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.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens with Harry Potter, a fifteen-year-old boy possessed with magical powers, spending another unhappy summer with his non-magical, or Muggle, guardians, the Dursleys. Still reeling from the previous school year's tragic events (chronicled in Rowling's fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ), Harry suffers recurring nightmares about his graveyard meeting with the dark Lord Voldemort where his friend Cedric was murdered. As a result of that encounter, Voldemort has now returned to bodily form, and Harry, with great anxiety, awaits news of the destruction Voldemort will inflict upon the wizardry and non-wizardry worlds. Harry finds there are no reports of unusual events despite his constant checking of the newspaper and television news, until one summer evening when he hears a sound that leads him to take a walk in the dark. Harry runs into his cousin Dudley while walking and as they taunt each other, two Dementors, the death-like, happiness-sucking prison guards from the wizardry world, attack the boys. Harry is able to fend them off with his sophisticated magic, only to find that he has been watched all summer by a neighbor as well as several incognito witches and wizards. Underage magic is banned in the Muggle world, thus Harry is threatened with expulsion from his wizardry boarding school, Hogwarts, and thrown out of his relatives' home for his defense against the Dementors. Several mysterious letters delivered by owl reverse both of Harry's punishments, setting a hearing for his return to Hogwarts and threatening Aunt Petunia into...
(The entire section is 3,576 words.)