Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Harry is off for his fourth year (out of seven) at Hogwarts, the wizarding school, which he attends. However, this year at school there is a special event to be held… the Triwizard Tournament. A competition between Hogwarts’ students and the students of two other wizarding schools, the competition has not been held for hundreds of years due to the dangerous nature of the contest (there have been deaths). The tournament will be limited to only students 17 years and older (Harry is 14), but we all know somehow Harry will get involved. In addition, of course, Harry’s scar (received when the evil Lord Voldmort tried to kill him as an infant) has begun to hurt. This could mean that Voldmort is trying to return from the grave to reestablish his power base. Can Harry and his friends foil Voldmort’s plot and win the Triwizard Tournament? Ho, hum… who really cares?
I liked the first three volumes of this series, but the format is beginning to wear a bit thin in volume 4. The basic plots in all the books are: 1) Harry goes to school, 2) solves big problem with the help of his friends and 3) comes out smelling like a rose when all seems lost. I suppose repetition of a theme works for “young adult” fiction, but is certainly does not hold its own for adult fiction. I tried to keep in mind that this book is written for young adults, but there are a few serious flaws that I feel need pointing out. For one thing, it is too long (734 pages!), especially for younger readers. The editor could easily have shed 200 pages by doing the following:
- Condense (or eliminate) the first 10 chapters (except chapter one) which plod along through the Quidditch World Cup (a sport played on broomsticks) and are irrelevant to the main plot.
- Get rid of the numerous references to oppressed house elves (in fact eliminate the house elves altogether!) which added absolutely zero to the plot.
Rowling did an acceptable job of blending the two plots together, but the plot revolving around Voldmort fails to resolve itself in this volume and is a gratuitous set-up for the planned three final volumes of the series. Due to this fact, Goblet of Fire merely serves as a placeholder in the series. We all know that Harry will have a final confrontation with Voldmort and have to defeat him, but does this plot really need to be stretched out over three more volumes? What is this, a Robert Jordan series?
One bright spot is that the main characters (Harry, Hermione and Ron) are well developed along appropriate lines for 14 year olds. The girls are maturing faster than the boys are, and the boys are still mainly interested in pursuits other than girls. However, Harry and Ron are beginning to be attracted to the opposite sex, and this will probably be further explored in the next volume.
So, if you do not mind a formulaic plot, dive right in. It still is entertaining, but this series is starting to get a bit creaky despite its young age (a seven novel series is ambitious after all). I hope that Rowling and her editors will breathe new life into the series in volume 5 as they work towards the final confrontation with Voldmort. These books are fine for kids, but for adults, something with a bit more substance would be preferable. Now that the Harry Potter juggernaut is on a roll, there will probably be no stopping it! I will be approaching volume 5 with a bit less enthusiasm than I previously had.