Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publication Date: July 8, 2000
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Magical School, Chosen One
Rating: 4.75 stars
“There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year, and they will test the champions in many different ways… their magical prowess – their daring – their powers of deduction – and, of course, their ability to cope with danger.”
The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter – but that doesn’t stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe’en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through – alive!
When I started this book, I didn’t think I would finish within the week timeframe I had set aside. I had a 10 page paper due, needed to make up internship hours, and had a reflection paper all in the same short Thanksgiving week. In an attempt to make the most out of my commute and time on campus, I decided to alternate between the audiobook and the paperback. However, I quickly found that I wasn’t enjoying the audiobook narration as much as I hoped, so I stuck to reading it in print. I didn’t love The Goblet of Fire as much as The Prisoner of Azkaban, but I still enjoyed it immensely. Even though this was a re-read, there were so many small details I had forgotten and the last 100 pages completely blew me away. I enjoyed the writing, the revelations, and the characters. As with my past reviews, I will do my best to provide a spoiler-free review; however, the books are longer and more complicated now, so I’ll provide a spoiler warning if I need too. Given the size of this book, this review is kind of long so grab a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s get into it:
The Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in the Harry Potter series and the turning point of the entire series. This series went from 0 to 100 and crossed the line from middle grade series to “umm, this is no longer a children’s book. Gird your loins” Not only is this book longer than the first 3 books, but the writing is more mature, the themes are darker, and the plot and characters are more complex than ever before. The rating I gave this book is kind of unusual because I have never rated a book 4.75 stars. I typically rate books on a .5 rating scale; however, there was only one small aspect of this The Goblet of Fire that kept me from rating it 5 stars.
As with the previous books in the series, The Goblet of Fire picks up in the summer right before the start of Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts. Unlike the previous books, this book begins with the strange death of the Riddle family that took place over 50 years ago and the groundskeeper, Frank, who continued to care for the home after their death. I think this is the first time since chapter 1 of The Sorcerer’s Stone where the point of view deviates from Harry. This chapter set the stage for what kind of ride we were in for with The Goblet of Fire: dark and terrifying.
Over at Privet Drive, Harry wakes up in agony and aching pain from his scar and decides to write Sirius about his scar. Harry doesn’t spend too much time thinking about the scar as he’s invited to join the Weasleys for the Quidditch World Cup, where he is introduced to new and interesting Ministry of Magic characters and becomes fascinated with some professional quidditch players. However, horrifying things occur after the game when the Dark Mark (Voldemort’s mark) is fired up in the sky and Death Eaters (Voldemort’s followers) show up. Unfortunately, the strange and horrifying occurrences don’t stop there.
When Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Hogwarts they learn that Hogwarts will be hosting an exciting international wizarding competition: the Trizwizard Tournament. Three students over the age of 17 (one student from Hogwarts, Durmstrang Institute, and Beauxbatons Academy) will compete in a series of tasks for a chance to win the triwizard cup and 1,000 galleons. Somehow, something that isn’t allowed happens: Harry is chosen as the 4th champion.
As with the other books in the series, the writing and world-building is exceptional. Rowling’s writing is alluring, captivating, and vividly descriptive. It’s so easy to visualize the settings and to be pulled into the story and the characters. As the plot becomes less focused on Hogwarts itself, I marvel at how much thought, planning, and detail J.K. Rowling put into developing this world and these characters. Rowling expanded the wizarding world beyond Hogwarts with the introduction of the Quidditch World Cup, the international wizarding schools, and dived deeper into the Ministry of Magic.
While I enjoyed The Goblet of Fire, I didn’t particularly care for the Triwizard Tournament. I understand it was necessary for the plot and I may feel differently the next time I reread this series, but I just didn’t find the competition enjoyable. The things I enjoyed about The Goblet of Fire all occurred outside of the tournament.
I enjoyed the relationship between Sirius and Harry. Sirius provides something that Harry needs right now: a father. Sirius is by no means a replacement for Harry’s own father, but even with his current status as a fugitive, he fills that father figure role so well. I loved the moment early in the book when Harry decides to write to Sirius about his scar. There are a lot of times in the previous books when I wished Harry would turn to Dumbledore before things went wrong, so it melted my heart that he turned to Sirius for guidance so early in the book. I love Sirius Black so much.
Even though Hermione wasn’t featured as much in this book, I enjoyed the political/advocacy side of her character. Everything about Hermione advocating for the house elves felt true to her character’s nature. In this book, we also saw Ron’s vulnerable side. I liked that Rowling went there with his character and explored his insecurities about his best friend being more popular and wealthier. It felt natural and realistic. Rowling also naturally introduced an element in this book that wasn’t a part of the other books: romance. It was fun to see the characters have these normal teenage experiences.
I loved Dobby in this book. When Dobby was introduced in The Chamber of Secrets, I wasn’t too crazy about him; however, Dobby is so well-written and memorable. Dobby’s love for Harry Potter is beautifully weaved through The Goblet of Fire and he brought much needed humor. I don’t think the movies did him any justice. I also enjoyed the Weasleys and Hagrid so much in this book. Mrs. Weasley and Bill drew me to tears when they showed up to support Harry as his family. Phenomenal development and significant way to show what the Weasleys represent to Harry.
The Goblet of Fire also does a phenomenal job of showing Albus Dumbledore’s leadership. Given the swift actions he takes at the end of this book, it’s easy to see that he is a great leader and strategist. I appreciated Dumbledore for being honest and treating his pupils like adults at the end of the year feast. He didn’t shy away from sharing pertinent information with them. It would’ve been too easy to not to tell the students; however, since the events of this book are unlike anything else, it was a wise choice to prepare them for what’s to come.
On the flip side, there is one particular character that I find detestable as the series continues: Snape. I’ve had a Snape rant in my spirit for weeks; however, I am suppressing it until I finish my reread. Snape became more loathsome, cruel, and unnecessarily mean to Harry in The Goblet of Fire. I will admit the writing for him is getting interesting though.
There are so many things this book does well, but for the sake of time I want to focus on two things: Harry as “the chosen one” and Voldemort as a villain. The Goblet of Fire truly captures Harry’s feelings about being “The Chosen One.” Harry has never wanted the fame or popularity; yet, he is thrust into this emotionally taxing and burdensome role, which parallels his current situation as the triwizard champion. Harry is midway through wizarding school. He isn’t a great student, but with the competition, he is forced to train and prepare for unknown tasks. I think this parallels his role as “the chosen one”: He didn’t enter his name in the tournament, but these are the cards he’s dealt, so he has to move forward. Despite the emotional turmoil he experienced in The Goblet of Fire, Harry is brave in the face of danger and horror. Harry is determined to face death boldly and I think this was a major turning point for the character.
Up until this point, there hasn’t been a lot of mention about the terror and violence Voldemort inflicted when he was in power. The Goblet of Fire provides details and demonstrates Voldemort’s violent nature, what the world looked like when he was in power, and what it could look like if he returned to power. Voldemort is murderer. He isn’t a great leader, but he gained enough power to terrorize the wizarding world. Voldemort isn’t a pureblood wizard, yet he wants to race cleanse the wizarding world. He embodies bigotry and racist ideologies in the wizarding world and the chapters towards the end capture just how horrifying Voldemort is. Because J.K. is a master at pulling you into the story, I was easily terrified for the characters and grieved for what they had already lost and what they could lose — innocence, childhood, parents, children, and more.
The Goblet of Fire is exhilarating, complex, mature, and emotionally heart-wrenching. Rowling incorporates themes about family, loyalty, and death in this book. We see the fear Voldermort incites and the way he terrorized the wizarding world. The characters are complex and nuanced and we start to see them cross the threshold from “children” to young adults. Our hero quickly matures and we see him experience things that will likely lead to bearing the weight of the wizarding world on his shoulders. We are in for one dark magical ride.