Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling, 2000
When I saw that "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire "was 800 pages long (300 more than its predecessor) I thought, "Oh, no!!" Rowlingís three previous books had already been excessively long-winded with so much surplus stuff that I hardly had the energy to plunge into a new tale of Harry Potter. But I did.
In "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire", Lord Voldemort is on the rise again, but what the book is mainly about is the Triwizard Tournament in which Harry participates as one of four champions. But believe it or not, it takes 300 pages before we even GET to the tournament!
The book opens with a long chapter about Frank Bryce, an old gardener who used to work for Lord Voldemortís grandparents. We learn a lot of things about Bryce, only to see him killed off by Lord Voldemort by the end of the chapter. Díoh! This is followed by an entire chapter, which is basically a resume of previous books, and then another chapter about Harry living with the Dursley family. We are 50 pages into the book before Harry goes to the Quidditch World Cup with the wizard family, the Weasleys, and things start to pick up.
For the next 130 pages we are in the safe hands of the Weasleys, and of course it is great getting to spend so much time with the delightful wizard family, but it doesnít move the story along very much. Instead you get chapter after chapter just to introduce the two oldest Weasley sons, Bill and Charlie, and to tell that Percy is now working at the Ministry of Magic and that the twins are developing jokes and trick sweets in the hope of one day opening their own joke shop. Frankly, all that could have been told in a single chapter, not 130 pages!
We do learn a bit more about the Weasleys, of course. Harryís friend Ron is a little more brainy than in previous books and his older brother Percy steps fully into character in his new job at the Ministry of Magic where heís biting off more than he can chew. As for the twins, Fred and George, Rowling individualises them even further in this volume. We get a glimpse of how the thoughtful George doesnít always agree with the brazen Fred, but lets Fred get his way all the same. Again Rowling favours Fred over George like in HP3, and by now Iím sure itís because sheís going to kill Fred off in a later volume. There are so many hints at it, so mark my words: Fred is not going to survive the HP series and frankly I often doubt that I am! Rowlingís story about Harry Potter is just too repetitious and LOOONG!!
Halfway through "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" (that is 400 pages into the book) the fun with the Weasleys is definitely over. Now all that is left are long, slow chapters with hardly any progress, plot-wise. A lot of the chapters are just repeating what Rowling has already told in previous chapters, and my God, is that boring!!
The second half of the book concentrates mostly on Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione. We get to know new characters as well, such as Harryís three opponents in the tournament. Thereís Cedric Diggery from the house of Hufflepuff at Hogwarts, Victor Krum, the Bulgarian Quidditch seeker and student from the wizard school Durmstrang, and Fleur Delacour, who is partly Veela and therefore irresistible, from the French Beauxbatons school. Her accent is just as annoying to read as gamekeeper Hagridís dialect!
Also the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Alistor Moody with his magic eye plays a significant role as well as Barty Crouch (Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement) and the annoying house-elves Dobby and Winky.
Thatís not the problem, though. The problem is that there are three months between each Triwizard Tournament task. Those 2x3 months Rowling fills with digressive tales of Hagridís Blast-Ended Skrewts, Hermioneís S.P.E.W. movement, not to mention Harryís long, inane monologues. I actually found myself skimming through pages in order to get to the good parts! As I see it, Rowling kills off the exciting stuff with thick layers of meaningless chit-chat. She fills page upon page with descriptions and dialogues that havenít the slightest to do with promoting the plot. Sorry, but I donít get it.
The book features extensive use of different forms of narrative, such as letters, newspaper articles and dreams and although this is often a good idea, it is only interesting to a certain limit, which I think Rowling exceeds.
Furthermore, Rowling still has a hard time depicting children and young people and their interests. Okay, Rowling has introduced sports and drinking in previous books, but two of the absolute main interests of teenagers, she hasnít touched on yet: music and sex. Sure, Harry is in love with the Ravenclaw seeker Cho, Ron does the old Uranus-joke on Lavender, and a few of the older students are snogging in the rose bushes at the Yule Ball, but sex? NO! And as for music thereís only a brief mention of the band The Weird Sisters, but one band at one ball? Usually young peopleís lives revolve around music!
Like in previous books Rowling hasnít checked her details. I mean, there canít have been 423 World Cups since 1473, because the World Cup is only held every fourth year and HP4 takes place in 1994. Actually it has to be the 131st World Cup and it ought to have been held in 1993!
And how can Dudley have chucked his Playstation out the window, when Playstations werenít launched in Britain until the year after? And how can Molly Weasley remember Hagridís gamekeeper predecessor, when Hagrid has had the job since 1943 and Molly didnít attend Hogwarts until the early sixties?
And of course Rowling is still not sure how many students Hogwarts holds. In HP1 it was about 300, in HP3 it was 800 and now it is suddenly 1,200 even though the visitors from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons only account for 20 students. It is very confusing!
What is most annoying, however, is that the last 100 pages of "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" are one long exposition. Lord Voldemortís lengthy tale of his youth and whereabouts takes the edge off the nauseating scenes of torture when he and Harry confront each other (at the end of another school year as usual), and the excitement of what has happened is lost in the long exposition of Mad-Eye Moody after the final Triwizard Tournament task. Besides, why tell the readers something, that they have already figured out?
I really would have loved to give this HP book four stars as the first half with the Weasleys is indeed very pleasant, but I canít. Rowling ruins her narrative in the second half with long, boring and often pointless chapters, taking forever to get from point A to point B. You actually forget the plot at times. So, alas, I have to give "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" only three out of five stars: ***
@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2002