It’s hard to like “the Order of the Phoenix” unconditionally. It’s obviously a good book – they’ve all been up to this point – but it feels a bit off. All of a sudden, the font’s smaller (at least, in the Bloomsbury edition), the book’s a lot bigger and there’s a lot of frustrating stuff going on. I guess frustration is the keyword for this part, and the tagline: it has to get worse before it gets better.
One of the three key characters to induce said frustration is the big bad wolf of Order of the Phoenix: Dolores Umbridge. I personally love the character: she brings about everything I hated in my studies as an educational scientist – the butting in, the rosey use of language, the rulemaking – but cranked up a notch: obviously this character is exaggerated in such a way that, by the time she’s getting whacked by the centaurs, it’s very, very hard to like her. Add to that the ministry as a whole and you’ve got reason enough to shout profanity at a piece of paper.
The second frustrated person is Sirius Black. Personally, I can understand why Black needed to die: in order for Harry to come of age, he needs to be able to stand on his own. The godfather dying is there to show that Harry is not an adult yet and can’t live without him. It’s nice. I do, however, find it a bit of a shame that Black was underused in the fifth book: you see a lot of him near the beginning (seriously, they take more than a hundred pages to even reach Hogwarts precisely for this reason) but then it’s just now and again. Rowling did her best though, she crammed him into every possible corner. And face it: if he’d have come and visit Harry, he wouldn’t be frustrated anymore, and that’s precisely what this book is about.
Last but not least, Harry is angry aswell. He’s reached the lowest point in his development as a hero: one of his mates has died, he’s been called a liar (and even blamed by some) and needs to reinvent himself. All the snapping at Ron and Hermione does get old after a while, though. It’s amazing how the shock of his godfather removed some of the anger inside Harry – maybe the shock caused him to grow up a bit? Maybe it was just what he needed?
Now, don’t get me wrong: I like the Order of the Phoenix. I’m just glad the other books are this massive. I understand the size of it perfectly, though: there’s so many things going on in this chapter that it’s hard to keep focus. Rowling took her time to tell the story, and it payed off.