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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Author: J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine (An imprint of Scholastic Books.)         Date: 2003

The artwork of this dust jacket is markedly different from previous ones. The figure is done in the same style as in the previous jackets. The image presents the hero, Harry, in some sort of library setting. While there are candles featured in the foreground, they provide no apparent illumination. The overwhelming shelves of books engulfs Harry and gives the sense that he is trapped. He is looking over his shoulder at something out of the scene that would be positioned to the onlooker's right. His expression is cautious and his wand is raised in what may be a defensive gesture. The scene is presented in shades of dark blue, complete with the lettering taking on this ominous color scheme. The image gives a claustrophobic sense of confinement and the impression that Harry is trapped in a potentially hostile situation.

The paperboard cover is dark blue with a harlequin pattern impressed into it. The binding is grey with lettering in blue leaf on the spine. The typefont used for the printing on the spine matches the typefont used for the headers of pages and chapter titles. The inside covers of the book are navy blue and smooth. The text as the headers and for the chapter titles remains the same as it was in the previous books. At the head of each chapter, there is a small image that encapsulates a vital element of the chapter within. The paper stock used is fairly run of the mill. The spacing of the text on the pages and the size of the font used lend themselves well to reading for a period of time uninterrupted.

The action of the story continues the descent into darkness from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Again, we start in the middle of action. The opening scene depicts the tension between Harry and his family. It then proceeds to present the supernatural dangers that have become apparent in the world with the rise of Voldemort. The tension between supernatural danger and oppression is a theme through out the book. Where in the beginning oppression is present via Harry's Aunt and Uncle, it become clear that the oppression is a force operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Magic.

The most hated and reviled character of the entire Harry Potter franchise is not Voldemort. It is Professor Delores Umbridge. Umbridge is perhaps one of the most talked about of the villianous characters in the series. Where Voldemort is a figure of sufficient mythological status that the horror of his deeds are somewhat insulated by their fantastic nature, Umbridge is very much a character of cruelty that we recognize. A petty, power hungry woman with a sadistic streak and a taste for humiliating her chosen target, Umbridge is a villian we encounter in the real world. It is for this reason that she is hated even more by readers than Voldemort or the persistent minor villian of Draco Malfoy.

In someways, Umbridge acts as a foil for Professor Minerva McGonagall. McGonagall presents the icon of a serious teacher who also cares quite deeply for her students. In all of the books where McGonagall is present, she acts decisively for the benefit of the students under her care and for the school at large. She provides wise advice and leaves her students enough wiggle room to be the young people they are. Amazingly, this trait does not diminish in the light of the increasing strife within Hogwarts as a result of Umbridge's machinations. If nothing else, she becomes even more committed to assisting her students in their efforts to right the wrongs around them.

Ultimately, this volume of the series takes the reader through what changes occur with the rise of Voldemort and the growing strife in the Wizarding world. Like the previous book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ends with tragedy. The losses of this book strike closer to Harry than what happened  in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I believe this is a deliberate move on Rowling's part to show that the stakes have steadily increased and the situation grows progressively more dire as the story arc continues.