Saturday, August 31, 2013

Beyond the Veil

Okay, so this should have happened in June, but as I explained before I've only been able to look up films for these. That said, this is one of the rare exceptions for this series of Anniversary reviews: A Book.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix turned 10.

This is the book that ruined a generation. Where were you when you heard that Sirius Black died?

I was at my kitchen table at five in the morning with the giant tome open in front of me. I had been gobbling up J.K. Rowling's latest installment of what was quickly becoming my favorite book series. While I had so much fun reading the first four, this one was filling me with a sense of dread. Not just because I was warned that something was going to happen (I'm lucky I wasn't spoiled farther than that), but because while Rowling's whimsical sense of humor is still on display, shit was getting real (pardon my language).

First off, Dolores Jane Umbridge. Just typing that name makes me want to retch and take a shower. This is the first literary character that I've actively despised to the point where I wanted to reach into the book and cause her violence. Hell, I still do every time I read this book. If that's not a powerful villain, I don't know what is.

This is also when we begin to really see our main character growing up. Their thoughts, adventures, everything is much more adult here than in the previous books.

Of course, ever since Prisoner of Azkaban, I've adored Sirius Black as did many other readers. His death shocked us to the core because of how unexpectedly it happened, as well as how quick and mysterious it was.

Really, what happened beyond that veil? What was that thing, and how did it kill Sirius? It was so confusing that the film version made the last spell to hit him Avada Kedavra instead of a normal Stunning Spell. Of course this kind of contradicts whatever the point of the veil was, but that's a topic for another time.

Most people tend to list this on as either their most favorite or their least favorite. It's sort of in the middle for me because while I think it's one of the best written in the series, it is ultimately too depressing for me to put at the top.

But at least we get Dumbledore's Army.


  1. Definitely my favourite book in the series in retrospect. The sense of morbid anticipation that the book built up was definitely part of the appeal. Like you said, it was the book in which shit got real. Separated in its publishing date from its predecessor by three years (as compared to the one separating each of the previous four), it marked a fairly major change in the series as it became more about Harry's personal story.

    The Star Wars parallels are numerous. I compare 'Order of the Phoenix' to 'Attack of the Clones'. AOTC obviously built on TPM, but it was the first time we saw the adult warrior Anakin Skywalker, comparable (as you said) to how OotP showed the maturing of its protagonists. It's about the build up to a major conflict, though HP portrays its conflict as rather more justified than the Clone Wars. Compared with the other books, it's much more obviously political. It's the turning point between the childhood adventures and mysteries of the first four and the conflict of the final two. It draws much from real-world history, in particular the build up to the Second World War and the UK's appeasement policy towards Nazi Germany.

    Voldemort's Death Eaters are far more obviously in the wrong than the Separatists in Star Wars. The problem presented is not that the Wizarding world is being sleep-walked into an avoidable war like Star Wars' Galactic Republic, but that the Wizarding world is blind to the real threat these supremacist thugs pose. 'Attack of the Clones' and 'Revenge of the Sith' inadvertently became parables for the dangers of militarism and the undermining of democracy. WW2 (the obvious parallel to Harry's fight) is over but events of the 2000s and 2010s spur thoughts that the later Harry Potter books were just as prescient. I can't help but see the similarities between the Death Eaters and Greece's actively violent yet electorally popular Golden Dawn neo-Nazis and other European far-right groups. Rowling, a famous progressive in Britain, filled her books with many ethnic minority British characters, the likes of whom the far-right despise, so it is not unlikely that she was aware of and aghast at the emergent fascism all across the continent. The tolerance/support given to Golden Dawn and other far-right European groups does call to mind the tolerance/support which Europe's 1930s political establishment had for fascism, the latter of which 'Harry Potter' presents a fantastical equivalent.

    Yeah, and Harry gets a girlfriend - another AOTC parallel. I think this was another major change: Rowling spoke more to the adolescent experience with OotP.

    So 'Order of the Phoenix' is probably the AOTC of Harry Potter. A distinguished status indeed. AOTC pretty much set the direction for all major Star Wars releases from 2002 to 2013, just as OotP did for Harry Potter from 2003 to (ultimately) 2011 and the final film release.

    1. Never thought about the parallels before, but it's an interesting way to look at it.

  2. People hate Umbridge more than Voldemort in the HP fandom, Understandably so, considering how we've ALL known someone like Umbridge. She's a bureaucrat who flip flops the rules whenever the hell she wants and punishes kids who aren't doing anything! There are plenty of bureaucrats in today's government and society screwing shit up and covering their tracks. And let's face it-EVERYONE knew a teacher like Umbridge. My town's local middle school vice principal is a clone of her who's let brats get away with bullying.

    I love Luna Lovegood. She's so adorable and spacy. I can relate to her being the odd one of my peers and being picked on. Growing up in school, I was more like Myrtle to be honest as I was petty, loud not the most pretty looking and whiny. I think I became more like Luna as an adult while I was more like Myrtle when I was closer to her age. Only difference between me and Luna is that I'm kinda loud (and highly ashamed of it).

    What were your thoughts on Harry x Cho?

    1. Ummm...I don't know? I was into it at first, then Cho sort of revealed her true colors.

      Ultimately I'm happy with the way it all turned out, I just wish Ginny had a little more development.

  3. I think Cho's an OK character. She seemed just confused and guilty as hell with her feelings for Cedric. I think Ginny's OK too, but she's admittedly bland compared to everyone else.

    TBH, I admittedly envy the hell out of Hermione and Luna.