Jun 15, 2011

Harry Plotter: Book 4

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published mid-year 2000, and I remember it being the first Harry Potter novel that I absolutely needed to have when it came out. I was still reeling from the tour de force that was the third book, and I had heard rumors that a character was going to die. Now it seems silly to anticipate a character death, because Rowling ended up playing fast and loose with the murder card as the series continued. Still, it was a big deal at the time. I'm not sure what I was anticipating, exactly, but I know that this would be a different book, a more mature book, a book that I wouldn't be embarrassed to carry around school.
Sh*t gets REAL
And, well, things really do get going in this book, which represents the beginning of the dark years for young Harry Potter. We get a lot in these pages: the Pensieve, the Triwizard Tournament, Fleur Delacour, Viktor Krum, Alastor ‘Mad Eye’ Moody, the return of Voldemort, etcetera. It’s one of the more densely packed novels in the series. While books 5 and 7 tend to luxuriate in teen angst and desperation, respectively, everything in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire moves by at a relatively fast clip, barely pausing to mention the blossoming [blerg] love stories of Ron/Hermione and Harry/Cho Chang.  So, what are some of the more important or interesting moments? Let’s see… (Spoilers Ahead)

In this book we get very quick mentions of characters that become imminently more
important in the final three books. The two standout characters introduced are Luna Lovegood and Bellatrix Lestrange. Walking to the Portkey in the beginning of the book, on of the Weasleys mentions that the Lovegoods aren’t going to the Quidditch World Cup. When Harry is inside Dumbledore’s Pensieve memories, he watches the trial of Barty Crouch Jr. and the Lestranges, who tortured the Longbottoms until they had lost all traces of sanity.

It’s fun to get a scene where Harry Potter isn’t a character - we get a Vernon-heavy chapter in HP1 and the Frank Bryce (Riddle House caretaker) in this book. Arguably none is more fun, though, than the first chapter of Book 6 (which we will get to, eventually).

Cedric Diggory’s dad is a real dick. He spends almost all of his time leading up to Cedric’s death talking about how much better his son is at everything. I guess he can’t check add ‘Surviving in a battle against Voldemort’ to that list. Burn and Zing!

I like to think of Rita Skeeter, who is perfectly terrible in this book, as Rowling’s first attempt at a Dolores Umbridge-type character. While she lacks the vitriol and creepiness of Umbridge, there is still a sense of cunning and an underlying sinister nature. Also, they would both do anything to promote themselves further in their circles (more on Umbridge later).

Two great characters that get little or no play in the movie: Barty Crouch Sr. and Ludo Bagman (the latter of which was completely written out of the movie).

With the introduction of the Pensieve, we get another of J.K. Rowling’s narrative crutches included in the list along with: Polyjuice Potion, Harry’s scar pains, Expelliarmus, Harry lashing out any time anyone insults his parents, etcetera. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

The three tasks that encompass the Triwizard Tournament almost seem designed to combat people who feel Harry only survives out of sheer luck. The first task highlights his ability to ask for help and his acumen at flying, the second task highlights his friendships with magical yet non-Wizard creatures (house elves) as well strength of character and determination, and the third task highlights both his quick-thinking and his quite impressive knowledge of defensive spells.

Dumbledore looks triumphant for a moment (or, rather, has a ‘gleam of triumph’) when Harry mentions the fact that his own blood brought the Dark Lord back. This little moment becomes very important in Book 7 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

Madame Maxime - "I'm big boned" Hagrid - "You're not the only one!" *wink*
 The Yule Ball scenes are really great and are a perfect example of Rowling strategically showing the reader a lot of information without ever letting on that she’s doing it. In the space of one Ball, we learn about Hagrid’s lineage, Hermione and Ron’s continuing non-romance, Mad Eye’s interest in all things Harry (and his friendship with Dobby), Rita Skeeter, and loads of things about Harry, Cho Chang, and Madame Maxime.

McGonagall has some great moments in this book, and actually seems concerned for Harry at several points. It’s nice to know someone cares - Dumbledore’s concerns seem to lie elsewhere.

That gets annoying after a while
The reveal at the end of the book is the more interesting and well-played in any of the previous books. While the other three have such obvious clues laced throughout that it smacks of laziness on future readings, the Mad Eye reveal and the battle at Tom Riddle Sr.’s grave is really spectacular. All the clues are sprinkled throughout the book, but they are brilliantly hidden. Moody, though crazy, is supposed to be the pillar of Good. And yet he (or, rather, Barty Crouch as Moody) was the main evil character of Book 4.

Hermione, magically altered

Oh, and I haven’t even talked about S.P.E.W. yet. 
Well, I guess that’ll have to wait until my review of the movie!

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