Book 5 Thoughts
Compiled between June 2003 and mid-April 2004
I’ll preface this review by saying that I’m a canon-whore. And whether I liked certain aspects or not, I’m now stuck believing in them and honoring them to some extent when I write or theorize about the books.
In addition, like most people, I knew that there would be a death before I started reading it. So the thought “Who’s going to die?” circled through my mind the whole time. But I was under the impression that the death would happen at the end, so I never considered Hagrid or Arthur in any danger of dying in the middle of the book. Still, the first time I read it, I was reading to find clues about the death, or in anticipation of it. So that tinted my reading of it a lot. And of course the other times I read/listened to it I read knowing full well which character died and was able to focus on other things.
General feeling about Book 5: I liked it. I didn’t love it. But I didn’t hate it either. There were some fantastic parts, there were some parts I didn’t think were very good. There were some parts that seemed very unlike what JKR wrote for the first few books as it seems she’s changed her style somewhat in addition to the characters changing and growing which is expected. But as a whole, I’d say I certainly liked the book more than I disliked it.
Things I loved about Book 5: I loved how the book works as a nice progression from what we have had in the past books to what we will have in the future- which is indeed a full-blown war. There is no denying any longer that Voldemort will need to be stopped and Harry will find himself in the middle of that as always.
I loved little lose ends that were tied up. For example, book 3 is my favorite, and I’ve read it a million times. Thus holes in that book are some of the most interesting in my mind, and I have always wondered what Professor Trelawney’s first actual prediction was. As another example, I am glad to see that Harry finally made use of that knife Sirius gave him for Christmas in book 4- as he kept forgetting it when it might be useful in that book. Little details like that made the book a good book.
I liked how well some of the characters were done- including the new ones. It is hard to introduce a whole lot of new characters so late into a series and have them be loved as much as old ones, but this was an attempt that worked well on me, at least. Apart from Dumbledore, I don’t really think any of the characters were done badly or inconsistently. I had no trouble believing Harry’s teenage angst or Hagrid’s incredibly blinded stupid moves.
I also loved little things that were consistent with previous books- such as the attention she gives to secondary characters, hints for future occurrences, descriptions, plot continuances, etc.
I loved the humor, and I loved the painful scenes, and the ones that made me hopping mad. The mix was good.
Things I liked less about Book 5: I’m not going to go as far as say hated, because I did enjoy the book. I’ve read a lot of reviews from people who did actually hate it, and I don’t believe I fall into that category.
While I loved all the slang that was suddenly present because it seemed much more realistic to the setting and dialogue, it was inconsistent with the other books. As if, suddenly after 4 years, they all started using British terms much more now. I don’t know whether this is just a problem with versions (perhaps previous versions changed more) but it feels very strange, as though she just decided to change her style half way through the series.
I was slightly annoyed that it took so darn long to get to the thestrils. I was dying to know what they were from the moment they were pointed out. And when they finally were it was like a huge weight was lifted. I don’t think I was supposed to be so hung up on it… I think I was supposed to forget it and be surprised when they were finally explained. But I wasn’t. I was impatient and a bit annoyed that she kept dropping hints but took so long to explain. I adore the fact that they were so important to the big finale, though.
I did not like the death scene, to pick an obvious one first. I am NOT pleased with Sirius’ last line in the series (though I suppose it illustrates how in “real life” we rarely get to pick our last lines, as death can come so suddenly… and they were a good indication of his character at the time, but that in and of itself should have been deeper). It shows part of his character well, yes, but I do not think it is a fitting last line for such a character. I would have liked Harry to have asked more about the archway and veil, but I do think his grief was there and immense.
I did not like the many holes that were presented and never explained- but that is a typical HP book thing… and I’m impatient, so it’s not really a fault of the book at all.
I did not like Dumbledore. I suppose it is childish and naive of me to want to believe he is perfect, infallible, and I should have seen it coming with hints in previous books like how Harry suddenly realizes that he’s gotten used to Dumbledore always having the answer… but I really started to get angry at Dumbledore at the beginning of the book and never really stopped. I guessed the bit about not wanting to be watched by Voldemort through Harry’s eyes but there are so many ways he could have gotten around this, including having other people explain things to him, or explaining a simplified version to Harry, himself. Distancing himself from Harry was as poor a solution as cooping Sirius up in that dreadful prison of a house. At points, I almost wanted Dumbledore to be the one to die, just because I was getting annoyed at him. I really… no, I actually don’t know what else to say to explain it, but I really suspected something more was up with him. That “look of triumph” in his eyes at the end of book 4 did not seem to match his actions at all in this book. And I was seriously doubting the Occlumency lessons. I know a lot of people have come out of book 5 with renewed respect for Dumbledore because he doesn’t kill Harry when he could have (though that wouldn’t have worked for the prophecy) and because he’s “only human” now but damnit people, can’t you see it really is all his fault? Grrr. I used to love Dumbledore. It’s like waking up and finding out God’s really a house plant named Phil or something. And while it does fit with the trend of Harry realizing that Dumbledore can’t always swoop in and help him… that doesn’t mean Dumbledore’s not the one responsible for all of this. Free the information! Harry’s not a child anymore! At least Sirius could see that. And, perhaps, that’s one reason it was important to kill him off.
With that said… I’m going to hit on a number of points I wish to bring up first, then go into more general discussion and character analysis.
The Self-Organized Defense Against the Dark Arts Classes. a.k.a. Dumbledore’s Army:
This, perhaps, was my favorite part of the book. The second time I cried(first being during Molly’s breakdown- I knew right off it was a boggart, but Lupin’s words to her make me cry every time) during the book was at the Sorting Hat’s song. It was a warning I had been expecting, just perhaps not from the hat. I have pondered the idea of sorting for a long time, and I think it’s an American view (because we don’t have house systems in our schools) but it looked to me like the divisions at times only served to drive wedges between students where there needn’t have been a problem normally. There have been a number of good examples throughout the books of how students from different houses get together, talk civilly, become friends (or more), but even more examples of how the differences between them are strengthened by the fact that they can back themselves up with a house name and group to prove themselves. It’s like saying ‘I’m smart because I am in Ravenclaw. Therefore, I must be smarter than you’ rather than just ‘I’m smarter than you’ because there’s always bound to be someone smarter academically.
Anyway, I liked the whole concept of the DA, though it seemed contrived to me at first. With all of the teachers they’ve had in the past, they really did need a constant, good grounding in these things. And even though Harry was leading, I believe it taught him a lot, too, including who he could rely on in times of need and how far they all still had to go. And the room and whole thing was really very inspirational and made me feel good that they’re learning and understanding about how it is in the real world.
The point I liked most about the DA was that it unified houses. The trend was sort of started in book 4, but problems in the tournament (a.k.a. Harry) made it difficult for the whole school to unite behind a single champion. Still, the spark was there, and again there is was with the Sorting Hat: unite and be strong or die. They’re only as strong as they are united. So the part of the DA I most liked was how it was a student-created thing which brought three houses together with no problems of house divisions. Even when having to accommodate to three different Quidditch team practices, that wasn’t much of a big deal and they still made it work. Even a house elf has a part in it- uniting cross-species so to speak.
Now, when I first heard about it, I honestly thought it would be our usual Gryffindor lot involved. Then some from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw walked through the door… and I suddenly got that nice unification feeling- they were there out of fear and purpose. But no Slytherins. Not that I was surprised, obviously, but they exclude Slytherin intentionally. This is not the way to unify. In fact, it only serves to pit the two groups against one another as many of the Slytherins become Umbridge’s personal army. In my opinion, nothing will be accomplished until the houses unite for good and stop all of this rivalry. But with current situations (and the current Slytherins) it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon. And yet… I think it really should. I think it *needs* to. And I think Dumbledore’s as guilty as anyone in driving a wedge between houses- take humiliating Slytherin at the end of year feast during Stone- he could have awarded points in private, but no, he awards JUST the right amount right there in front of everyone and makes a big deal about changing the decorations. Just as an example.
there is Slytherin help throughout the story, and certainly a continued trend
of ‘the world not being divided just into good and death eaters’. The
headquarters of the “good” movement (The Order of the
same subject of unity, there seems to be quite a building of unity when it
comes to magical creatures of different species. The
fountain, which plays an intricate role at the end, for example.
“Dumbledore trusts were a lot of folks wouldn’t” says Hagrid in book 4. But we
have even more diversity than ever in this book- with giants, for example. And
a centaur teaching divination- I must say, that was a little disturbing, how he
was beaten and driven out. I am hoping
more unity in the form of the Order of the
And then the rescue party at the end. For the first time, we’ve got a team that’s comprised of more than just Harry, Ron, and Hermione. And when it comes down to the big conflict, Harry does not stand alone as he did in books 1(end chamber with Quirrel/Voldy), 2(chamber with snake/Tom- okay, he had Fawkes, but let’s assume I just mean people), 3(saves himself, Sirius and Hermione from Dementors) and 4(graveyard with Voldy and rest). One might argue (as Harry did in book 5) that he couldn’t have gotten to those scenes without the help of others, and one would be right. Ron & Hermione did help on all those occasions, as did Fawkes and Lupin (teaching Harry the patronus charm) and technically even Snape/Lockheart in teaching Harry how to disarm. But this time, the party that goes with him is NOT just the trio. And though there’s the line about how he wouldn’t have picked Neville, Ginny, and Luna as the three out of all in the order, well, point is they’re there, they fight, and they’re willing to stand with Harry. The Order show up as well, as does Dumbledore, for the first time as well. I personally thought that marked a huge change in the trend of the books. And while ultimately Harry is the one who will have to stand and fight for all of them… he won’t really be alone then either.
Awww! They’re all really starting to grow up! That’s really nice to see. As much as I love the young, naive three-some, it’s very interesting to see this middle stage- they know enough to do damage, but not enough to be adults. And I think being able to escape from school and take on a group of death eaters shows this maturity every bit as much as the ‘dating’ prospects and such.
Harry- I had no problem with what most people consider to be
a sudden mood swing/character change. Things like witnessing a friend’s death
at the hands of an enemy (or in this case, at the hands of a man who betrayed
your parents and slept in your best friend’s bed for years) and things like
being cut open so your mortal enemy can regain human form and re-take over the
world and then being cut off from all news and helpful information while you’re
scared everyone you know might die… well… things like that might tend to make
an adolescent a little pissed. I think back to when I was 14 and 15 and 16 and
how paranoid I was about things and my role in life, etc., and I can’t claim to
have had it even remotely as hard as Harry. So yeah, no
problem with it. I wasn’t cheering his moods on like my boyfriend does
(he wanted Harry to leave
Ron- My little red-head grows up! *ruffles Ron’s hair* OK, so the book jacket spoiled the keeper surprise for me- GRR! But I liked his personal development a lot in this book. I think a good book really does develop its secondary characters as much as its protagonist and antagonist. I liked his “big brother looking after little sister” moments especially as he didn’t try and interfere as his other brothers might… while still wanting to be kept informed. I loved his courage in wanting to try out- and in finally making a catch- and loved the appropriate supportive Gryffindor reaction. I loved his shock and pride in becoming prefect- and in his reaction to Percy’s letter on that and other subjects.
Hermione- Obviously, she was developed as well, but I thought of her as a Miss Exposition through most of the story. Mostly, she was there to prod forward, inform, and give advice/encouragement. No surprise in her making Prefect, or in studying long and hard and prodding Ron and Harry to do the same (I loved the planners). I do think she needs to give up S.P.E.W. even though I’m so pro animal rights and all that… though I admire her tenacity. I’m sure she’ll learn her lesson about how to let some convictions go when it’s the right time. And I liked how she still corresponds with Viktor. I liked Krum. OK, so the second time we meet him he’s got a head cold, that certainly doesn’t hurt my opinion of him, but I really do like the guy. The whole shyness thing for such a burly, famous guy is very endearing, even if he is cross at times.
Hagrid- So, yeah, he wasn’t in the book much. And when he was, his accent was much more defined than in pervious books. I was worried about him (though I knew he couldn’t just show up and die, so I wasn’t so worried about him being the character who dies) but suspected his mission was taking a long time. I thought his compassion for his half brother was lovely, and I didn’t think it at all out of character that he would bring a giant all the way over and try and teach him English and all that… and to get Harry and Hermione (and Ron) to look after him. After all, he’s told them to go into the forest on much more dangerous business in the past. I would have liked more Hagrid, as he’s one of my favorite characters.
Luna- oddly enough, I really liked her. Everybody needs a little weirdness in their life, and looks like Luna’s there for that part. I’m not entirely sure I liked how much she was used- as though she had been a main character for the longest time… but in a group of five regulars I suppose one newbie isn’t bad- she certainly brings a new perspective to things, and opportunities they have not before had. So yeah, I like her.
Ginny- Talk about growing up! Not only has she got several steady boyfriends but she’s on the Quidditch team and part of the rescue at the end. Personally, I really enjoyed the conversation between Harry and Ginny, where Ginny wants to talk about what’s happening and how he should have come to her as she’s the one who was controlled by Voldemort as well.
Neville- I adore the boy, and I love seeing him come into his own. One of my favorite moments was when he was visiting his parents for Christmas *sniffles* I would have REALLY liked a moment with just Neville and Harry, though. Where Harry explains that he knew before… so Neville doesn’t think it was a shock to him as well. I would have loved a confession that he knew for a year but didn’t tell. I think Neville could use that kind of loyalty and understanding and friendship. I loved seeing him getting fired up and coming into his own in the DA meetings. But I *really* wanted him to do something more in the final battle. I was thrilled he was there, and was really looking forward to him getting a little revenge/practice. And while he did certainly protect Harry, and stand up for himself as well, I still would have liked to have seen him do more. Most times all the spells he tried failed. And that disappointed me greatly. I look forward to seeing much more out of him.
New Order characters- I loved the real Mad Eye Moody. Even more extreme and quirky than the fake! I was thrilled to finally find out who Mrs.Figg was. And Dung was nothing like I thought he’d be, but he was utterly hilarious. I especially love his relationship/interactions with Sirius. Tonks was fantastic. I really adore her. Everything about her is wonderful- the hate of her first name, her klutziness, her humor, her kindness, her talent. She’s really a great character. I liked Kingsley a lot, but wanted to get to know him better.
Fred and George- I love them to death. Cannot think of anything more I would have liked out of them in this book. They stood up for their family, they defended their school, they came into their own, they were wise and savvy, they sacrificed themselves for Harry and the good of the school. And they did it all with humor and strength and goodness. I loved the twins.
Percy- I was highly annoyed by him, as I really understand his character well and didn’t like his turn of events. But if I was scared Voldy was going to come back and kill us all, I think I’d be in denial if the Minister of Magic told me to be. Seriously. But I’m a Hufflepuff. And he’s a Gryffindor. And even though he was utterly horrible to his family- especially his parents and Ron- I think he’ll apologize and be accepted back. He’s noble. He’ll show his true colors in the next book. I’m sure of it.
Molly Weasley- I really didn’t like her much in the book. She was either too mothering and worrying or just downright annoying. I don’t like people insulting my Sirius, no matter how reasonably she does it. Nope. I don’t like it. I won’t have it. I certainly felt for her at times… when she was scared no one would look after the kids if she and Arthur died… and when Arthur did nearly die. But otherwise I just... GROWL!
Remus- There wasn’t enough of him. Honestly. Where WAS he? But the parts he was in were my favorite ones in the entire book, hands down. When he collected Harry at the Dursley’s I squeed very loudly and hugged the book. The way he handled everyone so calmly and caringly… the fire chat with Harry… the whole ending *sigh* He was so very perfect in the “flashback” I just can’t say anything about him except that he’s my all-time favorite character and every single bit of him in the book was fantastic. I only wish there had been much more.
Sirius- Loose cannon. I really wish JKR had given Harry that moment right at the end of Winter Holiday. Heck, I wish she hadn’t driven him stir crazy and hadn’t used the word ‘rash’ to describe him a hundred times. He’s a tortured soul, trapped and going crazy in a house he ran away from. I suppose there really was no way out… but he was so trying to pick up and have a life after Azkaban. I just wish it had worked. I loved him so much. I really did. And he’s not really gone to me yet, as literary characters don’t die for me. But I cried quite a long time over his fate. And I was angry at the ambiguity since she said she rewrote it many times to get it right… and that was far from right IMHO. Sirius deserved so much more. As did Harry. I can only hope we will see and hear more of him through the mirror or through that damn veil.
Dumbledore- He used to be one of my most favorite characters. But as I said before, I didn’t like him in this book. I blame him COMPLETELY for Sirius’ death and think he should have marched right over and strangled Kreatcher, too. I blame him for Harry’s suffering as a child. I blame him for this entire book, actually. He could have told Harry. Kindness and blind love is no excuse. Harry should have known about the prophecy and his tie with Voldemort. So much of everything would have been SO easily fixed if only Dumbledore hadn’t been a damn idiot. And I half wonder if that wasn’t his plan all along. At the end of GoF with that “triumphant look” in his eye, I almost convinced myself he was evil. Then during OotP I was sure he wasn’t. After reading it a few times and thinking it through, I think I’m convincing myself that he is, again.
McGonagall- Ohhhhhhh yes! Very little made me happier in the book than at the moments when she stood up to Umbridge. Defended Albus and the other teachers. And protected Harry all she could. She was tough and feisty and everything I’d come to expect, but with added sweetness (like the cookie, and the humor about the fireworks). She really made the last quarter of the book worth reading.
Hagrid- Poor baby. *snuggles* Had such a hard time in this book. No development, just a soft spot in his heart and a few very brief scenes. He deserved more, too.
Draco- Was he in this book? Squints. Oh, yeah! There he is. Whoops, there he went. Too bad he didn’t stay long enough for some development of any kind.
Cho- I sort of liked her when Harry began noticing her. But after a while, his slight obsession with her was starting to get annoying considering she could never actually tell him how she felt. Perhaps it was a point to show the problem with unrealistic expectations and obsessions. Perhaps it was a point to show the problems and immaturity in young love. But really, Harry deserved so much better than she gave. He deserved someone he could be comfortable and natural around. And I was sad for her, but glad he didn’t end up with her. She needed someone who wouldn’t remind her about Cedric every second and make her burst into tears. And Harry needs his Wheezey.
Umbridge- Yeah. Obviously the villain you love to hate. And oohhhhh I detested her with every fiber of my being and then some! There were times where I was so angry at her that I had to close the book for a few minutes and try not to yell and wake my neighbors up. At the bloody writing punishment I literally felt sick to my stomach and had angry tears in my eyes. Much more evil than Voldemort, in my opinion. Just… everything… so… GROWL!
The Themes of Control and Power
To me, control seems to be the ultimate concept in this series. In the first book, Voldything gives his little speech about ‘There is only power and those to weak to seek it’. Each of the three unforgivables revolves around a different sort of way of controlling victims with “ultimate power” and we learn that these can only be used by people who really want to do the damage, people who have sought that desire for power that is so clearly dangerous. Voldemort and Dumbledore both amass armies throughout the books- controlling those beneath them- and this control sometimes leads to the followers’ suffering or death. So many people are manipulated and controlled blatantly. And just as many are controlled through lack of honesty and knowledge. The fact is that those in power must use their power wisely. Fudge, obviously, is a good example of one who abuses his position of power (as are Umbridge, Draco, and Filch, for that matter). I have absolutely no problem in drawing that line between good and evil in most of her books- which is not something I like. I like gray, I like ambiguously moral characters, I like it when it’s not just an easy fight against evil. Of course, maybe that’s why Dumbledore worries me now. Up until this book, I believed he was the head good guy. Even after that little “triumphant look” in book 4. But now… if there really is no good and evil and there is only power(the difference is how power is used- for good or for evil purposes)… well, he certainly has power. Dumbledore has so much power that the DA was formed under his influence without him having to mention a word or lift a finger. His simple presence is enough to make people stand up and fight. And that’s VERY worrisome. Not that I think the Order are blindly following orders, by any means. But if the major theme of the book is control and power… Dumbledore seems just as Dangerous as Voldy. I find it interesting that at the beginning of book5, they’re discussing the order with Harry, and they mention that they know a lot- a lot more than Voldy thinks they know at least. But, really, maybe Voldemort really does know. OK, so he doesn’t know that other bit about the prophecy, but apart from that… obviously, I mean Snape here. I honestly still can’t decide for sure whose side he’s really on. Maybe that’s why I like Snape? He’s the ambiguous one. But still, he’s either black or white… just hiding what side he’s really on. I’d personally like a bit more gray in the series- very little in the real world is either good or evil. But the concept of power… and control… I think they are very important things to look for in the series.
As mentioned before, it’s both a weakness and a strength that Dumbledore takes in and trusts so many of the downtrodden. The idea of giving control and power to those who do not have it and never have had it is a huge important theme. These include: the giants, goblins, house elves, Snape, the kids in the DA, and Harry of course. Each one of these groups/people gains more power and trust from a position of having little or none. It’s a way of taking what they deserve. It’s a way of showing their true natures and abilities. It’s a way for Dumbledore to get more supporters (by praying on these weak people/groups). But the theme goes further than that. Look at the power Kreatcher was given and how he not only abused it but it resulted in Sirius’ death. His loyalty was strong to Sirius for the sake of the family name, but when it came down to it, his true nature won out and he took advantage of his little bit of power which led to disastrous results. Or take Filch, who has told us from book 1 he wants to go back to the old ways of torturing kids. In this book he’s given that power by Umbridge, and we can see how it gets out of hand. And in a nice foil to the DA, there’s the Inquisitorial Squad who are the obvious baddies. It’s a very big thing to give someone who longs for power the power to do something. It’s more important than people already with power doing something. There’s a drive, an emotion, a need, that always seems to make greater things happen. Perhaps that is why Dumbledore let Harry be abused for so long. He knew it would give Harry the understanding of what was right and wrong and the emotions needed to finally get Voldemort in the end.
My Ultimate Favorite Moments (in no particular order)
-Snape’s worst memory, especially Remus’ werewolf joke and the Marauder dynamics
-Harry’s chat with Sirius and Remus in the fire about his father
-All the little Sirius/Remus hints throughout (and more importantly, the fact that nothing denies that they could be a couple)
-Fred & George’s fireworks, and their brilliant exit
-The Sorting Hat’s song
-The first DA meeting
-The Quidditch match where Ginny catches the snitch because the other seeker sneezes at the wrong time (okay, sorry, that damn weakness of mine!)
-Minnie standing up to Umbitch multiple times, especially where Harry is concerned
-The members of the order standing up for Harry (in Sirius’ place) to the Dursleys at the end
-Christmas like a family, hats on house elf heads, and God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs
-Meeting the Order members for the first time
-The photograph scene- honestly, one of the most touching moments. Upon second and third reading/listening, it gets to me more and more. Just to think about how many of the happy faces are now dead… and how now Sirius is, too *sob* It makes me worry a lot about the next books. And even though Lupin says that they’re much better prepared than last time, that doesn’t mean others I love won’t die