Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author: J. K. Rowling
Page Count/Review Word Count: 770
Order of the Phoenix is the fifth Harry Potter novel, and it marks something of a turning point in the series – up until this point, the threat from He Who Must Not Be Named is almost indirect, like a memory or a hangover which just won’t go away. But here, the big man is back in the flesh and blood, with a crack squad of his loyal Death Eaters at his service – the threat from him is real, and he’s no longer just worried about taking down Harry Potter. Now, he’s getting ready to take over the world.
The Order of the Phoenix, which the book takes its title from, is a secret society of ‘good guys‘, from Dumbledore to Sirius Black and the school-age Harry, Ron and Hermione. They’re a pretty bad-ass organisation, but they are also up against the Dark Lord and all of his Death Eaters. Wait, isn’t it only Death Eaters and former Death Eaters that call him the Dark Lord? Uh oh, I’ve been rumbled.
This is also the first book in the series to feature the death of a prominent character – not necessarily a protagonist, but one who’s played a key role in multiple books. I’ll say no more on the matter – you either know who I’m talking about or you don’t!
In this book, our heroes are struggling to cope with their entrance into early adulthood whilst simultaneously fighting off the hordes of darkness. And not all of them are overt – he has to deal with Dolores Umbridge, for example, who Stephen King once described as “the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.” Umbridge is a frightening figure, someone who’s truly evil and yet who’s managed to project a facade of innocence.
Whilst writing this review, I also learned that Order of the Phoenix is the longest of all of the Harry Potter novels, which also means that it has to be my longest Harry Potter review by word count. At 770 pages, it’s true that there’s plenty of the book to get through, but it never feels like a chore and you’ll be glad you stuck with it. For me, the story line was so gripping that I read it in a couple of days, and when the final book (Deathly Hallows) came out, I read it in a day. It also got delivered a day before shops were selling it, so I was very slightly ahead of the curve!
For me, most of the earlier books (and the first two in particular) had a focus on the minutiae of life at a school for aspiring wizards. Here, we get to see the wider world really opening up for the first time, and it’s fascinating to see how detailed Rowling’s imagination is. She’s easily one of the best living world-builders who’s still active today, and it’s a pleasure to read any of her work. But Order of the Phoenix will always be one of my favourites – it’s not just because of the vast amount of book that’s available to you, although that does help. For me, it also came about at just the right time – when it was released in 2003, I’d just turned fourteen, so it was perfect timing. In fact, this is the first of the Harry Potter books that I remember actually having to wait for.
I’m almost 600 words in and still have another 200 to go, so I guess I’ll talk about the audio books. I’ve listened to multiple different versions of them, and I was a big fan of both the Stephen Fry one and the Jim Dale one, although I’d probably go for Fry if I was going to listen to them again. With a book as long as this, sometimes an audio book can help – on the other hand, sometimes the audio books end up being twenty hours long, in which case you’ll probably find it faster to read the book.
But you should read the book, because it’s awesome, and one of the highlights of the series in my opinion. Of course, I also think that you should read the entire series in order, but that’s up to you – the good thing about the Harry Potter novels is that they’re such a part of mainstream culture now that you can almost dip in and out of them. After all, everybody already knows the basic story line that loops through the seven books.