The fifth hefty installment in J. K. Rowling's renowned Harry Potter series takes a uniquely psychological dark turn, putting the boy wizard at odds with his own identity and friendships as he continues to fight He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now 15 years old, with four Voldemort battles under his belt, Harry is frustrated with the growing public skepticism regarding the Dark Lord's return. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Magic is also voicing its doubts, and all of Hogwarts comes under the watchful eye of an oppressive Ministry representative. Despite the additional problems of looming O.W.L. exams and Hagrid's inexplicable absence, Harry's main preoccupation is his vivid dreams, which take him to places -- and make him witness events -- that horrify and intrigue him. These dreams provide a shocking clue to his very existence, and when eventually they lead Harry to confrontation, the young wizard must cope with a tragic death and a telling prophecy about his future. Intricate in plot, infused with tension, and deeply fulfilling on every level, Rowling's continuation will leave fans open-mouthed and breathlessly anticipating what's to come.
A very wise decision, J.K. Rowling, to allow three years to pass before publishing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in your global sensation of a series. The fever-pitched anticipation, the media frenzy, the pilfered books, the leaked details. The book richly deserves the hype. — Deirdre Donahue
Just when we might have expected author J.K. Rowling's considerable imaginative energies to flag -- this is the fifth book of a projected seven-volume series -- she has hit peak form and is gaining speed. — Lev Grossman
In fleshing out her plot, Rowling devotes considerable attention to such coming-of-age aspects of Harry's personality, making him a richer and more psychologically complex character than ever before. There's no doubt that Harry is growing up, and the process isn't always pretty, although he remains wonderfully appealing and, when necessary, heroic. — Michael Cart
Go read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the other main reason to love the series: their sheer comic exuberance even in the midst of high drama. Kids, of course, would mention this first. Jokes, gags and memorable put-downs pop up on nearly every page … Sometimes it seems we adult critics are so quick to take Harry Potter seriously (whether we're looking to praise or censure) that we forget how cheerful Rowling has been throughout this whole amazing, death-haunted enterprise. — Elizabeth Ward
The stakes, both for Harry and the reader, grow with each succeeding work in the series. Rowling's first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, topped the best-seller charts by grabbing both children and adults with a fast-paced story peopled by intriguing characters, set in a clearly imagined magical world. The legend has grown with each succeeding volume, not because she's written to a formula but because she continues to deliver the same combination of enticing elements without allowing them to become predictable. — Robin Videmos
A considerably darker, more psychological book than its predecessors, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix occupies the same emotional and storytelling place in the Potter series as "The Empire Strikes Back" held in the first "Star Wars" trilogy. It provides a sort of fulcrum for the series, marking Harry's emergence from boyhood, and his newfound knowledge that an ancient prophecy holds the secret to Voldemort's obsession with him and his family. Michiku Kakutani
Dale again takes the reins as nimble voice master and gallops away with a splendid performance of Rowling's fifth tome about the beloved boy wizard. Full credit is due Dale for creating-and keeping track of-an enormous cast (134, to be precise) of distinct voices; he achieves impressive continuity of character from one novel to the next. But perhaps most notable here is Dale's development of protagonist Harry's evolution from wide-eyed, affable boy to an often angry and disillusioned teenager. Obviously at home in Rowling's world, Dale effortlessly follows the story into darker and more complex waters. Plot turns include further intrigue amongst the wizard hierarchy, the arrival of a new, suspect Defense of the Dark Arts professor, and the main characters' navigation through increasing social and academic pressures. Though Harry, Ron and Hermione are gradually sounding a bit older, and inevitably wiser, Dale keeps their cores intact, so as not to lose listeners along the way. Ages 9-up. Simultaneous release with the Scholastic/Levine hardcover. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Gr 4 Up-Harry has just returned to Hogwarts after a lonely summer. Dumbledore is uncommunicative and most of the students seem to think Harry is either conceited or crazy for insisting that Voldemort is back and as evil as ever. Angry, scared, and unable to confide in his godfather, Sirius, the teen wizard lashes out at his friends and enemies alike. The head of the Ministry of Magic is determined to discredit Dumbledore and undermine his leadership of Hogwarts, and he appoints nasty, pink-cardigan-clad Professor Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and High Inquisitor of the school, bringing misery upon staff and students alike. This bureaucratic nightmare, added to Harry's certain knowledge that Voldemort is becoming more powerful, creates a desperate, Kafkaesque feeling during Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. The adults all seem evil, misguided, or simply powerless, so the students must take matters into their own hands. Harry's confusion about his godfather and father, and his apparent rejection by Dumbledore make him question his own motives and the condition of his soul. Also, Harry is now 15, and the hormones are beginning to kick in. There are a lot of secret doings, a little romance, and very little Quidditch or Hagrid (more reasons for Harry's gloom), but the power of this book comes from the young magician's struggles with his emotions and identity. Particularly moving is the unveiling, after a final devastating tragedy, of Dumbledore's very strong feelings of attachment and responsibility toward Harry. Children will enjoy the magic and the Hogwarts mystique, and young adult readers will find a rich and compelling coming-of-age story as well.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.