Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Gripping climax sets up future stories
Cons: Overly long; Harry's anger
The Bottom Line:
Needed some edits
Builds as the book progresses
Advances mail plot

Harry Potter and the Curse of Too Many Pages

By the time the Harry Potter series came to my attention, book four was out. I was put off by how many pages it was. Then this book came out and had even more. Even with as much as I love reading and how fast I read, the idea of talking a book almost 900 pages long really put me off. I'd love to say that I was proved wrong, but Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix could have used some pruning.

Since this is book five in the series, it assumes you already know about the characters and the universe they inhabit. Yes, some things are explained, but most of the time the explanation wouldn't be enough if you weren't already familiar with the stories. My advice? Don't start here but at the beginning. Otherwise, you'll be lost long before this epic is even getting warmed up.

I am also going to discuss this book as if you've read the previous four books. That means I may spoil events from them. If you haven't read the books and would like to unspoiled, stop now.

This book picks up not too long after the cliffhanger ending of book four. Harry is with his relatives for the summer, desperately trying to learn any news from the wizarding world.

You'd think that a major news event like the reappearance of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would be major news in the wizard world. Harry is shocked to learn that this just isn't the case. No news at all is showing up in the Daily Prophet, and Harry is beginning to wonder what is going on.

When he does learn something, it isn't good. Lord Voldemort is lying low, trying to build his strength. And the Ministry of Magic is denying everything that Harry and Hogwarts Headmaster Dumbledore claimed when the summer began.

But soon Harry has other things to worry about. Since he's starting his fifth year at Hogwarts, his OWLs (Ordinary Wizarding Level exams) are coming at the end of the year and he's got extra homework to prepare for them. And two of the fifth years will be prefects. Ron has joined the Gryffindor Quidditch team, but he's really struggling with it. And the new Ministry appointed Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is teaching them nothing while tormenting everyone at the school.

Even stranger are Harry's recurring dreams. He's walking down a dark corridor toward a locked door. But he can never enter that door. And when he wakes up, his scar is killing him. What does it mean?

As I said, this book had serious pacing issues. I was actually encouraged when it started off with a bang. It started much faster then the others had, and I was hoping that was a sign of things to come. Unfortunately, there were too many sub-plots here. While most of them were important, I got tired of some of them long before the climax. This was especially true of the romantic sub-plot. Even the stories that were important got dragged out. The same things kept happening with the results getting slightly worse. Basically, I got bored waiting for the climax to being.

As I expected, the climax started early, and once it did, things got good again. I read the final 200 pages in one afternoon I got so hooked by the action. Now that's not to say I liked it all. There was one part that really upset me. Not sure if it's important for later books or not, but surely there could have been some way around it.

Making things worse, Harry wasn't as likable as in previous books. He really seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. Yes, at times he had legitimate reasons to be upset. But quite often he was flying off the handle for no good reason. Half the time I sympathized and half the time I wanted to smack some sense into him. Fortunately, he mellows out as the year progresses, so I could go back to rooting for him full time. Ron and Hermione were their usual supportive selves. In fact, they treated Harry better then I felt like treating him. Everyone else was their normal selves as well. Some you like and some you love to hate. One character seems to have made a surprising change, but I expect that to be dealt with more in later books.

This book sets up the next one, so it is vital reading. And the climax was engaging enough to redeem some of the slower parts. But Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix could have used a good edit to streamline the whole thing.

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