The Harry Potter series takes a notably dark turn in this fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As Rowling continues to develop as a writer, her main characters become deeper, the series’ primary antagonist comes to life, and the politics of the wizard world become even more complex.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Originally published: 2000, UK (and US)
*Fun Fact: This is the only Harry Potter novel to win a Hugo Award.*
Rating: 4 = Recommended Reading
Voldemort is a character that I have been waiting for all series. Rowling hints at him and shows him in various states of life in earlier books, but in this fourth book the series’ antagonist finally becomes flesh and blood. I admire Rowling for having the maturity and patience to wait until the fourth book of seven to give life to Voldemort; his previous forms and all of the whispering about him built up an appropriate amount of suspense and anxiety about his character. When he emerged from the cauldron, he was exactly who I wanted him to be: broken, revenge-driven, pure evil, and powerful. I didn’t mind that he talked and talked before doing anything about Harry because after all this time I was ready to hear about the past from his point of view. Voldemort is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in the series, and I’ve really only just met him.
As teenagers in what would be that awkward transition into high school, Rowling handles the development of Harry, Ron, and Hermione well.
Ron’s anger and squabbling with Harry is fairly realistic, although the way they are angry at one another reminds me more of girls their age (this is further exaggerated in the movie, holy cow). All the same, Ron’s anger and jealousy of Harry’s popularity is pretty spot-on. This is the age of changing friends, after all.
Harry shows his selfishness through the realization that he has never once even thought about Neville’s parents in the four years he’s known Neville. While this realization does seem to hit Harry pretty hard, he does not really reflect on it enough to change anything about himself—pretty on par for his age.
Hermione begins to become swept up in the romantic side of things with the Yule Ball and her friendship with Viktor Krum. While this is more played up in the movie, it is not terribly far off from the details in the novel.
Past and Political Intrigue
One of my favorite aspects of this book is all of the information about Voldemort’s first rise to power. Not only do we learn more about Voldemort and some of his victims, but we also learn about his followers, the Death Eaters, and Barty Crouch, Jr. At the end of the novel, lines in the sand begin to be drawn for the upcoming wizard war with Voldemort gathering his supporters, Dumbledore making his own preparations, and the Ministry of Magic burying their collective heads in the sand. The end of this novel sets the stage for the future, and makes me excited to see how everything works out as they progress (I’ve watched the movies, but I mean all of the little details in the books that will be new for me).
Harry’s Psychological State
By the end of the novel, Harry has experienced many things for the first time: someone being killed in front of him, witnessing Voldemort’s return, getting into a duel with the Dark Lord, learning of a complicated transfiguration, transporting a dead body, and almost getting killed himself. What I like about Rowling is that—unlike some other fantasy writers—she allows Harry’s psychological state to suffer accordingly. Harry goes through shock, exhaustion, and anger as he comes to terms with all that has happened to him. He is left with psychological scars in the form of dreams and flashbacks of the traumatic events he has gone through. Rowling’s bravery at showing her main character’s psychological damage is impressive and important.
What Didn’t Work:
Some Hollow Characters
Between the international students visiting and stories of the past, this book is full of secondary characters. With so many characters, some of them are not fleshed out and developed enough to really be memorable or perhaps useful. While this book is long enough, there was little development of the international students including the Triwizard Tournament competitors Fleur and Krum (although, they are more developed in the novel than in the film). Rita Skeeter was also glossed over and I’m not entirely sure what her storyline added to the book, honestly.
My big issue with the series in general is that it often moves a bit too slow or involves too much repetition, and I certainly felt that in this novel. With all of the added detail, no wonder the books are getting longer. There were certainly places to cut down on (Quiddich World Cup, some of the school things) and focus on character development instead. Also, a bit of a side note, but why are certain characters always described with the same adjectives? Snape’s hair is always “greasy” and his eyes “beetle black”, for example. Frustrating.
The film has an excellent and appropriate dark tone, enhanced by Harry’s dream visions. When I watched the movie before reading the book I was a bit lost sometimes by the transitions and the hints at things. I think this is a symptom of how much of the story the film director and producers had to remove in order to create a film with a reasonable run time. While they made clear choices to focus on Harry’s central plotline (removing the house elves, details about the Crouch family, Ludo Bagman, etc.), I was sad to see the politics of the Ministry of Magic once the Dark Lord was declared to be back omitted. The Ministry’s lack of acceptance of Voldemort’s return was the most interesting part of it to me, as was Dumbledore’s rallying the troops for the inevitable wizard war.
The last few chapters of this novel make most of the faults of the rest of it fade away. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a solid novel that transitions into the dark tone of the series and the character’s middle teenage years well.