Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling
Harry Potter #4
Children’s Fantasy/YA Fantasy
This review contains spoilers.
This is one I’ve only read once, when it first came out, and I’ve only seen the movie once too, so there was lots of “new” details for me on this re-read. This isn’t the copy I originally bought back in 2000 (it was first released in paperback; book 5 was the first hardcover edition on release); I had to put that one in the recycling bin and buy a new copy (and I was shocked at how expensive it was: at $32, it’s much more than the other children’s/YA hardcovers) because it had water damage and black mould on the bottom from the time when my brother stored some boxes of my books under his house – on dirt, on a steep hillside – while I was in Japan. Idiotic thing to do. I also lost my original copy of Philosopher’s Stone too, which is why I have the Raincoast (Canadian) edition of it now.
The Goblet of Fire starts, as usual, at the end of the summer holidays before Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts. Because Harry now has a godfather – escaped mass murderer Sirius Black – the Dursleys are being, not nice, but careful not to overtly abuse Harry less this mad protector hears about it. So when Harry is invited to the final match in the Quidditch World Cup by his best friend, Ron Weasley, Uncle Vernon reluctantly agrees.
The World Cup final is between Ireland and Bulgaria, and the Weasleys have seats in the top box. After the game, several Death Eaters – supporters of Lord Voldemort – make an appearance, as does the Dark Mark in the sky. It’s just the beginning of the signs that Voldemort is on his way back, and when Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, making him a fourth school Champion in the Triwizard Tournament, it’s clear that something foul is afoot.
I tend to think of this book as the end of Harry’s childhood, because things get extra serious, Cedric Diggory is murdered, and Lord Voldemort returns. The next three books are noticeably darker in tone and deed, and unlike in Chamber of Secrets, people – Harry’s friends – start dying. I always felt more tense, here on out (in a good way).
The ending of this book always makes me cry. Cedric’s death is one of those horrible, senseless deaths. Rowling makes sure you’re going to have a personal stake in Harry’s drive to defeat Voldemort, after Cedric’s death, for Cedric was a genuinely good, likeable boy. Dumbledore’s memorial speech at the end is incredibly moving – truly, Dumbledore gets some of the best lines, and is a phenomenal character and role model. To be honest, this series is as good for children learning about right and wrong etc., as the fairy tales used to be. (Fairy tales are cautionary tales using analogies to impart warnings etc.) If children learn morals from books, this series has lots to impart.
Goblet of Fire is a busy book, with a great deal happening over the course of a school year. We also learn more about Snape, though we’ve barely scratched the surface with this complex character. I love Snape as a perfect example of someone who seems bad but fights for “good” – not black and white, in other words. The introduction of two other wizarding schools – Beauxbattons and Durmstrang – as well as learning about Hagrid’s giantess mother, also introduced issues of race and prejudice (further from the Muggle and Mudblood prejudices) into the story, as well as some fun new characters.
We not only get this wider scope of the wizarding world in terms of learning about other schools, we also get a more political novel – ministry officials not only make an appearance but have important roles in the plot, their “adult” politics filter into Harry’s world and awareness: that awareness that adult decisions have huge impact on a child’s world, their life, and that adults don’t always make the right decision or know everything; that it’s more than okay to question an adult. Because, just because adults are adult, doesn’t make them irreproachable, or wise, or unquestionable. And when kids realise that, they’ve taken the first step into the adult world of disabused notions, unfairness, hypocrisy and ulterior motives.
And Hermione’s determination to make the school’s house-elves see that they’re slave labour and insist on fair wages and freedom, raises questions not only about workers’ rights but also misguided assumptions and placing your own views and beliefs on others just because you’re sure you’re right, regardless of other “people’s” culture and belief system. (Yes they are technically slave labour, but it was more interesting reading it as an analogy for colonialism and/or religious preaching/missionary work in “uncivilised” parts.)
The events in this book make it one of the more exciting ones, as well as its climactic ending, but there’s still some very nice character development going on. Ron’s insecurities, as coming from a large family that overshadows him, comes out again and you have to feel for him, his reaction is understandable (as someone who comes from a family of five kids, all of whom are much louder than me, I know the feeling!).
One of the things I noticed this time ’round, knowing who the enemy at Hogwarts is (who put Harry’s name in the Goblet), was how much Harry learnt off Moody, who, yes, was making sure Harry won the Tournament, but in doing so taught him much, gave him the tools or motivated Harry to get them for himself (all the hexes and jinks he learns, for instance), to battle Voldemort and defend himself. It’s quite ironic really. I always felt equally betrayed by Moody/Barty Couch, because I liked him so much as Harry’s teacher and mentor! The real Moody I feel you never really get to know, in comparison.
It’s funny, I’ve only seen the movie once too but I was surprised, when reading the book, that it’s Dobby who gives Harry the gillyweed and solves that problem for him – Moody plants the information with Neville but Harry never asks around for help. In the movie, Neville does help him in this task, and I loved that. I love it when Neville gets appreciated, he’s one of my favourite minor characters and more important than you ever realise. The movie did a good job in changing that around, it worked well for the screen. But I had completely forgotten that it’s Dobby who helps Harry, in the book!
Overall, the story becomes more complex and more gripping, with this fourth instalment. Things are chugging along at a fine pace, the stakes are higher than ever, Voldemort is a real threat now and the wizarding world continues to be developed and added to so that it’s hard (or simply more fun) to remember that it’s not real. Now I’m off to watch the movie again! 🙂
If you read this book as part of the read-along (or if you’ve reviewed it at any time!), leave me a link to your review and I’ll add it here.
1. What did you think of the movie adaptation of this book, and how well the changes they made worked?
2. What was your favourite scene in this book?
3. What are your thoughts and opinions on the heftier political aspects of this book?