Thursday, December 26, 2013

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

2003, British hardcover Bloomsbury first edition, American hardcover Scholastic first edition
J. K. Rowling
American edition illustrated by Mary Grandpre
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
British edition possibly bought later for 16.99, American bought new for $29.99
British edition in good shape except for torn dustjacket, American possibly water damaged

Although Snicket fluctuates from B+ down to B-, with occasional trips back to B, Rowling continues to earn B's.  This book is of course even longer, so that at the point that Stone was wrapping things up, Harry has just earned his first detention with the "sweet" but really malicious Dolores Umbridge.  She's one of several memorable new characters, mostly female, that are introduced surprisingly late in the series.  One is a villainess of a very different sort, Bellatrix Lestrange.  (Yes, Bellatrix appears in Goblet, but it's much briefer.)  Nymphadora Tonks and Luna Lovegood are both unconventional but brave and loyal.  And we see more of Cho Chang, which is a mixed blessing, as she spends most of her time crying over Cedric.

I'm keeping notes on Rowling's mathematical errors to a minimum here, since as I said, there are plenty of sites that track these.  But I must note that it's not just the movie version of this book that puts Cho into Harry's year, after it was very clear in Goblet-book that Cho was a year older.  Here she refers to a Quidditch match in "the third year," meaning hers as well as Harry's.  Rowling could've avoided this by saying, "a couple years ago."  Still, I thought she did a nice job of showing the awkwardness of a first date, where Harry can't think what to say, when to hold Cho's hand, or even how to move his own limbs.  (And, yes, Ron and Hermione continue their tension, without getting it at all resolved.)

Unfortunately, Grandpre is drawing the characters as if they're about three years younger than the 15 or 16 that they are.  I know Harry is small for his age (though getting taller), but even Ron doesn't look like he's too far into puberty.  I did like seeing what she did with Tonks, Sirius, and Lupin though, and I do think this is her best cover so far, not so overcrowded, and with the nice blue tones.

This book continues the "darkness," with more violence and death.  It also shows a distrust of government, in the form of the Ministry of Magic, that wasn't as strong in the pre-9/11 days (although the book is set '95 to '96).  The parallels to both British and American Muggle governments will be more obvious in the next book.

I mentioned in my Goblet review that this contains a weak chapter, one I think could've been omitted or at least quickly summarised (as it is in the movie, but then that's notoriously short as a whole).  "Hagrid's Tale" of befriending giants is inconclusive.  They may or may not help Dumbledore's side.  And it could count towards the building of Hagrid's romance with Madame Maxime, except that Rowling later said that that fizzled out.  Yes, the journey leads to Hagrid bringing home his full-giant half-brother, but even that's not really necessary to the saga.  I consider this the weakest chapter in the series.

On the other hand, I've long regarded the sixth book as the weakest overall, so we'll see if I revise that opinion when we get to 2005....

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