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Saturday, June 21, 2003

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Brief Review

Well, I finished it at 7:05 pm after picking it up from my doorman at about 12:30 pm. Good work by Amazon to get it out that fast - it arrived at 10:45 apparently. I hadn't bothered to check any earlier, assuming I wouldn't get it until this afternoon.

At any rate, it was marvelous. I may post a more detailed review later, but the short one is - simply wonderful. I'm still grinning at the sheer rush of reading the thing, although (very minor spoiler warning) the ending is not, in fact, particularly upbeat. Rowling has surpassed herself once again. One of the best parts of reading the books for me, an aspiring author, has been watching her learn how to write better with each succeeding novel. It does seem that process is still continuing, as this one surpasses its predecessors. It is extraordinarily tightly plotted and moves with remarkable speed - I read pretty much without stopping for the whole day, even giving up on a chance to go to the gym because I couldn't bare to take even a couple of hours away from the book. The ending battle sequence in particular is one of the best action set-pieces that I can remember reading. The only complaint (and it's a very minor one) is that the Quidditch match doesn't quite live up to the excitement that they had in the first three books. That might be inevitable - even Harry sees that what he is involved with is so much larger than Quidditch that the matches themselves have shifted from centerpieces to something along the lines of local color. There's a much lower level of humor in this one, but we seem to have traded that for a genuinely epic scope and a sense of grandeur to the battle. We started to get hints of this in Goblet of Fire, now that sense is fully-fledged. This isn't just the story of a boy growing up - it's the story of a war, and if is told on a far more personal scale, it nonetheless has a moral weight and a scope that bear comparison to The Lord of the Rings. I had always thought of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series as the finest example of really good children's fantasy I have ever read. If Rowling is able to keep this up for the next two books, I think she will have far surpassed Cooper's remarkable achievement.

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