~by J. K. Rowling
2003 Booklist Editors' Choice Award
2004 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
2004 ALA Notable Books for Children
2004 Bram Stoker Award Winner
2004 Locus Award Nominee
2004 Prometheus Award Nominee
In the fifth book of the Harry Potter series, Harry is about to begin his fifth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and he has plenty to worry about in addition to his Ordinary Wizarding Level (OWL) examinations. Although Lord Voldemort returned at the end of last school year, the much of the wizarding community is in denial. Great effort has been taken to discredit both Harry and Headmaster Dumbledore. The Ministry of Magic is also attempting to influence how things are run at Hogwarts, installing Senior Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense of the Dark Arts professor and Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
Unfortunately, Rowling has perhaps done too good of a job in capturing stereotypical teenage angst with Harry (who certainly had his fair share to begin with). However, none of the other characters seem to be having similar problems with their hormones. The book's individual plot is fairly weak. Some things seem to happen simply because they need to, and I'm not entirely convinced that they actual would have. Many parts just didn't make sense, except for the need for the plot to progress. However, as far as the plot of the entire series goes, some very important elements are introduced, but not developed particularly well. Not all is bad, though--some moments are really quite wonderful.
Generally, I was somewhat disappointed, especially as I had thoroughly enjoyed the previous four books. This is the first in the series that doesn't stand well on its own; to really appreciate it, you have to have read at least some, and ideally all, of the other books. It was the first time that I really noticed the length as well. The book probably could have done with another edit to remove seemingly superfluous material. I plan on finishing the series, but I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about it as I was before.