This is in many ways just as fabulous as the last two, but I think I did like “Order of the Phoenix” a bit better. Mostly this is because 1) this one wasn’t nearly as funny, as the plot is decidedly dark and serious by this point, and 2) the ending is just devastating. Unavoidable, I get that — it had to happen. But devastating nonetheless.
It’s also not totally clear to me why the mental connection between Harry and Voldemort took a temporary hiatus for most of this book. Dumbledore steered clear of Harry for almost all of Book 5 because he didn’t want Voldemort to realize how close their relationship was and attempt to get at him through Harry. I think the implication was supposed to be that after Voldemort manipulated Harry to get him to the ministry by pretending he had Sirius, Voldemort would know that trick would no longer work and therefore wouldn’t bother to try to use the connection anymore. Dumbledore explained that Voldemort must have been using Occlumancy against Harry to keep him out after that, because he’d realize that letting Harry into his thoughts would be dangerous for him. Yet the connection between Harry and Voldemort is renewed in Book 7, for no apparent reason (and very much to Voldemort’s detriment). Still, I guess there was enough going on in Book 6 without that added complication. Dumbledore’s private lessons with Harry needed to center on learning as much as they could about Voldemort’s past, and the plot was complex enough as it was without having Harry see into Voldemort’s mind all the time. The Pensieve is a very clever way to incorporate back story necessary to the plot, without dry recitation… we get to see Voldemort as the child Tom Riddle, and the young Voldemort before he became the most feared wizard the world had ever known–before he had lost his powers trying to kill Harry.
I must say I don’t care that much for the way the romance is written between Ginny and Harry — or between Ron and Hermione, for that matter. Maybe that’s because it’s told from the perspective of a boy who isn’t in touch with his own feelings most of the time, but it almost feels like a drawing in crayon: hard lines, crude and abrupt emotions. The nuances of all other relationships seem far more believable. But this takes up so little of the book that it doesn’t matter all that much — it’s just a notable exception, I think.
And even with all the darkness going on in the wizarding world this far in, there’s still time for Quidditch matches, side obsessions, and amusing episodes. I hate stories that end sad, but I can still love this one because it’s not over yet. There is still redemption to come!
My rating: **** 1/2