3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.
The Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in the famous Harry Potter series. This is the point, in my opinion, where Rowling clearly takes a turn from “young adult” fiction toward a more mature audience. After three books of back-story and buildup, book number four surges forward and suddenly brings the old evils, the suppressed terrors, to full light. While Harry and his friends faced many challenges and learned much about the great antagonist, Voldemort, it is in Goblet of Fire that a true sense of urgency develops; we finally get the feeling that bad things really can happen, and they can happen to good people. In this installment, an ancient wizarding world tradition called The Triwizard Tournament comes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Two visiting schools, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, send their headmaster and headmistress, and a group of “champions” to Hogwarts for the tournament. One champion from each school is ultimately chosen to compete, except for Hogwarts which gets two champions, due to the mysterious choosing of Harry Potter from the un-hoodwinkable Goblet of Fire. Harry is not of age to compete, but the judges determine that, since his name was expelled from the Goblet, he is committed to the tournament, based on the rules of magical contract. Throughout three tasks, Harry is constantly put to the test – as are his friendships with Ron and Hermione. Animosity continues to grow between the three and their potions master, Snape and, ultimately, we discover that a spy has come to Hogwarts to ensure that Harry is present in the right place, at the right time for Voldemort’s grand rebirth.
4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.
Once again, I cannot commend Rowling enough for her incredible skills at characterization and character development. Our old friends – Ron, Harry, Hermione, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, The Weasley family and more – are recommitted and established on a deeper, more complex level. Similarly, old foes – Professor Snape, Malfoy, Voldemort and others – are further flushed out and explained, so that their true natures seem to become more present, their powers, goals, and determinations reexamined. We also meet many new characters, from various places including the Ministry of Magic, The Daily Prophet, the visiting schools, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, and relatives, neighbors, and friends of characters we already know. These new characters, whether major or minor, are given enough page-time for the reader to become familiar with them, to feel as if they know these people – could recognize them on the street or see them in a coffee shop and not be the slightest bit surprised. Of particular note are the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, Professor Alastor Moody, and Rita Skeeter, writer for the wizarding newspaper, The Daily Prophet.
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.
Rowling’s prose is as magical as the world she has created. Her imaginative descriptions, the vivid imagery and the impeccable use of dialogue make each Harry Potter book in the series impossible to put down. Also extraordinary, and not typical of most fantasy writers, is the obvious growth from each prior novel to the next. It is almost as if Rowling makes a conscious effort (and maybe she does) to increase the reading level and potential for each of her books in direct correlation to the growth of the characters (each novel is a new school year for the characters so, at age eleven, the characters may be thinking and acting one way and now, by age fourteen, they have begun to grow and to be capable of more – of thinking a bit deeper and analyzing a bit more closely). As one who has read the series previously, I know that the growth continues from book to book up through the final book, and it is one of the biggest positives and likely the greatest draw for readers (as newer readers are always allowed to grow and develop with the story – to progress at a steady and comfortable pace, as if we are with Harry and the gang at school, learning alongside them). Rowling also has a sharp mind – she is clearly educated, or has become learned, in philosophy and the nature of human interaction – friendships, rivalries, parent/child, and educator/pupil dynamics. Her prowess at presenting these relationships through dialogue and inner-monologues is astounding. She drops clever quips on life throughout the pages, particularly as the characters are growing older. Finally, Rowling breaks up her prose into different pieces – interspersing, for instance, bits of newspaper articles or letters into the story to add depth and intrigue. She manages flashbacks seamlessly and builds multi-layered, interwoven plot-lines, which connects the various characters to others, and back again, with seemingly little effort but with what must have taken an extraordinary amount of planning, organization, and preparation. Outstanding execution.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.
As I mention in the section above on prose/style, Rowling is clearly a master of many aspects of human natures and in The Goblet of Fire, her didactic purposes begin to get much more focused and prominent. Her ideas on equality, for instance, or on one’s ability to be judged on his actions rather than on his ancestry (e.g. Britain’s lingering and antiquated aristocratic system) are quite clear. Another positive aspect of this fourth installment is that there is less re-explanation of previous characters, terms, and situations (books one through three are littered with reminders to the reader about things learned or events which happened in prior novels or the story-line’s earlier history). This is refreshing, as it allows much more growth to the story, and characters and events are allowed to develop in a way previously restricted by the structure of the first three books – it also allows readers who are familiar with the early books, having read them recently or multiple times, to engage with and sink into the story, without too many breaks for redundant explanations (admittedly, something I find to be quite a nuisance in Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban). Finally, Rowling manages to advance the story through the inclusion of thoughts and ideas, terms and phrases, people and places we, as the readers, encountered in earlier books – but without reminding us of how we learned it. This seems to build a great bond of trust and respect between the author and the readers, and it allows the reader to settle into the story as something happening which is inclusive – as if we are a part, and always have been, of what is happening in this world.
Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: Young Adult, Adult
Interest: Friendship, Fantasy, Good/Evil, Education, Family
“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” (P. 525)
“You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!” (P. 708)
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” (P. 723)