Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (by J K Rowling)

I am very impressed with JK Rowling's writing. She's taken the world by storm, and got children reading everywhere. Her characters are likeable, her plots very clever, her writing crisp, clear and humorous, her ethos and philosophy pro-Christian (at least, in my opinion) with a very positive message about good vs evil, the importance of integrity, loyalty and honesty.

So we were very pleased when, at last, her fifth book arrived - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Since we couldn't possibly agree on who would read it first, I read it aloud to my sons, who are nearly 17 and nearly 15. I'm so glad they still enjoy having me read aloud to them at this age.

What a remarkably long book it is, too! But we all thought it was well worth waiting for.

Harry, now 15 years old, is annoyed - at the start of the book - because nobody will tell him what's going on. Stuck at home with his horrible Muggle aunt and uncle, and his increasingly nasty cousin Dudley, he is horrified when some dementors attack his home town. Naturally he produces his patronus from his wand to save himself and his cousin... and is then called before the Wizengamot, the wizarding council, accused of performing magic in the Muggle world while still under age.

Although acquitted - which is no real surprise, although it's a stressful process - Harry's return to school is not the happy event it usually is. There's a new and cruel teacher, Dolores Umbrage, who is soon appointed as a school inspector.

The book follows the usual form, with different subplots and twists as the school term proceeds at Hogwarts. The ending is a little darker than usual, when the government finally accept that Lord Voldemort really has returned... something the readers knew by the end of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Harry starts to get some information on his background, too, and although he goes through a lot of anger in this book, it seems as if he's started to grow up. This feels much more like a novel for teenagers rather than for young children.

Definitely recommended for anyone who's read the previous books; it does stand alone, but is much better for having read the others first.

(I re-read this just two years later - here's my 2005 review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

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