Disclaimers: I review works of art like literature as independent of their creators. Just because I support the Harry Potter books does not mean I support J.K. Rowling’s actions, statements, and/or views. This review contains my opinions. You don’t have to agree with me.
This post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
I first read this book when I was 9. I reread it when I was 11 and 21. I’ll start by discussing the things I noticed every time. Then I’ll share what I noticed during my reread as an adult. I’ll wrap up by pointing out plot holes and other unanswered questions. This series is rather famous for having interesting plot holes. I point them out jokingly. Younger me didn’t notice them, and since this series is geared toward a younger audience, I think that’s all that matters. Adult me needs to just enjoy the story and stop asking so many questions. I also realize some of the plot holes are addressed on Pottermore, in the author’s tweets, etc., but these are things that need to be included in the books, not supplemental material.
I love Sirius. I feel like he shows up more in this book than any other. He talks about feeding Buckbeak rats, and I bet he hopes one of them is Peter Pettigrew. I also love the twins. They’re great. I particularly love the havoc they cause when they leave Hogwarts and all the aftermath. Ginny is also a great character. I love how she broke into the shed, so she could secretly learn Quidditch when she was six.
I love how Neville really grows as a character in this book. I like when McGonagall swears to help Harry become an auror. The animosity between her and Umbridge is also great. I think most people love to hate Umbridge. The animosity between Snape and Sirius is also great, and yes, I know that because I like Sirius, I shouldn’t like Snape, but I do. His character is just so well developed. Dumbledore shows off his badass skills in this book. He escapes arrest and says he could escape Azkaban. I love his response to Harry destroying his office. Harry’s grief is well done. A lot of books skip over grief, and I don’t feel like that’s the case with Harry in this book.
There’s some good foreshadowing like with Mundungus. The stakes are starting to feel more real. We’re moving into higher, more public stakes as the series slowly escalates.
I was so mad when Umbridge banned Harry and the twins from Quidditch. When she did this, she locked their brooms in her office. What I don’t understand is why the three of them didn’t use other brooms and play anyway. What’s Umbridge going to do about it? Get on a broom and chase them until they come down? If I were in their place, I’d say, “Screw Umbridge” and play anyway. Maybe I’d make myself some Polyjuice Potion and pretend to be someone else. This injustice brought out the rebel in me.
Now for my nit-pickiness. I have my usual complaints: the info-dumping, the telling, the awful dialogue tags, and the overuse of various punctuation and adverbs. There’s those never-ending inconsistencies with the trace. Harry keeps threatening to use magic around Dudley, but he’ll be expelled if he does. In fact, that actually happens in this book.
An interesting note: I have the British edition of this book (I got it at a flea market), and it uses feet for measurements. Shouldn’t it be meters?
I found the events at Grimmauld Place and the train ride boring. I got really sick and tired of SPEW. It’s a nice sentiment, freeing the house elves, but it doesn’t contribute to the main plot. Let’s move onto more important things. I’m also not a fan of Cho. I don’t like her as a character, and she’s very stereotypical. Harry’s also really whiny in this book, and it gets annoying.
Ron and Hermione are prefects, but they almost never do prefect things. I kept forgetting they’re prefects. They may as well have not been prefects because it had absolutely no impact on the story whatsoever. I also find it hard to believe that two trouble-maker students were chosen for that position.
I wanted to see more Dumbledore’s Army meetings in-scene. Instead of all the boring SPEW and other stuff, there should be DA practices. Those are far more interesting and are actually related to the plot.
Now for the bonus plot hole round.
Why couldn’t Harry see the thestrals before? Didn’t he see his mom die? Does it not count because Harry was too young to know what death is?
How are first and second year students supposed to join Dumbledore’s Army if the meeting is in Hogsmeade? What about older students who don’t have permission slips? Interestingly enough, Dennis Creevey is at the Hog’s Head for the initial meeting, and he’s a second year. How did he get to Hogsmeade? Does he have an invisibility cloak and the Marauder’s Map to show him the secret passageway?
Harry and the twins don’t normally fight Malfoy. They taunt each other, sure, but fight? No. What changed? It seems like they fought him just so Umbridge could ban them from Quidditch and make readers hate her with a fiery passion.
Why did Harry only send his head through the Floo Network? He could’ve sent his whole body and searched the house for Sirius. If he had done that, he would’ve found Sirius, and they never would’ve gone to the Ministry of Magic, and they never would’ve fought the Death Eaters, and Sirius never would have died. Thanks for being an idiot, Harry. You got one of the best characters killed. But I guess I should have expected that because my favorite character almost always dies.
Why are romantic butterflies likened to falling down a set of stairs? I’ve had romantic butterflies, and I’ve fallen down a set of stairs. They are very different sensations. Romantic butterflies equals good; falling down the stairs equals bad. One is exciting; one is painful.
Bonus question: Harry hits his head all the time, but he never gets concussions or brain damage. How does that work? Does he have a skull of padded steel?
Overall, this book seems to drag on and on. I also feel like there isn’t a main plot. Each of the previous books has a main problem. In The Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone, it’s protecting the sorcerer’s stone. In The Chamber of Secrets, it’s figuring out where the Chamber of Secrets is and stopping the basilisk. In The Prisoner of Azkaban, it’s the conflict with Sirius (though technically Peter Pettigrew is the antagonist). In The Goblet of Fire, it’s the Triwizard Tournament. What is the main conflict of Order of the Phoenix? Sure, there’s the prophecy at the end, but it’s only relevant at the end. The rest of the book is about Dumbledore’s Army, SPEW, and the Ministry (primarily Umbridge and Fudge) being problematic. Because there isn’t a main plot, I feel like this whole book has sagging middle syndrome.
What I find really interesting is that as a kid, this was my favorite book. I cannot for the life of me figure out why because I’m honestly tempted to call it my least favorite now. The only things I can think of are Sirius and Dumbledore’s Army, two great parts of this book. It was probably Sirius. That’s my best guess.
Anyway, this is a really long review, but the good news is this book has minimal plot holes compared to the others. But that’s probably because the plot is really weak, if not missing entirely. There’s some fantastic character development and tension between characters, though. The earlier books don’t really have that. Overall, not the best book in the series, but also not terrible. It has some redeeming qualities.
What are your thoughts? What would you say the main plot of this book is? Did you notice the plot holes? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments.