I now realize that I should write about the books I read soon after completing them. If I wait, I will forget important things that I wanted to mention. Such is the case with this read. All I can recall of my immediate reaction upon completing it is that it’s still my least liked book in the series.
The first time I read this book, years ago, I was turned off by Harry’s angst and hardheadedness. This time it’s because of the same reasons plus the fact that Harry refused to do his homework and practice Occlumency, assuming that he knew best and could prowl around Voldemort’s mind without Voldemort being aware. Of course, this reason could also be attributed to his immense hardheadedness.
Many things happen in this installment, afterall, it is a pretty big book. Things become more serious and though there are a few comical moments, the tone of the story is more mature. Harry and his pals are teenagers and are learning the ways of the world, including the fact that adults can’t always be trusted. In this installment, Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, blatantly refuses to believe Lord Voldemort is back. He believes that Dumbledore simply wants to take his position as Minister of Magic. Fudge retaliates by discrediting Dumbledore and Harry Potter in the newspaper The Daily Prophet and places an informant, Dolores Umbridge, at Hogwarts to keep an eye on Dumbledore’s activities. Dumbledore simply sees Fudge as a nuisance because he has more important things to worry about—the return of Lord Voldemort.
Dumbledore sets to work by reforming the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society that works to undermine Voldemort’s influence. The Order is housed at 12 Grimmauld Place, the Black family residence, Sirius’ home which he hates. Since he is a wanted man and his animagus, the black dog, is known by Lucius Malfoy, Dumbledore advises Sirius to remain hidden at the Black mansion to avoid capture. Sirius grudgingly obeys and spends his time taking out his anger on Kreacher, the bitter house elf.
Things are no better at school. With Dolores Umbridge appointed as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Harry no longer has a favorite class. The class spends its time reading instead of practicing defensive magic, which angers Harry. Harry then spends much of his time proclaiming that Voldemort is back and is on the rise and Umbridge simply gives him detention, in which he writes lines, “I must not tell lies,” in his own blood. This school year is one of the worst Harry has had. While Umbridge spends her time crafting rules that enable her to rise to the rank of headmistress, Harry visits Voldemort’s mind in his sleep. Dumbledore tells him to practice Occlumency with Snape, Snape give him homework to practice Occlumency, Hermione relentlessly warns him to practice, but Harry stubbornly refuses, believing he has an advantage over Voldemort if he’s able to see and know what Voldemort wants and does.
While all this is going on, Harry hooks up with Cho Chang which ends tearfully. Hermione starts a club called D.A., a.k.a. Dumbledore’s Army, to practice defensive magic on the sly. Hagrid finds his long, lost giant half-brother. Fred and George spectacularly drop out of school. And Harry stupidly thinks what he sees in his head is true and is lured to the Department of Mysteries to confront Lord Voldemort, which causes Sirius to die (which pissed me off). But the good thing is that Fudge now believes Voldemort is back.
I enjoyed the story as always despite the book being my least liked of the series. What turned me off was Harry’s anger—though it’s understandable why he is upset—and the fact that Sirius dies. Mostly because Sirius dies. I wanted Harry to have someone for himself: a parent figure of some kind. After reading that Sirius fell through the ominous black curtain, like Harry, and my younger self, I expected Sirius to appear on the other side or to return as a ghost at Hogwarts at least. When I realized that Sirius was truly gone, I became pissed at Harry. Stupid kid! If only he did his homework and practiced Occlumency. If only he thought things through like Hermione and realized that Voldemort might be playing with him and that the horrible Kreacher isn’t to be trusted.
I was pissed at Rowling too. Why did she have to kill Sirius and why did he have to remain locked up in Grimmauld Place when there are things like Polyjuice Potion? I knew the answers to my questions but I thought them anyway. As I stated in my post on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, this series is about a boy who survives all that is thrown at him. In this installment, he endures ridicule, pain, and loss and still he holds on, pushing forward, hopeful. There’s hardly a bright light in Harry’s life but he tries to remain positive despite all. He is the boy who lived.
The book I read prior to this was Ursula Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore. I couldn’t help seeing a similarity between that book and this one while I read. In the chapter, The Only One He Ever Feared, Voldemort and Dumbledore engage in a wizards’ duel. Voldemort says to Dumbledore: “There is nothing worse than death.” It’s Voldemort’s fear of death that causes him to seek immortality and desecrate his soul and body in the process; same as what happened to Earthsea. As Ged Sparrowhawk says in Farthest Shore, “…when we crave power over life—wealth, unassailable safety, immortality—then desire becomes greed. And if knowledge allies itself to that greed, then comes evil.” This is exactly what happens to Voldemort, which he confesses to Dumbledore. Fear is a weakness, as was learned in book 3 of the Harry Potter series, and it is Voldemort’s fear of death that limits him and makes him weak.
Another great read, even though I didn’t like it much. Next up, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Quotes from the book:
“You weren’t supposed to survive…But you survived to bear witness.” –Sirius says this Harry regarding the dreadful night in cemetery during the Tri-wizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (It makes me think of the religious—Christian—undertone of the series).
“…the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” –Sirius teaches Harry and his pals that there are different types of evil in the world.
“Doctors?…Those Muggle nutters that cut people up? Nah, they’re Healers.” –Ron (his reaction to Harry’s question regarding the wizards working at St. Mungo’s Hospital is hilarious).
“The thing about growing up with Fred and George…is that you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” –Ginny
“You see, Dumbledore?…Never try to understand the students. They hate it. They would much rather be tragically misunderstood, wallow in self-pity, stew in their own…” –Phineas Nigellus
“Youth cannot know how age things and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.” –Dumbledore
“Indifference and neglect often do more damage than outright dislike.” – Dumbledore
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (thegoodlookingnerd.wordpress.com)
- A Summary Of “Harry Potter” (quillsandparchments.wordpress.com)
- Revisiting Harry Potter: Dumbledore has a purple suit and psychic paper (jennysbooks.wordpress.com)
- A review for the Harry Potter series. (rabiyarazabookreviews.wordpress.com)