Three frustratingly long years after publication of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling’s legions of fans were rewarded for their patience with release of Harry Potter and Order of Phoenix – launched simultaneously in Britain, USA, Canada, Australia and in other English-speaking countries at one minute past midnight on 21st June 2003.
This fifth book in Rowling’s incredibly successful wizarding series is a challenging 766 pages long, containing over 255,000 words and weighing in at 2.8lb (1.3kg). In Britain alone, it sold 1.8 million copies in immediate hours following its release - a Nielsen Book Scan estimate revealed that one person in every 28 possessed The Order of Phoenix. In US, five million copies were sold during same period. There can be little doubt that Harry Potter is a global literary phenomenon.
Trivia aside, Potter is no longer awkward 11-year-old boy wizard that readers were introduced to in first book. Phoenix sees tangle-haired Harry in his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is now an angry adolescent, a survivor of various hair-raising escapades who often finds it difficult to control his emotions. He frequently finds himself "consumed with anger and frustration, grinding his teeth and clenching his fists", and occasionally takes his "growling resentment" out on his best friends Ron and Hermione.
Phoenix is an enormously harrowing adventure for Harry and definitely not ideal bedtime reading material for squeamish or fainthearted. He is attacked by dementors, threatened with expulsion from Hogwart's, banned from playing Quidditch, discredited among much of magical population, haunted by dreams, visions and stories of his dead parents, accused of being a liar by atrocious Dolores Umbridge, forced to endure loss of a dear friend – and all this before his destiny is finally revealed to him by Dumbledore, who sits Potter down in his office and tells him “everything”.
The book is considerably darker than first four novels as Voldemort begins to spread his evil influence, opposed at each stage by Order of Phoenix, a protective circle of benevolent witches and wizards.
Once again, serious issues such as slavery and racism are touched upon in subplots such as Hermione Granger’s quest to liberate long-suffering House Elves and in Malfoy’s fascistic hatred of “mud bloods” and "filthy half-breeds”. Rowling’s books reflect rather than condone prejudice and Harry continues to take people at face value. Indeed, in their steadfast determination to shield weak against evil forces of Voldermort, characters like Professor Dumbledore quite clearly advocate open-mindedness and empiricism at great personal cost to themselves.