Review: 'New clues to Harry Potter'

  November 18, 2003 at 9:11 AM ET
  grae     HPANA

"I had to put in some things because of what's coming in books 6 and 7...I want you to be able to guess if you've got your wits about you."

Thus spoke JK Rowling at the Royal Albert Hall about her new book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - and Galadriel Waters has taken these words to heart with her latest book New Clues to Harry Potter Book 5opens in new window, which is itself a prequel to the as yet unpublished Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter (Analysis of Book 5).

Does New Clues give us all the answers? Nope - in fact, its title says it all, its purpose only to give hints as to where the clues might be found in Order of the Phoenix. For the actual answers, you'll have to wait until the Unofficial Guide (Book 5) comes out.

But is it worth a look? If you consider yourself a "HP Sleuth," and are already familiar with the Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter (Analysis of Book 1-4)opens in new window, the answer is a definite "yes," as New Clues is simply a continuation of that work. But even if you're a casual reader of the Harry Potter series, you'll probably enjoy pondering the questions raised, and may even find yourself wondering if you've figured out some of the clues JK slipped in for us to find.

Be forewarned, though: New Clues contains an incredible amount of information and questions to digest, and may be a bit overwhelming to the uninitiated (I found the "Running Bits" somewhat confusing) to the point where you feel that the material in the Harry Potter books is being overanalyzed. Then again, the book also asks enough basic and important questions to convince you that they're on the right track most of the time. Either way, the appeal of New Clues is that it leaves it up to you to decide which of those questions are the truly important ones worth asking.

The structure of New Clues is straightforward - it analyzes each chapter of Order of the Phoenix in three sections: Frequently Asked Questions, Running Bits (clues derived from JK's wordplay), and Hints. The analysis itself is based on four extremely helpful rules regarding JK's writing.

Here are a few examples of how New Clues can get you thinking:

From the Hints section for Chapter 3 (The Advance Guard):

Tonks never explained how wizards find out if they are a Metamorphmagus. You may want to ask if they start out by making funny faces in the mirror, or do they just wake up one day and discover that their hair has grown three inches overnight?

You may recall that in the first Harry Potter book, Harry's hair magically grows back overnight, even after Aunt Petunia shaves him almost bald the day before. This doesn't prove that Harry is a Metamorphmagus, but it does make you wonder.

From the Hints section for Chapter 4 (Number Twleve, Gimmauld Place):

Is Percy just a bit misguided, or has he lost it so badly that he may even be a Death Eater? There are two other possibilities that tie to one big clue! If you read Percy's letter in Chapter 14 ("Percy and Padfoot"), you might be able to decipher what his little problem is.

Is this alluding to the possibility that Percy may actually be under the Imperious Curse by a Death Eater? Or is it something else entirely?

From the Hints section for Chapter 23 (Christmas on the Closed Ward):

She may be a weird lady, but did you see the way Mrs. Longbottom addressed the kids? What do you think of her?

Indeed, the entire scene is quite reminiscent of a Book 2 scene at Flourish & Blotts, where the kids meet someone else not so nice.

From the Hints section for Chapter 6 (The Most Noble and Ancient House of Black):

The WWP Sleuthoscope looks like it is falling asleep on the job...good thing too, because this is a deadly clue! Our favorite Black family heirloom was a very charming box. Where did that box go? What could you do with it? It should remind you of something. We advise HP Sleuths to review Book 1 as well as your mythology for similar effects. You're asleep on the case of you can't get this noteworthy clue from the end of Book 1.

This must be referring to the "musical box that emitted a faintly sinister, tinkly tune when wound, and they all found themselves becoming curiously weak and sleepy until Ginny had the sense to slam the lid shut." The question is, is this important enough to remember, and is it truly related to the fact that in Book 1 Fluffy was put to sleep in a similar manner?

From the Hints section for Chapter 23 (Christmas on the Closed Ward):

We hate to bring up the "C" word again, but the remedies for Gilderoy's condition sound coincidentally like the name of the remedy Snape dreamed up for Harry's "condition."

The remedy being referring to must be Remedial Potions, but again the question is, is this really important, or is it overanalyzing?

The Room of Requirement

While New Clues is exhaustive in its research and careful attention to details, it does have its share of mistakes, although they are few: Luna Lovegood is omitted from the list of New Characters in Book 5, Neville's parents are listed as being killed in the Members of the Order of the Phoenix, and there appears to be an extra step between Sirius and his great-great-grandfather Phineas Nigellus in the tree drawn for the Black family. The book also admits that the Chamber Pot Room/Room of Requirement connection was missed in the first Ultimate Unofficial Guide due to this statement by JK Rowling back in 2001, where she revealed that there would be a magical Room in Order of the Phoenix:

", mentioned in book four, which has certain magical properties Harry hasn't discovered yet!"

This seemed to imply that Harry had been in the room already, which ruled out the Chamber Pot Room. Then again, it may be possible that Harry had in fact been in the room previously:

If you reflect on some scenes from Book 1, when Harry might have desperately been seeking a room, it does make sense. Our Rememberit Quill has scrawled - We can't be sure what floors Harry was on then, so don't go giving anyone a hard time about that.

Whether or not you feel that searching for these types of clues is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, New Clues certainly makes the search entertaining and enjoyable, allowing you to look at your own pace. It's a fun way to revisit the Harry Potter series, and along with the numerous books listed in the Suggested Reading section, will give fans something to do while waiting for Book 6.

The Books


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