Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire gripped me from the opening scene at the Riddle House to the end-of-year parting at King’s Cross Station. Just like the previous three Harry books, “The Goblet of Fire” is well paced.
In book four we learn who does the cooking and cleaning at Hogwarts, what happened to Neville’s parents, how to pronounce “Hermione,” locations of other schools of magic may be found, and what Dumbledore can really be like when he’s mad. We learn more about Hagrid, the Malfoys, and Snape (probably my favorite character). Along with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, we learn of hexes and curses and defenses against the Dark Arts.
The much-discussed first forays into romance for the characters are lightly and deftly handled, and while important are certainly not a main focus of the book. The feelings of the romance subplots is to show how Harry, Ron, and Hermione are growing up and beginning to see themselves and one another in new ways. Along with romantic feelings, they start to exhibit other changes: Ron becomes harder and more outspoken, Hermione learns to shrug off ridicule and be less rule-bound, and Harry continues to develop the bravery and valor of his parents – and of his House’s founder, Godric Gryffindor.
Harry’s biggest challenges so far, not surprisingly, come in this book. Instead of flying in Quidditch matches, he is involved in an important year-long event that has temporarily superseded Quidditch at Hogwarts. The challenges he overcomes in the course of this event form the core of the book. Woven into the story are Lord Voldemort and his servants, and their attempts to bring He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named back to full life and power. Mysterious disappearances and even a death or two in “The Goblet of Fire” have, as in any good mystery story, more than one plausible suspect; and, as with any good mystery story, the solution ultimately eluded my several attempts at deductive reasoning – though the clues are present.
Death casts a shadow over book four, particularly in the final chapters, where the usually boisterous end-of-year banquet is quite somber and the conclusion of the special year-long event is robbed of its triumph.
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