Monday, 30 May 2011

Book #27

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

Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry. He is desperate to get back to school and find out why his friends Ron and Hermione have been so secretive all summer. However, what Harry is about to discover in his new year at Hogwarts will turn his whole world upside down. But before he even gets to school, Harry has an unexpected and frightening encounter with two Dementors, has to face a court hearing at the Ministry of Magic and has been escorted on a night-time broomstick ride to the secret headquarters of a mysterious group called 'The Order of the Phoenix'. And that is just the start.

I always hope my feelings for Order of the Phoenix will change with a re-read. It is my least favourite of the seven, and I can never quite put my finger on a specific reason as to why this might be. I have a few theories, however.

The suspense of the first four novels isn't as apparent here. There is not so much incentive to read on, the mysteries involved aren't as tantalising, and there isn't as many new spells, objects or people to meet and discover as in the previous installments. These small nuances are quite important to me.

Rowling's character development is quite bland. We don't learn a great deal about her characters which we didn't already know, and only the slightest of things seem to develop, such as the way Ron and Hermione act around each other. These things can only be noticed if you are already aware of what happens later in the saga, however.

Harry is absolutely deplorable throughout the entire novel. I often wonder if Order of the Phoenix is my least favourite installment due to my intense dislike for his attitude in it. Rowling is trying to bring across his teenage angst and temperament, but he just comes across as completely abhorrent. I do not deny that being the Chosen One must be a bit on the stressful side, but all he did was piss and moan for 700-odd pages. He is nothing but rude and disrespectful to Ron and Hermione, who have with nothing but the best intentions. I felt so sorry for them. Not only this, but Harry's attitude towards Dumbledore in the penultimate chapter was nothing but foul. He is, quite simply, a horrible person in this novel.

It's an enjoyable book, just not as much as the others. And at 700 or so pages, it's full of inconsequential nonsense which is quite entertaining, but which is completely irrelevant and could probably have been left out entirely.

At least I know Half-Blood Prince will remedy all of this.

27 / 72 books. 38% done!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Book #26

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Once returned to Hogwarts after his summer holiday with the dreadful Dursleys and an extraordinary outing to the Quidditch World Cup, the 14-year-old Harry and his fellow pupils are enraptured by the promise of the Triwizard Tournament: an ancient, ritualistic tournament that brings Hogwarts together with two other schools of wizardry--Durmstrang and Beauxbatons--in heated competition. But when Harry's name is pulled from the Goblet of Fire, and he is chosen to champion Hogwarts in the tournament, the trouble really begins.

My favourite of the seven!

The plot thickens! This is quite a hefty tome - 637 pages to be exact - and I think this is testament to how complex the plot is becoming. Rowling is aware her readers are growing up, so she weaves layers and layers of plot into this novel to make it as intricate and exciting as she possibly can. I think the entire plot in this installment is wonderful.

The Triwizard tournament is my main reason for loving this one. I loved meeting wizards from other countries and learning of their cultures, and different ways of life. There were different spells, objects, creatures and places to learn about during the tournament. We are even allowed a peek into the Prefects' bathroom!

Rowling's character development is lovely. I really love seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione grow up. In this installment, Rowling gives them all exactly the same teenage stresses that we all go through, and it's refreshing to see. I particularly enjoy Harry's "Wangoballwime?" invitation to Cho.

Barty Crouch Jr. is a character who has always intrigued me. I hate him so much that I almost love him in an odd way. The chapter Veritaserum in which he tells his story is one of my favourites in the book. It's just so fascinating; the things he did were deplorable. I find it a shame that the kiss was performed on him - he could've done some wonderfully awful things later on in the saga.

I love reading the series back to back. But, as always, I never want to begin reading Order of the Phoenix because it's almost like the beginning of the end. Here I go!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Book #25

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

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts...he's at Hogwarts." Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

Although not my favourite in the series (the winner of this title is the next in line - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), this definitely comes a close second. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is how large a leap it is from Chamber of Secrets. Things start to get very serious (and very Sirius), very quickly. The story is darker, bordering on deadly in places, and it's full of suspense. I also feel that the story in this one is the most intricate of the first three, with lots of lovely little details woven into the plot; the kind that make you breathe, "Oh!", once you realise their significance. Lovely!

Another exciting thing about this book is the deeper insights we are given into certain characters - Snape in particular. We're given a lot more of his past, and how he has come to hate Harry with such venom. I feel Dumbledore is shown a new light here too - he can be quite shrewd when he wants to be, and perhaps isn’t the jolly old gentleman we thought he was in the first two installments.

Most of all, our introduction to the Marauders is my favourite part of the novel. It's wonderful to see Harry presented with information about his father, and watching him meet some of the most important people in his father's life. Sirius and Lupin are two of my favourite characters of the series, and I really love meeting them all over again each time I read Prisoner of Azkaban.

Things are beginning to get exciting; so much so that I am almost dreading reading Goblet of Fire. It’s about to get real.

25 / 72 books. 35% done!