Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4), by J. K. Rowling

Nine stars

The Potter adventures continue in a series that keeps outdoing itself with each novel I read. What began as an interesting story about a boy wizard has me completely hooked and demanding more as I delve deeper into the darker side of magic. J. K. Rowling does a masterful job at penning a story that has something for everyone, in her first story that really expands on the foundation she has laid and develops things into a much more thorough storytelling adventure that will test the determination of any reader, young or old. Some have said it is the best of the series. Based on the novels I have read to date, I must concur. Newer fans of the Harry Potter series, I can only hope you are ready for an adventure of a lifetime, as Rowling pushes you headlong into an abyss you will enjoy exploring.

It’s the summer before Fourth Year and Harry has been counting down the days until he can leaver the Dursley house and return to Hogwarts. However, his friends, the Weasleys, have a surprise for him before he hits the books. Mr. Weasley has secured a handful of tickets to the finals of the Quidditch World Cup. This means an early departure from his family who hate him and the chance to see the best athletes in the Quidditch world.

While the game is all that Harry and the many other fans could have hoped it would be, Voldemort and his Death Eaters make an appearance, causing havoc to everyone in attendance. Harry grows quite concerned and his ever-present scar aches, perhaps a sign that evil is on its way.

The return to school provides Harry, Ron, and Hermione with a new surprise when they learn that Hogwarts will be hosting the Triwizard Tournament; a competition between the three top wizarding schools across Europe: Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons. Difficult challenges that promise to test the skill and daring of a ‘school champion’ from each scholastic establishment will provide some camaraderie, but also could prove deadly, if past tournaments are any indication.

Students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons arrive at the end of October, at which time eligible competitors place their name in the Goblet of Fire, hoping to be selected their school’s champion in a magical ceremony. While the three names chosen are strong students, the Goblet offers some suspense when Harry’s name is chosen as a fourth competitor, even though he is not of age. However, one cannot defy the Goblet of Fire and so he is permitted to compete. Who could have done this, and for what reason?

Ron is convinced Harry seeks praise and glory, sure that he’s tossed his name into the mix. This leads the best friends to stop speaking, putting Hermione in an awkward position as she tries to focus her attention on her school work and a new social movement involving House Trolls. Never one to shy away from controversy, Hermione pushes for their betterment, going against the grain of what much of wizardry has long accepted.

The Triwizard tournament’s first task requires champions to fight dragons, something that Harry discovers he can do with some ease. It would seem his Quidditch skills prove helpful in his success. The danger factor seems high enough that Ron realises that Harry would not have put himself in harm’s way voluntarily. The boys are now convinced someone added the name to the Goblet to harm Harry.

Between competitions, the school year progresses and Harry finds himself in the middle of numerous headaches. A silver tongued (and quilled) journalist, Rita Skeeter, publishes gossipy articles about Harry and others that have many ramifications and cause a great deal of emotional pain to those who are outed. Harry can only hope that things will settle, though it would seem no one is off limits when it comes to smearing them and being fodder for whispered conversations.

The second task of the tournament is more daunting than the first. It involves collecting something from a lake filled with mer-people. Harry’s choice to be helpful almost costs him everything, though the judges see through his tardiness and award him high marks for his bravery. It would seem that Harry is well suited for the Triwizard Tournament, though there are still grumbles from other schools about his being an illegal competitor.

Sirius Black returns in secret to help protect his godson. This elates Harry, but only adds more pressure and concern, as Hogwarts could soon be the location of a deadly strike. It completely clear now that there is someone who wants Harry dead, but no one can yet identify the culprit.

It’s all down to the final task of the tournament, the most difficult of all the challenges. Harry is ready, but cannot have guessed who or what awaits him. A death shocks everyone who watches the tournament and Voldemort makes an appearance, hoping to regain much of the power he lost those years ago. Harry is vulnerable and this could mean the end to his time at Hogwarts, or worse… Mobilisation to combat the evil wizardry may be the only solution!

J.K. Rowling has done it again, offering her readers a highly entertaining story that is sure to keep readers of all ages talking long after they finish the book. The story is full of nuances that will appeal to different reading levels, making the story ‘pop’ no matter how much the reader understands of her hidden meanings.

Harry Potter reclaims the undisputed protagonist role in this story, maturing alongside his friends and fellow wizards as he tries to succeed during his fourth year of studies. While there is little backstory to offer, Harry’s past does become a part of his present and future, as Rowling addresses the scar and its symbolism a little more. The reader also gets to see a personal side of Harry, as romantic interests begin to play into his daily thoughts, while school is sometimes secondary or tertiary in importance. Perhaps teenage Harry will begin to emerge and offer a new flavouring for the upcoming novels, depending on how he is able to handle the struggles that Voldemort brings to the table.

Rowling continues to offer strong supporting characters for readers, from the key individuals who have been present throughout the series, to new or minor characters claiming some of the spotlight. The constant evolution of the story permits Rowling to expand the wizard world and keep her readers from getting bored. As someone told me when they heard I was beginning this book, “you’ll soon see that Hogwarts is only the tip of the wizarding iceberg”. How true that has come to be.

This was the first of the ‘truly complex novels’ in the series, books that exceed what I would expect Neo might want to handle. However, he devoured them with relative ease (thank goodness for audiobooks) and I can see Rowling needed every page to hash out some of the complex stories that bind this piece together. I am eager to see how things will keep progressing, as things are definitely getting more intricate and darker, which is sure to make for exciting reading.

The book relies on a strong narrative to push it along and peppers curiously interesting characters to leave the reader wanting to know more. Much is revealed in things as simple as dialogue exchanges, but it requires attention and dedication. I can only surmise that some of the breadcrumbs will be important as the series progresses, so I am trying to stay on top of all aspects of the piece, even if they seem trivial. Longer chapters prove necessary to jam-pack all the story without losing the theme that each presents to the eager reader. There are only a few moments when I was left scratching my head, minute details that readers who binge-read the series will likely notice over those who space out the book experience. I’ll see if it continues.

Kudos, Madam Rowling, another winner. I cannot wait to see what you have planned next and I want to get to it ASAP.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons