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Unsurprisingly, Phoenix, like earlier books in series, has been subject to intense political and moral analysis. Since Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone (the Sorceror’s Stone in US), first took American reading-public by storm in 1997, there have been vicious attacks by Christian fundamentalists who believe series is cultivating a generation of “evil-doers”. Indeed, more extreme of these groups have accused Rowling of deliberately “spreading witchcraft”. After release of book four, Minnesota Star Tribune reported that a New Mexico town had actually held a book burning, and People Magazine informed its readers that parents across country were seeking to ban book from their children's school libraries. Mercifully, vast majority of American families have taken Harry to their hearts and Phoenix has broken all US sales records, outselling even biography of former first lady, Hillary Clinton.
In a far more agnostically inclined Britain, critics have tended to complain that Potter and his palls are a tad too “Middle-England” for their liking. However, I can only surmise that there must be a distinct lack of humour amongst present-day literary commentators because Rowling is quite obviously being ironic when she writes of curtain-twitching residents of Privet Drive and Minister of Magic in his pinstriped robes.
The Order of Phoenix is by far most sophisticated and mature book of series so far; it is also a more confident work than its predecessors. Although earlier books were far more comedy-driven, there are still many hilarious scenes in Phoenix that will amuse children and adults alike. The narrative moves at a cracking pace as Harry struggles to convince wizard world that Voldemort has returned, and book's prodigious size allows Rowling to weave in serious themes.
With two books to go, it remains to be seen which direction Rowling’s storytelling will take, but it seems likely that link between Harry and Voldemort will lead to ever more elaborate plot-twists and sensational revelations. In meantime, Pottermania will continue to inspire children across globe to read – a truly magical achievement in itself.
Paula is a poet, essayist and short-story writer who has contributed features to numerous guidebooks, magazines and journals on the subjects of literature, travel, culture and history. She lives in North Wales (UK) and is currently the editor of two popular online guides.