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Monday 23rd June 2003

Harry Potter Mania.

The new Harry Potter's out - what's it like?
The publicity hype is magnificent. 
Tim Cross (aged 14) reviewed the book for us.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
by J. K. Rowling

Bloomsbury, 2003, 766 pages, ISBN 0747551006

This is the fifth instalment in the famous Harry Potter series, and yet again it follows our famous broomstick riding hero and his Hogwarts chums as they strive against the dark Lord Voldemort. Despite a slow and tedious start, the book soon picks up, and once the main characters arrive at Hogwarts - their magic school - much more interesting things start to happen.

As usual, the main character is Harry Potter but also playing key roles are Harry's friends and schoolmates, Ron and Hermione, who I'm sure are familiar to most readers! There are lots of other characters as well, but there are almost no new personalities, and in this way the book depends quite heavily on its predecessors. Harry also undergoes a complete personality change. Those readers used to the quiet and rather shy Potter may be in for a shock, as our new hero is brazen and tempestuous, frequently taking out his woes upon his friends in a most unfair fashion.

With a series of seven books, there is obviously a risk of the books becoming boring with no new content. In response to this the author has tried hard with lots of new ideas and changes in addition to Harry's personality. This undoubtedly makes the read much more enjoyable, but again this could upset some of the more devout fans! I can't really give away too much of the storyline, but it really is a great read once it gets going, although there is a slightly hectic, seemingly rushed ending. In a way, the book has also become more sinister in comparison with its companion volumes, which have more in the way of comical scenes. The Order of The Phoenix incorporates more deaths and destruction than the other volumes, but still has an amusing side. Yet again, Harry and his trusted friends are forced to fight the Dark Lord when the odds are heavily weighed against them. This consistent ending is actually getting rather frustrating. I know it makes it simpler to have a constant foe, but always fighting the same person - however dreadful - can be a bit tedious.

This book is probably best suited to 10-14 year old readers although the length of the book is quite daunting. Weighing in at 1 kg and having over a quarter of a million words, it's going to present a formidable challenge to any young reader. No ten year old is going to be enthralled at the prospect of such a task. The massive length is probably to do with the author trying to add in lots of background information and important things from the last books, so that each book can be read independently and not solely as a series. Each book then gets progressively longer, and in fact, the total number of pages in books one, two and three is almost equal to the length of the new book.

One last point is the danger of Harrypotteritis. Some children, especially not-too-keen readers, may think that the books are so good that once they've read them, the only thing worth reading is the next book, and that thereby they've read the best of all young fiction. The huge publicity makes this more likely. This means that people may miss out on lots of other good books. Overall though once you get through a dull and uninteresting start, the fifth Harry Potter book picks up pace and there's lots of action and riotous magic.

Tim Cross (14)

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