Book reviews are often assigned in school, a task that will appear in many courses throughout the years. Despite its recurring nature, book reviews remain to be significant, as this allows students to gain a clear understanding of a novel they have read. This also allows the instructors to check whether the students have actually read the book or not, as here, opinions and critique remain to be significant aspects of writing a book review. Below is an example of a book review, submitted by an anonymous writer.
Book Review Sample: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
As the fifth installment of the book series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix takes readers further into the dark side of Harry’s world. Known worldwide as the “Boy Who Lived”, J.K. Rowling gives us what’s next of Harry Potter’s story. Here, he faces his greatest fear – the return of the Dark Wizard responsible for the scar on his head, his parents’ murder, the world’s almost demise.
As a fifteen-year-old, Harry not only faces the biggest threat of all time, but how the rest of the people around him decide to treat him. Having returned to Hogwarts the year prior clutching Cedric Diggory’s lifeless body and claiming that Voldemort has returned, most people have been convinced that he was lying. The Ministry of Magic refuses to believe that the Darkest Wizard of all time has returned and launches a propaganda attack not only on Harry, but the Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, adding fuel to the already burning skepticism of the public. To further add to their woes, Harry and his friends encounter the despicable Dolores Umbridge, who took post as their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to act as a spy for the Ministry. As Harry deals with rumors and gossip that follow him everywhere, he finds himself slipping further away from his friends. His temper rises to fury often, and people become wary around him. As Umbridge continues to terrorize the school and refuse to teach students defense against dark magic, Harry and his friends decided to fight back through an underground group resistance. They have decided that while Umbridge and the rest of the Ministry continues to reject the idea of Voldemort’s return, they shall be learning defensive magic for the inevitable war.
Seasons pass at Hogwarts, but come Christmas time things become darker still. Harry has dreamt of Mr. Weasley being attacked by a snake, and through this, they have learned a dangerous fact about Harry - his mind was connected to Voldemort’s. Even with attempts to sever this connection through the use of Occlumency, Voldemort discovers this connection in time and uses it against Harry. Voldemort plants a false memory of Sirius, Harry’s beloved godfather, being tortured by him at the Ministry. Harry, panicked by the vision, runs to London to rescue Sirius, backed up by his friends. Upon arriving, they realized that they have been lured into a trap, and discovered a prophecy that Voldemort has been longing for all year; a prophecy about Harry and him:
“..and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...”
They face the murderous Death Eaters in an attempt to protect the prophecy and themselves, and they were forced into a violent battle. Soon, however, Harry and his friends ended up either badly hurt or captured, and he was forced to surrender. The Order of the Phoenix, an organization made to resist and fight against Voldemort, arrives on the scene, and Sirius flings himself into the heart of the battle. As it ensues, the prophecy ends up being destroyed, and Sirius dies at the hands of his estranged cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. In grief and agony, Harry runs after her, but finds himself cornered by Voldemort himself once again. As if on cue, Dumbledore arrives, and the two most powerful wizards duel. As soon as Voldemort realizes he was losing, his focus shifted back to Harry and attempted to possess him. Harry, recalling all the love and friendship in his body – drives him away. It was later revealed that it had pained Voldemort to possess Harry, as his heart was too pure for the evil Voldemort has.
- Harry Potter – Harry is the main protagonist of the story. He is one of the most famous wizards of all time for defeating Lord Voldemort when he was still a baby. He lost his parents, but found home in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As Voldemort rises again, he is haunted by their connection and the war to come.
- Hermione Granger – Hermione is one of Harry’s best friends and hailed as the brightest witch of her time, much to the surprise of many. Hermione is borne of Muggle parents, but her intelligence and affinity with magic cannot be denied.
- Ron Weasley – Ron is another one of Harry’s best friends. He is the 5th of the Weasley siblings. Fiercely loyal and brave, he comes to Harry’s whenever needed – especially when they need to stay up late to cram assignments.
- Albus Dumbledore – He is hailed as one of the greatest wizards of all time, making him both respected and feared. He is the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when Harry arrived until problems arose due to Voldemort’s return.
- Dolores Umbridge – Vile and cruel, Dolores Umbridge’s loyalty lies with the Ministry of Magic, where she is Senior Undersecretary to the Minister.
- Lord Voldemort – Most wizards are afraid to speak his name, as he is responsible for many murders and the propaganda of racial superiority. Voldemort is the embodiment of pure evil and is the main antagonist in the story.
- Sirius Black – Sirius is Harry’s godfather, having once been the best friend of James Potter. He is an animagus, which is the ability to transform into an animal at will. He takes form of a shaggy black dog named Padfoot. Wrongly been accused of murder, he has long been forced into hiding after his escape from the wizard prison Azkaban. He is a member of the Order of the Phoenix.
- Remus Lupin – Remus was also one of James Potter’s best friends, and still remains to be a close friend of Sirius. As a child, he was transformed into a werewolf, which is a lifelong affliction that the society uses to shun and discriminate him. He is also a member of the Order.
- Professor Severus Snape – Snape is a professor at Hogwarts, but is hated by many due to his cruel personality. He is, however, revered by the Slytherins, where he serves as Head of House. His prowess as Potions master, however, is indubitable. A former Death Eater, he is mistrusted by many, but Dumbledore himself vouches for him and inducts him as part of the Order.
- Draco Malfoy – Draco is the arch nemesis of Harry at Hogwarts, and the cause of the Trio’s misfortunes. He is of pureblood descent, making him and his family in favour of Voldemort’s ideals. His father, Lucius Malfoy, is a Death Eater.
- Rubeus Hagrid – Hagrid is Hogwart’s gamekeeper turned professor. He is half-giant, and a good friend of the Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
- Ginny Weasley – Ginny is Ron’s sister, the last of the Weasley siblings, and the only daughter. She is regarded as beautiful and fierce, known for the strength of her Bat-Bogey Hex. She is a member of Dumbledore’s Army and fights with Harry at the Ministry.
- Luna Lovegood -Luna is also part of Dumbledore’s Army, but she is often discriminated because of her eccentric beliefs and behaviour. Most people call her “Loony”.
- Neville Longbottom – Neville has always attracted misfortune, as he is incredibly clumsy and forgetful. However, he joins Dumbledore’s Army where he learned defensive magic from Harry, allowing him to fight alongside with the others at the Ministry.
- Bellatrix Lestrange – Bellatrix has been locked up in Azkaban for many years, and has broken out upon Voldemort’s return. She has killed and tortured many people, including Neville’s parents, who have been tortured into insanity. She comes from the Black family, making her Sirius’s cousin.
- Lucius Malfoy - Lucius is the father of Draco Malfoy and is a Death Eater. He uses his money to threaten and manipulate people, and has become an asset to Voldemort in an attempt to infiltrate the Ministry.
- Cornelius Fudge – Power-hungry and corrupt, Fudge serves as the Minister of Magic. He is threatened by Dumbledore, and that prompted him to launch a propaganda attack.
Most of the events in the book happened at Hogwarts, but many notable events also happened at the Order’s headquarters, 12 Grimmauld Place, as well as the Ministry of Magic.
The theme of this book runs throughout the entire series: the importance of love, friendship, loyalty, and the triumph of good over evil. Time and time again, Rowling writes love as the ultimate form of magic – making even the evil of Voldemort vulnerable. In this book, however, darker themes are explored. There is also the aspect of rebellion in the form of Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix, both defying tyranny and extreme ideologies.
Critical Analysis and Reflection
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of the longest Harry Potter books, and my favourite out of the seven. Here, the atmosphere gets darker, as we find ourselves in the midst of what the world can be in Voldemort’s power, a time we have only been hearing from characters in the past few books. While the ultimate battle between good and evil draws near, Rowling does not forget that her characters are merely teenagers, fifteen at that, struggling to make sense of their own identities. We find Harry dealing with girl troubles, Luna dealing with bullies, and Neville slowly understanding his strength. We find Ron and Hermione struggle with their relationship and feelings, and other characters dealing with teenage angst and drama.
The story, despite carrying the theme of revolution and war, has been made to be relatable. This may come in the form of Dolores Umbridge, a professor with dictatorship tendencies our main characters have to face. To an extent and at some point in our lives, we have dealt with our own Umbridges – perhaps a professor unwilling to give you that grade you deserve, or a school authority figure refusing to hear the student body’s pleas. In any case, we can argue that the character Dolores Umbridge exists in the world, and we’ve all had our encounters.
Another issue that has struck me the most was the Ministry of Magic’s antics. Refusing to believe that Voldemort has returned, Cornelius Fudge derives the idea that Dumbledore is trying to usurp his position. Due to this, he goes as far as subtly launching a propaganda attack on both Harry and Dumbledore, using his power over the popular newspaper publication called the Daily Prophet. His behaviour, along with his cronies, greatly mirrors the realities of our own political systems. Such corruption and greed exist, and Fudge’s connection with Lucius Malfoy’s money is a testament to how some politicians, both current and time past, work under the guise of a good public image.
Despite the dark times ahead, Harry continues to find love and light from his friends and family – Ron and Hermione, the Weasleys, the Order, and of course, Sirius. Harry Potter remains to be a story about hope, love, and friendship. Although death is inevitable, Rowling teaches us that all that good things are worth fighting for. There will be pain and scars, but as long as the little flame remains, darkness will never prevail.
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