Monday, 21 October 2013

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Harry Potter series re-read continues, and now we come to one that, on re-read, has a couple of plot holes or inconsistencies. (Very minor spoilers for this extremely well-known, 13-year-old book follow.)

Inconsistency 1: How Portkeys work. At the beginning of the book, Portkeys appear to be single-use and one-way, and only work at a specific time chosen by the person who set them up. But at the end, we see a Portkey used a second time, to go in the other direction (but not to exactly the same place, to a more dramatic one), without any apparent time issue. I can't think of a logical, in-universe reason why this Portkey would work this way. It's only there to serve the plot.

Inconsistency 2: This is only apparent on a re-read, because in the next book, we're told that people who have seen death can see Thestrals, the horselike creatures that pull the carriages that take students to and from the station at Hogwarts. However, at the end of this book, Harry apparently doesn't see them, even though the "horseless" carriages are specifically mentioned. He can see them in the next book, because of a death that he'd already witnessed at the time he was going back to the station at the end of this book.

OK, with those out of the way, how was the book overall?

By this time, J.K. Rowling was a major public figure, of course, and having to deal with an ill-informed and sometimes hostile media. She takes beautiful author's revenge using the character of Rita Skeeter, the classic distorting reporter, and even manages to characterise her as an annoying insect. There are more indications of corruption in the Ministry of Magic (even Mr Weasley and his friends deal in favours to "fix up" potential problems with the law), culminating in the Minister's cowardly denial at the end, which creates the starting point for the next book.

Rowling has had multiple plot threads going right from the first book, and in this one, the first of the really long books, she certainly has plenty going on. The main plot appears to be the challenges of the Triwizard Tournament, but there's also the Yule Ball and the Scooby mystery ("I would have got away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"). Behind it all, the series plot, the return of the Dark Lord, lurks, signaled by the prologue and referred to in flashes throughout before climaxing near the end with a significant plot turn. All of these kept me reading and moving from plot point to plot point, and I didn't feel that it was overpadded or bloated, despite its much greater size.

As I write, I'm already reading the next, and thoroughly loathing Umbridge. I have to say for Rowling, she doesn't just do one flavour of a type of character. Whether it's "strong woman", "unpleasant woman", "borderline nutter", "bully", "hero", "comic relief", "mentor"... there are multiple examples of each of these, and they're not interchangeable. It shows a depth of observation that you don't always see in authors, and it's part of what I enjoy about these books.

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