Like I said in my previous Harry Potter posts, I haven’t yet read the main series in full. I didn’t even start watching the movies until when Deathly Hallows part 1 released. A friend invited me to a marathon … where we only ended up watching the first two. The world hooked me in very quickly, and although I missed Part 1’s theatrical run, I ended up watching Part 2 in IMAX 3D. The Order of the Phoenix is my favourite movie in the series. I like the movie enough that I watched it in-between writing this blog post and editing it.
Although I enjoy the movie, I dreaded reading this book for a couple of reasons. The main one is that this is the longest book I’ve ever read by far. At 257,045 words it’s close to the first Game of Thrones book’s length. I put it beside much of my book collection and it looks like it will swallow almost any other book I own. I’ve also heard from my writing friends that it was their least favourite Harry Potter. Thankfully, this wasn’t as much of a chore to read as I feared, but I didn’t like it as much as The Prisoner of Azkaban or The Goblet of Fire. This post will be written under the assumption that readers will have at least watched the movie.
The length of this book isn’t a problem at all, in fact the pacing is fairly consistent and both the main plot and the sub-plots are all interesting. Most of the extra length gives a lot of complexity and character depth to the story. There’s a lot of mystery behind Harry’s connection to Voldemort, a lot of foreshadowing and a lot more mythology. I enjoyed the expanded Dumbledore’s Army training sessions, and how story events clearly motivated Nevil to improve faster. In the movie it was touched on, but the book delves into it more. I also appreciate that the book explores how the Ministry’s denial of Voldemort’s return affects how other students react to Harry Potter in the school throughout the book instead of just a couple of conversations early in the movie.
The biggest difference between the book and the movie is the focus on the OWL exams. The reminders of how important the OWLs adds depth to the actual school part of the story. It’s a fantastic sub-plot. At the same time, I completely understand why the movie barely touched on the OWLs; it would have either overcrowded the movie or nearly doubled its length. If Harry Potter was a TV show like the current book adaptation trend is, the OWLs probably would have fit in fine.
The battle in the Ministry is also more intense in the book. Unlike the movie where none of the Dumbledore’s Army members are hurt, everyone but Harry Potter is injured. Hermione in particular is hospitalized for a week or so. The battle is tense in the movie and brilliantly choreographed, but in the book it’s more brutal. It also feels more realistic this way, considering a bunch of teenagers shouldn’t be able to stand up against much more experienced Death Eaters.
There are plenty of other added details also. George and Fred’s joke shop is mentioned a number of times, and what their mother would think of the idea. The book explores Nevil’s parents a lot more; the movie sort-of glosses over what happened. Umbridge’s dictator politics are also expanded on. As a Journalism graduate, I enjoyed reading the newspaper articles included in the book, and for the most part, they felt like real articles in tabloid papers.
So far all of these additions work very well for the book, so what reduced my enjoyment? Well, my main gripe is that there’s a lot of complaining in this book. Sure, Harry Potter is going through a very rough year. Sure, teenagers tend to complain a lot. While I can grant that the complaining is realistic, the constant bickering and shouting matches is tiring after a while. Even at the end of the book, when Harry is finally conversing with Dumbledore, he spends half of the chapter complaining instead of letting Dumbledore explain his actions. The movie has much less of the complaining.
My other major complaint is how the book spends a lot of time building up on the OWLs and their importance. There are several chapters dedicated to the characters actually taking the OWLs. Yet with all the time spent on these exams, we don’t learn their results by the end of the book. I know from various Harry Potter wikis that the results are revealed so I’m sure book 6 explains things, but wouldn’t it have been better to show the results in this book? I feel cheated.
Despite my complaints, I still enjoyed reading this book. I’d personally rate it somewhere between book 2 and 3 in overall enjoyment. I’m also glad that I read it, being that it’s the longest novel I’ve ever read. For my upcoming reading schedule, I have a non-fiction book that I likely won’t be posting about, and then I finally read book six in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Rises. After that it’s between a vampire book I just ordered online, re-reading one of the X-Wing books I haven’t touched since high school and re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring.