Our story begins in Little Winging with Harry and Dudley, Harry’s cousin, arguing in a park. Things take a sudden turn for the unexpected when a group of dementors show up and effectively incapacitate Dudley before Harry can dispatch them with a patronous charm. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, obviously upset over their Duddykins, send Harry packing, where he eventually makes it to number twelve, Grimmauld Place, the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. The Order, originally established during Voldemort’s original rise to power, exists to combat the rise of Voldemort and protect the wizarding world from Voldemort and his Death Eaters. It was originally comprised of a number of brave witches and wizards, many of whom unfortunately lost their lives fighting. Even though most signs are pointing towards the fact that Voldemort is returning to power, Cornelius Fudge and the rest of the Ministry of Magic refuse to accept this fact. They go as far as to install Dolores Umbridge as “high inquisitor” of Hogwarts, giving her almost unlimited power at the school to run it as she sees fit. Being that Fudge is effectively a puppethead at this point, Umbridge begins to crack down on any resistance and attempts of the students to discuss or think about Voldemort and the Dark Arts. Therefore, the students begin to arm themselves, forming “Dumbledore’s Army”, an extracurricular club of sorts where Harry teaches his classmates tricks to defend themselves against dark magic. This works to a point, where Harry is able to get across the basics of dark arts defense to all the members before the group is discovered by Umbridge and disbanded. Furious with what has happened, Umbridge is about to use the cruciatus curse on Harry before she is outsmarted by Harry and Hermione and they escape, fleeing to the Ministry of Magic, where Harry has had premonitions about a prediction made regarding Voldemort and himself. Will Harry be able to get the prophecy and leave unharmed? What will Voldemort do with his increasing power and influence?
In the grand scheme of things, certain books in a series do more to advance the plot instead of providing show-stopping action that can be easily transferred to the big screen. I believe that the majority of this book falls into this category. Yes, the end of the novel does have a great element of action and adventure that made a great transition to film, yet the majority of this novel serves to advance the plot of Harry’s attempts to mount a significant defense to Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
It is also a book of maturation: both of Harry and his fellow classmates. In theory, they have been underprepared for the return of Voldemort, as the majority of the wizarding world has been lulled into a false sense of security surrounding Voldemort and the fact that most believed that he could not return following his fall from power. However, Harry serves as the crucial pivot point to not only mature his own views towards what he must do to fight Voldemort, but also convinces others to join him as well.
Personally, I tend to like this book a lot, as it sets the stage for the final two novels, which detail the final preparations and battle against Voldemort and his army. It represents a turning point in the views of not only Harry, but everyone else, as they finally begin to believe that it is possible that Voldemort is returning. I see a lot of parallels between this mindset and current events. A lot of times we tend to think that if we just don’t believe that something is happening, such as the genocide in Darfur, or the trafficking of humans as slaves across borders, it doesn’t exist. However, as we all know this is far from the truth. I give Rowling a lot of credit for attacking the “complacency” issue, where we tend to believe what others in authority tell us and take the easy path out. I think the fact that Harry was eventually able to convince the majority of the wizarding world of Voldemort’s return helped him immensely in his final battle, and I think this book has a lot to do with that convincing. It is, in my opinion, the turning point of the series, and as such, is vitally important and an amazing addition to the series.
5 out of 5 Stars