Got my copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at 8:10 a.m. Saturday. Finished at 4:30 Sunday afternoon. (Yes, I took breaks in the reading to sleep, eat, shower, and parent.)
Overall, this fifth entry in JK Rowling's ongoing saga of the Boy Who Lived is worth the wait. The characters we have come to know and love continue to captivate, even as they evolve. There is plenty of genuine emotion here — Harry's heartwrenchingly messy first romance; adolescent temper tantrums; a meaningful, tragic death; fear of an imminent war. And there is much darkness: Harry is angry (often legitimately) and in pain through much of the book as he sees more of human fallibility and sheds much of his innocence.
But the magic and wonder that accompanied the first Potter books is missing. Some has to do with the fact that the faces and routines of Harry's world have become familiar. Some of that has to do with the heavy, psychological nature of the story and the fact that teenage Harry is moody throughout. But much of the blame must be put on the text's heft: Rowling — and readers — would have benefited from the services of a ruthless editor. I don't mind working my way through 870 pages, but some tightening of the prose — excised clichés, sharpened plot — would have made Order a more satisfying, less onerous read at times.
Most, however, is to love: The insight into Harry's Aunt Petunia surprises. Sirius Black's rendition of "God Bless Ye, Merrye Hippogriffs" delights. The coming-into-manhood of Neville Longbottom fascinates. The revelation of credible shades of gray within "good" and "bad" characters deepens our connections to them. And the whole leaves enough questions and concern to create anticipation for news of Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts. Here's hoping we won't have to wait three years.