"Order of the Phoenix’ delves into darkness | SummitDaily.com

"Order of the Phoenix’ delves into darkness

Jane Stebbins

Harry Potter’s in his fifth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and life for the 15-year-old isn’t going to be any easier than it was during his the previous four years there.

As in each of J.K. Rowling’s first four books, at the start of “Order of the Phoenix,” Harry finds himself languishing at his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia’s home on Privet Drive, counting the days until he can return to school.

Things have changed, for both Hogwarts and Harry. He is in the throes of adolescence, complete with fits of rage and a stomach-lurching crush on classmate Cho Chang. He’s not real happy when Ron gets selected to lead the Quidditch team that he has always captained, and even more disconcerted about how twisted the tales of his brave encounters with Lord Voldemort – He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named – have become.

Even the headmaster of Hogwarts, professor Albus Dumbledore, is under scrutiny by the Ministry of Magic, which won’t admit Voldemort is rebuilding his forces.

And then there’s Dolores Umbridge, the new senior undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, who not only takes over the job as Defense Against Dark Arts teacher but appoints herself the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts. In that role, she repeatedly makes Harry’s life more miserable, punishing him in every way imaginable for the slightest infractions.

He, Ron, Hermione and twins Fred and George bumble through their studies to take their Ordinary Wizarding Levels exams and form “Dumbledore’s Army” to combat the evil forces. All the while, Harry experiences almost debilitating pain in his lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, an omen Harry knows originates from Voldemort’s happiness – or displeasure.

Harry, being a teen, rebels, keeping in mind that the only thing that will allow him and his friends to survive is the knowledge that united they are strong, and divided they are weak. They also know He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named wants to drive a wedge between them.

These are dark days for Harry and his pals, and the story is the darkest of the series so far.

Some parts could probably have been eliminated, including the 150 pages involving Harry’s court appearance for using magic in front of Muggles – of course he’ll be exonerated! There are still 600 pages in the book! The action doesn’t really get going until the last 150 pages or so – and even then, the ending is more predictable than startling. Plots don’t so much unfold as they pop up, but then again, we are at Hogwarts, where magic is paramount.

Harry’s rebellion and anger are somewhat disturbing as well, but it’s all part of his coming-of-age, in which he realizes adults aren’t infallible and life is rarely fair. He’s learning that luck and the power of personality won’t get him through everything, and that people don’t always listen when warned about impending doom.

The dark, pensive passages that dominate the book, however, are balanced by the friendship, magic and allure of danger Harry and his friends face on a daily basis.

Although Rowling does shed some light on Harry’s father’s past and his role at Hogwarts, she doesn’t reveal all the answers in this hefty tome. Leave those for Book 6 – or 7.

Some critics have said the series has become much darker and geared toward older teens, while others say that’s what should happen as Harry grows into adulthood. A handful, of course, say Rowling is doing little more than promoting the work of Satan by encouraging the world’s children to dabble in magic vicariously.

If so, so be it. Like J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series, the Harry Potter books offer an escape to a magical, mythical place where anything can and does happen. There is little more one can ask for from a book, whether it’s written for children or adults.


Summit County’s book club meets every other Friday in the Summit Scene section of the Summit Daily News.

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