still ultimately succeed, with the bulk of the cost falling on someone else. Not his finest hour.

Whatever else you say about Rowling, though, she certainly can do pacing, and by keeping lots of plates spinning she holds our attention through nearly 800 pages as if it weren't no thing.

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