Having confronted Voldemort in person for the first time at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, unexpectedly surviving a second attempt to destroy him, Harry is in an awkward position at the beginning of the fifth volume in the series. The government of the hidden magical world, the Ministry of Magic, run by the bumbling Cornelius Fudge, refuses to admit that Voldemort is alive and has branded Harry a liar for asserting the opposite.
Harry’s adult supporters form the secret Order of the Phoenix to prepare for the impending war against Voldemort, but Harry’s safe refuge at Hogwarts is undermined when the ministry appoints one of its most officious bureaucrats, Dolores Umbridge, to overhaul its educational standards. Umbridge also turns out to be a sadist, inflicting painful punishments on Harry when he persists in his assertions.
When Defense Against the Dark Arts is dropped from the curriculum on Umbridge’s orders, Harry begins teaching the subject as best he can to a group of dissident students he calls Dumbledore’s Army. When his scheme is discovered and he is threatened with expulsion, this label enables Dumbledore to take responsibility instead. However, the headmaster’s subsequent sacking results in Umbridge being installed as High Inquisitor of Hogwarts, instituting a reign of persecution.
This time, Voldemort’s proximal target is not located at Hogarts but in the vaults of the Ministry of Magic, where a prophecy concerning his mysterious and potentially fatal relationship with Harry is secured. Hagrid’s crucial relationships with various fantastic creatures and his giant kinfolk prove crucial in permitting Harry, Hermione, and Ron to get out of Hogwarts in time to join the Order of the Phoenix in a pitched battle within the ministry. Although the Order of the Phoenix suffers serious fatalities, the ministry’s official position becomes untenable, and the battle against Voldemort becomes a matter of open warfare.
Booklist 99, no. 21 (July 1, 2003): 1842-1843.
New Statesman 132, no. 4645 (July 7, 2003): 49-50.
The New York Times, June 21, 2003, p. A1.
The New York Times Book Review, July 13, 2003, p. 13-14.
Publishers Weekly 250, no. 26 (June 30, 2003): 79.
Time 161, no. 26 (June 30, 2003): 60.
The Times Literary Supplement, July 4, 2003, p. 23.
The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2003, p. W13.