Disclaimer: Not a real review, just some partially intelligible gushing. The love for Harry Potter is so real.
Standing at 766 pages (in my edition, apparently the US edition has in excess of 800), this book feels like a massive commitment. It also, unfortunately, looks like a commitment, and I think that's why a lot of people tend to shy away from the reread of Order of the Phoenix and cast it off as the worst of the Harry Potter books. You have to remember though (as I was reminded), a LOT of stuff happens in this book. It is very dense with action, and a variety of smaller plot lines run along the main arc. For example, Dumbledore's Army (in my opinion, the best part of this book), Umbridge, the Order, the Ministry, Grawp, Harry being almost expelled etc. It's not like it ever gets boring, and the pacing is actually quite good. For me, the size definitely did not equate to a laborious read, and I think I should have reread this book more often. PLUS this book is littered with marauder references and insights and Merlin's beard, that gang should have their own spin off series or prequel or something because James, Sirius and Remus are amazing and I would love to see more of their lives.
But I digress. Onto the Order of the Phoenix.
First up, we have the overarching theme of this book which, despite being evident in a lot of Harry's interaction with other characters is somewhat confused with his mind being tampered with by Lord Voldemort. I am, of course, speaking of Harry's change of attitude this year, and the way it affects his interactions with others. Harry appears to be caught in this limbo between child and adulthood that he struggled with in Goblet of Fire, except that now he's also dealing with the prospect of Lord Voldemort's return, and the fact that half the wizarding world seems to think he's crazy, a liar or both. The result is an intense frustration and anger, which we see bubble to the surface quite often. Harry seems to have developed a desire for self-determination in this book which he desperately wants to achieve - to be able to plan a course of action for himself dependent on the facts of Lord Voldemort's return. However, a lot (at least initially) is being kept from him under the pretense that he is not old or mature enough to handle the truth. Understandably, being the individual that comes across Voldemort most often in recent years, Harry feels this is unfair and lashes out at those who he perceives as keeping the truth from him. The anger and frustration is undoubtedly stoked by the connection of his mind to Lord Voldemort, who we know is filled with hatred, anger and otherwise negative and dark thoughts. The extent to which this influences Harry's frustration is unclear, however it is perceivable to think it has impacted upon him in some way.
Due to this internal anger, conflict and frustration, we see Harry grapple with friendship this year, even with those closest to him. Lashing out frequently at others and becoming somewhat of a loner is not only the result of being made a social pariah by the Ministry, but also due to Harry's own misgivings with his friends. Ron and Hermione especially find it difficult to deal with the Harry who has frequent mood swings and abrupt changes in temper, and find it difficult to deal with their friend who seemingly can't control his anger. Isolating as the experiences in his fourth year may have been, Harry struggles to accept help from those around him and furthers his own loneliness by choosing not to confide in others. The result is a sense that no one truly understands him, which Harry lets bubble away inside him for quite some time. Although he eventually does accept the help of others, JK Rowling is clearly indicating that friendship is an important part of social development, and that we shouldn't be too afraid of letting those close to us share in our worries or pain. Lord Voldemort, who is a twisted and evil soul and, by his own choice has no friends, fails to understand the power of this support and love (which is invariably one of his great weaknesses). Dumbledore, by contrast, supports Harry's confidence in his two closest friends, by encouraging Harry to speak with them even about issues which are clearly of great importance to keep secret (such as the contents of the prophecy). Another point of reference to friendship and abandonment is Sirius, who loneliness eventually becomes conducive to making rash decisions.
Despite the fact that the book starts off with a small portion dedicated to Harry-Dursley relations, we do see some important developments in the relationship between Harry and Petunia in particular. It is revealed that Petunia has more knowledge of the existence and dangers of Lord Voldemort than we previously thought, and she is revealed as a much more decisive character than just being the meticulous housewife we always thought. It's interesting here that despite Petunia's love for the banal, normal and completely non-magical, JK Rowling hasn't shied away from creating another strong female character. It is Petunia who decides Harry stays with them, and she prevents Vernon from throwing him out. Whether it's out of fear or otherwise, it is nonetheless a decision which (due to Dumbledore's charm), prevents Harry from being found and killed by Death Eaters on a daily basis. It is said in this book that the event of Petunia speaking of dementors with Harry enables him to finally recognize her as his mother's sister, and although this undoubtedly doesn't foster any more love between them, it hints at an air of understanding that Harry didn't know existed before.
I loved the explanation of the Black family tapestry in this book, and although it doesn't have any particular deep meaning, it's inclusion in the narrative is so interesting. It does serve to show that blood doesn't necessarily equate to a certain personality type or interests. Sirius has clearly struggled with feeling isolated from others his entire life, starting with his family. It may be an indication of his overt protectiveness of Harry and also his deep prejudice against Severus Snape, since his upbringing has taught him that those attracted to the dark arts rarely change their spots.
Objects which have particular significance in later books show the continual example of JK Rowling's excellent planning - the locket makes an appearance here as one of Kreacher's trinkets. The vanishing cabinet also appears as a device for whisking away members of the Inquisitorial Squad to unknown locations. Aberforth is mentioned again and also revealed to be an Order of the Phoenix member by Moody, through the picture that he presents to Harry.
Built in with the stronger themes of abandonment, friendship, growth and self-determination is the lighter theme of romance, and Harry's continual oblivion towards girls. His date with Cho and his interactions with her show absolutely no understanding of the inner workings of the female mind, and he resorts to Hermione's lectures as a method of trying to uncover the mysteries of it. He's awkward, tactless and completely out of his depth, and I can't help but wonder whether his growth in this area has been stunted so much by his preoccupation with keeping himself alive, or whether he would be much better suited as an asexual or homosexual character (sorry D/H shipper here, shoot me). Whatever the case, in canon Harry has a crapload of development to do here before he's ever getting hitched (although, to be fair, Cho is a very dramatic and overly sensitive character who I don't have much of an appreciation for).
When it comes to the connection between Harry and Lord Voldemort's mind, it's interesting how Harry first reacts to this revelation. Despite his desire to see what is beyond the door, Harry feels dirty and shameful in sharing anything with Voldemort himself. The distinguishing between light and dark is very clear here, and it is almost inconceivable to Harry that he may contain both within him. His hatred of Voldemort and the Death Eaters blinds him somewhat to the ability to a) put his health first and b) accept help in shutting out Voldemort's thoughts. Instead of understanding and blocking the connection, Harry's anxiety surrounding it only serves to implant the fear that perhaps he is being utilized as a weapon. The connection between them is something to be feared here, and not, as it is in later books, something to be used to his advantage. He also fails to accept that there are others with similar experiences to himself - Ginny for example, who was possessed by Voldemort in Chamber of Secrets. Instead, it only serves to further Harry's sense of isolation.
I loved that we got to see the improved version of Professor Lockhart here - JK Rowling has said in interviews that he never gets his memory back and thank god because he is so much funnier this way!
Harry also faces off unwanted revelations regarding his father and Sirius. Here, his perception of his parents changes from unwavering faith and adulation as heroes to a confused sense of disappointment. Following the results from seeing Snape's memory, it becomes clear to Harry that his father wasn't perfect or faultless, and that is a blow to not only his memory of his father, but also to the prospect of the immense similarities between them. This disenchantment with the parents he didn't know is something which forces Harry to accept that he is a different, and perhaps better person than his father in some ways, and it also perpetuates the belief in him that people (no matter how heroic) are not perfect.
Finally, we see a shift here in Voldemort's attitude toward Harry. I found it interesting that instead of playing with his food, as he has in previous books, Voldemort is intent on killing Harry the moment he lays eyes on him at the ministry. I think this is showing a shift in the attitude towards Harry's continual existence - it is more than a mere blight on Voldemort's power, and I think in some ways, Voldemort has come to fear Harry and the powers of escape that he can't quite comprehend.
The duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore, although highly interesting in itself, also portrays the importance of words in establishing a power relationship. Dumbledore, who has never shied away from calling Voldemort not only by his feared name but also by his muggle name, appears as a source of fear for the Dark Lord. It is Dumbledore's fearlessness in calling Tom what he is that we see a sense of authority and power. By contrast, those who cannot call Voldemort by his real name and fear the power that he wields, are shown to be weaker and incapable of being held on an equal level.
That was a long review! If you made it this far, congratulations. I hope there wasn't 394820834 spelling errors.
I'm actually already 3/4 of the way through Half Blood Prince, so should finish this reread on time! Today I went and bought all of the spin off Hogwart's Library series (Quidditch through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and the Tales of the Beedle and the Bard) so I may as well finish them before July 31st too. You know, just in case I hadn't already got my fill of Harry Potter.
Five stars *****