I can’t say this book was a disappointment, but it definitely was not my favorite. When I finished, I thought to myself that this is an exemplary example of a transition book. It felt designed to segue between to points, before Voldemort and after Voldemort returns. There was a lot of anger, strife, and cruelty in this book, particularly related to Dolores Umbridge. The storyline did progress quite far, however when I was reading it seemed to never end. I don’t know why it seemed to last an obscenely long time, but it just felt like it.
The story opens with Harry fighting off dementors in the small London village where he lives with his aunt and uncle. The Ministry of Magic finds out about his magical defense of himself and his cousin and ends up suspending him from Hogwarts pending a formal hearing. Shortly after, Harry is collected by a few friends to be taken to a secret hideout. The hideout is Sirius’s family home and serves as the base for the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s group of ‘soldiers’ that help to fight Lord Voldemort. Harry is angered that he has been kept in the dark so long and unable to talk to Dumbledore. During his hearing, Dumbledore appears and helps Harry to get the charges dropped. Once at Hogwarts, the estrangement from Dumbledore continues. Furthermore, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who is an agent of the Ministry of Magic, Dolores Umbridge. Throughout the school year, the Ministry exerts more and more power over the school, leading to Dolores Umbridge reviewing and firing teachers, handling all discipline, and eventually taking full control of the school. There is a lot of anger, fear, and abuse that goes on during this school year due to Umbridge. Throughout it all, Harry and his friends try to fight against Voldemort who finds a way to use Harry and his mind to do his bidding, even unintentionally. In order to fight Voldemort, Harry and Hermione set up a secret dark arts defense group that meets and teaches the young members how to perform jinxes and counter curses to better protect themselves. Unfortunately, they end up needing the knowledge at the end of the book, right in time to prove to the world that Voldemort is back.
Like it said, a lot happens in this book but it simply feels like a transitional book. Furthermore, there was no happiness to be found in it. In the other books, there was humor and happy moments to even out the bad, but this book was depressing all through. It does give you the inevitable doom that is prevalent throughout. At the end, you feel just as lost and just as hopeless as the others. I’ve watched the movies, and the other books do not seem much happier, but I want to keep reading just to see what happens to the characters.
You get to see a little bit more of Ginny in this book which I like. I think she and Hermione are my favorite characters. I look forward to seeing more of them in the coming books. Also, I am looking forward to seeing the relationships develop as the characters grow up and fall in love with each other. The relationships between all the characters grow and change in this book. You get to see a wide variety of emotional issues and situations that arise and how the characters travel through these tough times. The story does move along in a way that does not allow for repetition, but constant change and progress. It never really becomes stagnant. It is just really, really long and depressing.
In the end, I think this book needs to be read because it fills in a lot of history and information as well as providing the basis for the coming war. This book is definitely not for younger readers. I would say no one younger than probably 12 or 13. There is abuse, cruelty, death, and terror throughout the book and it will not be suitable for everyone.