Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J K Rowling
Year of Publication: 2000
Length: 734 pages
Genre: magical realism / young adult
New or Re-Read?: Re-Read, many times
Rating: 4.5 stars
Spoiler Warning: In effect for the whole series
It’s strange, because everyone remembers this as the book where Voldemort returns, where Cedric dies, where the horror really begins. And yet, reading it this go-round, what struck me most is how funny this book is. I think it’s the funniest of the whole series, up until the end. There are just so many brilliant jokes in it — and, for the first time, the humour’s starting to become a bit more adult in some places. I mean, this is where we first hear about…
“An excellent point,” said Professor Dumbledore. “My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. It was all over the papers, but did Aberforth hide? No, he did not! He held his head high and went about his business as usual! Of course, I’m not entirely sure he can read, so that may not have been bravery.”
Ahh, Aberforth. (In light of what we see of him later, though, Albus’s disdain seems a bit unfair — but that’s a discussion for Book 7). So much of the humour in Goblet of Fire is also so dry and subtle — she’s not playing for the laughs here, she’s just letting the wit take over. As in:
Just then, Neville caused a slight diversion by turning into a large canary.
Or the bit about Professor Flitwick “whizzing resignedly past” the group while they’re practicing Banishing Charms. And then even at the tail end of the book, even after the worst has happened, JK lightens the load a bit, when everyone hexes Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle on the train. There’s comic relief throughout this book, and I wonder if that’s part of the books maturing — when things start to get heavier, you need more of the lightness to balance it all out.
The story also starts to feel so big here — in part because we start getting the international angle. Actually, one of my major complaints about the series is that JK never did as much with that as I had been hoping she would. I was so hoping that Fleur and Krum were going to end up being really significant for bringing in foreign allies as support against Voldemort… but, nada, most we got was Fleur marrying Bill (which, admittedly, I do enjoy — just not quite as politically important as it might be) and Krum getting a personality transplant. I also love that it took so much longer just to get to Hogwarts in this book, because you start seeing so much more of the rest of the Wizarding World. The World Cup is magnificent for that — this glimpse into what wizarding culture is like outside of Britain. Or, really, just what adult wizards are like when they get together. And even if I don’t understand why adult wizards have so much trouble dressing themselves, it did give us another hilarious moment, with Archie and his love for a healthy breeze. This is also where the Ministry gets introduced properly — I know we first meet Fudge in Book 2, we get a little more in Book 3, but this is the first time we find out more about how it really works, and we start meeting so many more Ministry officials. It sets things up nicely for actually seeing the Ministry in Order of the Phoenix.
At the same time, though, this definitely is the real beginning of the darkness. You get just a taste of it in Prisoner of Azkaban, but here, it becomes real. Voldemort is back. The title of the last chapter, “The Beginning”, is perfectly fitting. This is the beginning of the Second War, right here, even though it doesn’t become open war until much later.
I remember the chills I got the first time I read the end of this book, too — the first time reading:
“Sirius, I need you to set off at once. You are to alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher — the old crowd. Lie low at Lupin’s for a while. I will contact you there.”
That excited me so goddamn much. Because it may be dark and terrible and scary, but there’s that glimmer of hope — there are still people who will fight. And they can be brought back together. It’s the sense of camaraderie, of banding together, of being the happy few standing against all odds — there’s something, forgive the term, magical about that. I also love the revelation towards the end of the book that Sirius and Dumbledore have been in contact all year. I would love to read that correspondence. (Or I might just, y’know, fic it for my own benefit).
This book, much as I enjoy it, isn’t without plotholes. It’s sort of a stretch to believe that Barty Jr couldn’t have found some way to get Harry to Voldemort way earlier on — the whole “it has to be at the third task” plot doesn’t really hold up to a lot of scrutiny. I would say it’s hard to imagine that the Triwizard participants would be placed in so much real danger, dragons and sphinxes and acromantuale and the like, but… given what we see of wizarding education, no, that part actually makes complete sense. The spacing of the tasks across the year doesn’t make much sense, though. Barty Jr’s escape from prison stretches credulity.
Overall, Goblet of Fire is a really solid bridge book in the series. It really does straddle the line between the lighter half and the darker half of the saga. It’s probably my fourth favourite out of the seven, but that’s only because the three I rank above it are just so out-of-the-park amazing in my opinion. This book is, as its 4.5 stars indicate, really amazing. And it’s a magnificent launching pad. I’m having to force myself to alternate projects before I start on Order of the Phoenix — which is, full disclosure, my very favourite of the HP books, so I’m quite excited to return to it.