Synopsis: Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…
Suspense, secrets and thrilling action from the pen of J.K. Rowling ensure an electrifying adventure that is impossible to put down.
Me: Okay, I’m not going to have ANY time to read for the next two weeks, and I’m close to falling behind on my reading goal, so I should be careful what I pick up.
Me to me: 800 pages sounds about right.
I don’t even know if I can write a cohesive review of this. I’ve been reading it for SO LONG. The notes I took at the beginning have long since disappeared and I just can’t remember vast swaths of this book. This might be a review of the last 200 pages. (Which, let me tell ya, would be an unfairly positive review.)
Okay, the extreme Ravenclaw in me is coming out here – WHY DON’T HARRY AND RON EVER DO THEIR HOMEWORK? I swear to God the sub-plotline in the middle of every single book is them falling behind in their classes, and it stresses me out. Genuinely. It gives me the same feeling I get when I put off work till too late – i.e., the worst feeling IN THE WORLD. Get on top of your studying! Then you get to feel all satisfied and proud – i.e., one of the best feelings in the world. (Can you tell I’ve never gotten anything other than Ravenclaw on a sorting hat quiz?)
And then every once in awhile, the stakes will be way higher…and Harry “I Only Care About Dumb Stuff” Potter still applies the same procrastination to it. It happened in Goblet of Fire, when Harry would put off working on the task hints – WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN DIVINATION DREAM CHARTS, YA WEIRDO. And it happened in this book, when Harry just…didn’t try at Occlumency. I know you don’t like Snape, kid. Neither do I. In fact, my list of notes for my anti-Snape rant just kept growing through this book. BUT IT’S FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY AND THE SAFETY OF COUNTLESS OTHERS! PEOPLE YOU LOVE! YOU’RE RISKING LETTING VOLDEMORT INTO HOGWARTS OUT OF PURE LAZINESS!
And poor Ron in this book, right? He finally gets good at Quidditch – good at something, for God’s sake – and there’s no one there to see him. His brothers abandon him (well, and Ginny) to the school. Harry just…freaks out at him sometimes. Things are always rough for poor unappreciated Ron, but this is particularly tragic. And don’t even get me STARTED on Neville in this book. The Gryffindor in him really comes out. His life is so hard, and he is still so brave and loving. Oh my God, I’m legitimately getting choked up.
Well, not actually. But as close as I get. And disclaimer, 25 percent of that sadness is because “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” just came up on my Spotify and LA LA LAND IS AN EMOTIONAL FILM. God, that movie. Don’t get me started. (What? you ask innocently, since clearly I just brought that up a) out of nowhere and b) one hundred percent of my own volition.)
And oh, gross, I just remembered Cho Chang. Why does she have to exist? She’s a human marker of Harry going through puberty. She has no traits. Except she embodies some of the more offensive female stereotypes – i.e., the “omg girls are so confusing!!” moment Harry and Ron share like, a million times throughout this. Cho is a Ravenclaw, and I should feel some #HousePride when she’s mentioned – especially since she’s like the only one they ever mention – but instead she’s a ditz. Boy crazy. Constantly emotional. Bleh. And as if that weren’t enough, Harry’s dickish and an idiot the whole time!
Rating this book is going to be a struggle. I didn’t enjoy the first 600 pages, like, at all. And then I goddamn loved the last 200. Oh god. Now I have to both delineate why the first 600 pages – which I can barely remember – were bad, while the last 200 were good.
Alright, I’ll try to do this quickly because clearly I’m ramble-y right now. (And all the time, no?) The first 600 pages were a terrible combination of boring AND upsetting. I’m still surprised by how Grimmauld Place managed to be such a snoozefest. A secret rebel order of wizards inhabiting a hidden house filled with dangerous relics manages to make me doze off? Unreal. Then we have to watch as a world we all hold dear is torn apart by terrible leadership – Umbridge, yes, but I also think we don’t discuss Minister of Magic Fudge’s incompetency enough. How did he land this gig? And how does the Wizarding government totally lack checks and balances? Have these guys ever heard of John Locke? The Constitutional Convention, parts one and two? Democracy?
As if that weren’t enough, all these fabulous characters we know and love are at their WORST in this book. I won’t go off on Snape yet – although I hope y’all are preparing yourselves for that – but I’ll explain for the others. Harry is a massive brat throughout. Hermione, typically my absolute fave, is a bad friend, pretentious, and untrusting. Hagrid has his head particularly shoved up his ass. Dumbledore acts like an idiot, a self-admitted idiot. And Sirius ruins himself for me in this book. When he tells Harry, “You’re less like your father than I thought […] The risk would’ve been what made it fun for James,” he is shaming an orphaned fifteen year old, guilting him into acting against his own interest and safety – and the safety of his loved ones and the REBEL ORDER – by bringing up his DEAD FATHER. Disgusting.
DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE JAMES FLASHBACK. Lupin and Sirius’s speech to Harry on it? Seriously. Lacking. James and Lily should never have ended up together, never. I get why Sirius and James were so close. THEY BOTH SUCK. But there were bright spots, though they may have been few and far between. Neville and Ginny are absolutely fantastic in this book, and did their best to rescue it from itself. But Luna is eh for me. I just don’t care about her. AND WE LOSE FRED AND GEORGE. I didn’t realize how much I loved their hijinks until they ruckus’d their way out of Hogwarts.
But if the first 600 pages were one, one and a half stars, the last 200 were four and a half or five. I love the setting of the Department of Mysteries, I loved that big Death Eaters battle scene. I sort of liked Dumbledore’s speech, but still was kind of like…okay buddy, you should know better. Most importantly, I felt like Harry’s mourning at the end was really well captured. Which is, you know, not an impression I get often from these books. (The Harry Potter series isn’t renowned for, like, its capturing of the human experience.) And that last moment at the train station? Where all of Harry’s loved ones are defending him? Killed. Me.
Bottom line: I don’t know what to rate this, so I’ll give it that old placeholder, three stars. Not my favorite Harry Potter book, but featuring some of my favorite moments…alongside some of my least favorite.