Harry Potter #5
Harry Potter, a young wizard, has survived the Triwizard Tournament in which he saw a fellow student named Cedric Diggory die before watching the most feared Dark wizard of recent times return to power: Lord Voldemort. However, soon after that, Harry is back at his Muggle relatives, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley. The wizarding world has refused to acknowledge Voldemort’s return, and are as such living in the dark. While on holiday with not a useful word from anyone, Harry and his cousin Dudley are attacked by what seems to be rogue Dementors, the guards of the wizard prison Azkaban. Forced to use magic, Harry is ultimately expelled from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore, rushes to the Ministry of Magic to have it sorted out, and Harry needs to attend a full-fledged trial to oppose the decision to expel him.
Harry is whisked off to the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, a band of witches and wizards that are intent on opposing the Dark Lord, and ensuring his return to power is short lived. Headquarters are set up at Sirius Black’s family home, and his godfather is thrilled to have him around. Harry is soon brought up to speed with what has been happening since Harry sounded the alarm that Voldemort was back to his old self. The Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper, has been discrediting him and making him sound like a crazy lunatic since he told the truth. Dumbledore has been kicked off of numerous wizarding boards, etc. Percy Weasley, the brother of Harry’s best friend Ron, has written the Weasley family off. Harry, of course, does not get expelled from Hogwarts, and Ron is made prefect for Gryffindor House. Before they know it they are out of Headquarters and on the way to school again.
School is no easier, either. The students have taken it upon themselves to discredit Harry at each and every turn. As if things are not bad enough, Dolores Umbridge takes up post as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, and was Senior Undersecretary to Corenelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic. It seems that Dumbledore is public enemy number one alongside Harry, and the Ministry is intent on interfering with the goings on at Hogwarts. First off, the students learn that they will not be practicing defensive magic at all. The year is progressively getting worse and worse, and Harry no longer feels too optimistic about Hogwarts as his home anymore. Umbridge makes it her mission to degrade and break Harry when he stands up to her about Ministry interference and the fact that nobody will admit that Cedric Diggory was murdered. Hermione Granger brings up a great idea about Harry teaching some student defensive magic and telling them how it is to be up against Dark wizards and witches. Harry consents, and the idea is wildly popular. The group bands together and calls themselves Dumbledore’s Army.
Umbridge begins investigating teachers and questioning their abilities. The Weasley twins, Fred and George, have firmly taken it upon themselves to make as much trouble as possible. Soon, however, Umbridge gets Dumbledore thrown from the school, and panic floods throughout the student body. Hermione gets in contact with disgraced ex-Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter and has her tell Harry’s story, which finally needs to be heard. Things are going from bad to worse in the wizarding world, and Umbridge is steadily depriving Harry of each and every thing she can, making his life miserable. Dumbledore wants Harry to take Occlumency lessons from Professor Severus Snape, who is working as a double agent for the Order of the Phoenix against the Dark Lord. Harry continually dreams of a long, dark corridor which he later figures out is the Department of Mysteries, and informs the Order when he sees Arthur Weasley attacked and damn near killed by a giant snake. It is of utmost importance that Harry learn the art of closing off his mind to Voldemort, before Voldemort realizes that there is a connection. Harry has started up an exceptionally wobbly relationship with Cho Chang, and it is rapidly losing its appeal. Umbridge, however, has finally succeeded in removing Dumbledore from Hogwarts, and assumes the role of Headmistress immediately. Dumbledore’s prediction about the Dementors joining ranks with Voldemort seem to be realised when ten top ranking Death Eaters escape from Azkaban, causing people to wonder if Harry really is losing his marbles. The Ministry of Magic, however, refuses to admit that there is anything wrong.
Will Harry master blocking his mind from Voldemort? Will the magical community ever admit that the Dark Lord has in actual fact returned? Will Umbridge continue her reign of terror on the school? Will the students in the DA be better off learning their defensive magic, and will the Ministry ever leave Howarts and their business to themselves, or will they continue to interfere? Will anything come of the relationship with Cho Chang? Will Cedric’s death ever be commemorated for what it was, or continually be labelled an accident, not a murder? When will Voldemort step back into the public eye?
This is by far my most favourite of the whole series, no questions asked, as well as one of my favourite books of all time. I had a debate with my very best friend in the world about it. Natasha always thought this to be her least favourite. I have to contend with why I feel that this was the greatest one of them all. None of the other books manage to capture all the emotions as astutely as this one. Pity, anger, happiness, hate, pain, sadness, loneliness, everything. You discover more in this book about the characters and fear than any of the others. You also learn so much more about the pasts of people and how their suffering ties into the story, and why Harry’s past had to be the way that it was. This was the first book to demonstrate Snape as more than just some terrible snake, the very first time I started liking him, even if he was still dreadful towards Harry. The characters aren’t little kids anymore. Sirius gets a massive part in it all, and it is great to learn more about him as a person and how he manages certain situations. So much planning and scheming was going on at any given moment in this book. Umbridge will remain the most loathed book character I have probably ever encountered. She was the embodiment of evil. The more you read about her, the less that you liked her. There was some fantastic humour in this book. I must say, I was not particularly enamoured with the relationship between Cho and Harry (not how it was written, just the match that they were), but I can understand the necessity in terms of character growth. The DA was awesome, and the injustice that people suffered throughout this book smarts. The flight of the Weasleys was simply amazing, and will remain a favourite of mine forever. This book was a solid and strong entry to a wonderful series, and I will always regard this as my favourite book no matter what. The pacing was also perfect, and nothing rambled or took too long, and nothing was rushed, either. Truly worth the read, each and every time it just gets me.
I can go on forever about what is right with this book.