Harry’s always been wary of his celebrity status, but this book is the first time he’d really rather not be Harry Potter anymore. We learn more than ever about the wizarding world and finally see the Ministry of Magic. In an earlier book this would have been a whimsical journey of wonder. Here Harry learns a dark truth – the adult world is petty and unconcerned with justice. But let’s back a up a bit. The last book tore the last bit of the mask of a children’s story off as Harry had to watch a classmate die and come face to face with Voldemort and his top Death Eaters. It still came as quite a shock to find that Death Eaters had made their way to Uncle Vernon’s suburb and terrorize Dudley.
Back to the ministry, I think the saddest thing about growing up is realizing that there is no justice in the world. It’s just varying levels of corruption. And so graft and petty paranoia lead the Wizengamot to go to every length possible to ensure Harry does not have a fair trial. He just barely eeks out on a technicality, but he now knows that he can’t count on simply telling the truth.
Back at the hideout of the order, we see that relationships start to fray because as the books get more mature – people become less one-dimensional. Thus he sees the adults around him bickering instead of working perfectly to both protect him and take out Voldemort. He also learns that the purebloods have taken a royal family approach to intermarrying – making his godfatehr related to the Malfoys by marriage.
The school section is what almost made me give the book 3 stars. On the one hand, it is the safest place for Harry to be. It also allows Ms Rowling to use the story to further undermine Dumbledore’s power. However, it mostly seemed like a distraction with a few teen angst moments thrown in. I do have to say that I enjoyed the great triumph of the Weasley twins and the turning of the school into a Dystopia did provide for some interesting explorations of emotion.
I’d like to turn to what I view as the main themes of the book before I get to some of the things that annoyed me. I saw the main themes as the duality of the destruction of the infallibility of parents myth and the need for parents to come to terms with the maturation of their children. On the first front, it was devastating for Harry to learn how his father had acted at 15. Because we only know as much as Harry, it was a blow for me too. His parents had been portrayed as saintly – as they must be to take on Voldemort. But here we see him being a petty 15 year old and Harry has to realize that parents were once immature, too. Additionally, with his father-figure in Dumbledore – he realizes a few times in this book that Dumbledore fails him and falls short of his almost god-like powers. Not only that, but even Dumbledore must play by the ministry’s rules even as he seeks to undermine it. In the last few pages of the book Dumbledore also admits his biggest mistake – not realizing Harry had grown up and could handle more of the truth. I have a three year old right now and I imagine I’ll suffer from the same blindness – at least at varying times throughout her life.
As for the stuff that bothered me, it’s annoying that throughout the series, but especially in this book, almost no one makes use of truth serums or pensieves when there’s a dispute about whether someone’s lying. It seems the easiest way around the problem. Also, at the end of the book we learn the (view spoiler)
At the end of this book we still don’t know why Dumbledore is the only wizard Voldemort fears. Sure, he’s powerful, but he doesn’t ever try and kill Tom Riddle. Based on the way Harry was acting towards him and a few little clues here and there, I thought we’d find something out, but most if not all of those discrepancies are brushed away with the Dumbledore “Let’s Explain Harry Potter books 1-5” monologue. I still have my theories about him based on the way Ms Rowling seems to like to structure her stories and red herrings. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Finally, (view spoiler)
PS: I know that Mort means death in latin. Did I miss somewhere in the preceeding five books what Volde means?