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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
Bloomsbury Publishing, plc, 2003
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback, large print hardcover, audio CD, audio cassette
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Recommended by: Greg Slade

Rowling continues to raise the intensity in this book. Again, a good character dies in front of Harry, this one a character which the reader has known for some time. And this time, that character's death is directly due to Harry's actions, and specifically his disobedience of the rules laid down for his own protection. And thus, Harry's tendency to think that the rules just don't apply to him, which has been apparent from the first book, is the direct cause of the disaster.

This book is darker in other ways. Harry comes to realise that, in the end, either he must kill Voldemort or Voldemort will kill him. Just hoping that Voldemort will eventually leave him alone is not an option.

Rowling is also developing several other themes. We learn more about Harry's father and his friends, and we also finally learn just why it is that Harry has to go to live with the Dursleys every summer. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the wizarding world is coming to a confrontation. In short, the wizards are close to the brink of outright civil war, in which every member of the magical community will be forced to choose between good and evil, dark and light, death and life. There are also ominous hints that some characters who should be on the side of good might well be seduced by evil.

All of which is not to say that Rowling has lost her sense of humour. The story is still liberally sprinkled with random bits of magical silliness. In particular, Ron's brothers Fred and George are up to even more of their usual tricks. In fact, at one point, all of the students are given implicit carte blanche to get up to mischief at Hogwarts, as the school becomes the site of a civil war writ small.

And, of course, Rowling drops tantalising hints of what is to come. We are as much as told that Harry and Voldemort will have a climactic showdown at the end of the series, in which one or the other of them will be destroyed. There is also yet more material which might be interpreted to mean that Rowling is, as has been asserted, subtly working Christian principles into her story. And finally, there is the possibility that everybody, including Dumbledore, has been wrong about Harry all along. I can hardly wait to see what's next. (June, 2004)

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