Harry Potter And the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

harry-potter-order-of-the-phoenix-kazu-kibuishi-coverHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)
by J.K. Rowling

This, the fifth book of the Harry Potter series (which I was never going to read), might be the best so far.

Harry and his cohorts are fifteen now, and full of teenaged piss and vinegar.  I am very much appreciating the character development as the series progresses, with the characters growing and maturing along with the original readers of the series.  I’m also appreciating the fact that for a hero, Harry is in most ways a typical, angsty teen prone to fits of temper and acts of rebellion.

The Dark Lord is back, but the Ministry of Magic is in complete denial about it.  Instead, Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, is convinced that Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of WizardryIMG_3455 and Witchcraft, is conspiring to push Fudge out and take the position of Minister of Magic himself.  Fudge installs one Dolores Umbridge at Hogwarts to ensure that the school is being run up to snuff in the eyes of the Ministry, and under her direction, Hogwarts goes to hell in a handbasket.

The power struggle between Fudge and Dumbledore – purely a product of Fudge’s imagination – is, unfortunately, a terrible distraction from the real problem at hand – the return of Voldemort.

Meanwhile, Harry is painted as a lying, attention-seeking, addle-brained adolescent by the Ministry and the Daily Prophet newspaper, and Harry suffers being treated more and more like an outcast by his peers at Hogwarts.

The bonds forged between the characters is a beautiful thing – between Harry, Ron and Hermione, between Hagrid and Harry, between Sirius and Harry, between Dumbledore and Harry.  Though more and more an outcast, Harry has some big supporters.  Still, he is a boy in adolescence, a boy in a suspended state of grief, a boy with no real place to call home.

I loved this book.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can get to the next one, although I’m already finding myself sad that there are only two more books left in the series.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry_Potter_and_the_Prisoner_of_Azkaban_(US_cover) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K. Rowling

Okay, I’m hooked.  Satisfied?

In this, the third installment of the famous Harry Potter series, Harry enters his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – but not before another dramatic exit from his Muggle family’s home, involving the blowing up of an aunt.

Harry is yet again the target of evil forces – this time the evil forces are embodied by one Sirius Black, former best friend of Harry’s deceased parents, believed cohort of Lord Voldemort, and thrown into Azkaban – the hardcorest of hardcore prisons – twelve years ago after allegedly killing thirteen people with a single curse.  Now Black has escaped Azkaban and is believed to be on the hunt for Harry.

Meanwhile, Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper, has been installed as a teacher at Hogwarts of the Care and Keeping of Magical Creatures class.  Only, something goes awry during the very first class he teaches, setting off a chain of events that will culminate in . . . well, you have to read it for yourself if you haven’t already.

Two things:

1.  Harry is a bit of a pain in the ass!  His life is constantly in danger, and all these people are constantly going to great lengths to keep him safe, and he thumbs his nose at all of them in the name of seeking adventure and having a good time.  Don’t get me wrong – I like Harry, and I know he’s a good egg whose character will grow and develop over the course of the series as he matures, but sometimes I want to smack him upside the head.

2.  I am completely smitten with Hagrid.  That is all.

I enjoyed this book immensely, although I felt the last third of it or so dragged a bit – but overall, a rollicking good story.  I’ve been watching the movies with my two oldest boys as I finish each book, and this particular movie is my oldest son’s favorite of all of them, apparently.  I thought it was well done, but somewhat disappointed in how much of the story was left out.

In any case, I probably won’t get to the fourth book for a while, as I am currently committed to reading several other books over the next month or two – but I will get to it as soon as I can!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

9780439064873_p0_v1_s260x420 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)
by J.K. Rowling

Okay, I get it now – the appeal of the Harry Potter series.  All these years, I’ve thought, “I’m not interested in a children’s series.  I’m not interested in wizards and fantasy.”  But I get it now.

The first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, left off with Harry and his Hogwarts friends returning home for summer break after their first year at the school of wizardry and witchcraft.  In this, the second book of the series, the story opens with summer break coming to an end – and not a moment too soon for Harry, who has spent a miserable few weeks with his adoptive Muggle family, the Dursleys.  Harry is visited in his bedroom by a house elf, who warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts – but returning to Hogwarts is what Harry longs for more than anything.  After a dramatic rescue from the Dursleys by the Weasleys in an enchanted car, Harry does return to Hogwarts and embarks on a new year of wizard education, and a new adventure.

Residents of Hogwarts keep turning up petrified – the first a cat, which is found under the ominous message scrawled on the wall of the corridor:

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED.  ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.

And so the rumors and questions begin swirling: Slytherin . . . Where is the Chamber of Secrets?  Who is the Heir?  Who is petrifying Hogwarts inhabitants?

When Harry becomes a prime suspect, he is determined to get to the bottom of the Chamber of Secrets – and get to the bottom of it he does.

Told with humor and just the right amount of suspense and intrigue, I was hooked, and finally closed the book feeling satisfied.  I’m eager to get back to Harry and his friends at Hogwarts – but, as I’m committed to several other books at the moment, they’ll have to wait.  Hopefully not for too long!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

51MU5VilKpL Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)
by J.K. Rowling

This is going to be short and sweet, because, really, what can I say about Harry Potter that hasn’t already been said?  I finally read it – the first book of the series, anyway – sixteen years after it was published, and almost as many since it became one of the biggest deals in children’s literature.  I hadn’t planned on ever reading it, but I appreciated Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy so much that it warranted, finally, a look at what else she’s done.

On the off chance that you haven’t read Harry Potter and don’t know what it’s about, it’s about a young boy in contemporary England who is orphaned as a baby and unwillingly taken in by his mean aunt and uncle.  The circumstances of his parents’ demise are rather mysterious, but it’s well known – at least among witches and wizards – that it was at the hands of the evil Voldemort, although Harry believes that they died in a car accident.  Poor Harry, neglected and abused by his aunt and uncle and tormented by his spoiled cousin, has little to look forward to, until one day – shortly before his eleventh birthday – a letter arrives for him.  Actually, a deluge of letters, the contents of which have his aunt and uncle scrambling to ridiculous lengths to run from.  Finally, the letter catches up with them on a deserted, storm-swept island, by way of Hagrid, a giant and gamekeeper of Hogwarts, the premier school of witches and wizardry to which Harry is being summoned by the letter.

And so begins Harry’s education as a wizard.  It is at Hogwarts that Harry learns of the true circumstances of his parents’ death, his own seemingly royal status, and where he befriends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger who accompany him on his many adventures.  Harry proves to be a good student, a formidable Quidditch player, and a brave wizard who finds himself in numerous scrapes in his quest to fight evil.

The beginning of the book reminded me very much of Roald Dahl’s writings, and although I’m not much a fan of fantasy, I enjoyed the book and can see what kids find so appealing about it.  Rowling is a talented and imaginative storyteller; I’m looking forward to reading her newest grown-up book.  Maybe I’ll find time to read the second Harry Potter book before too long.