I liked Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. I’m not sure I liked it as much as the others, but it’s good.
(Spoiler alert: from this point on, there will be direct references to specific parts of the book’s plot, so if you haven’t read it yet and plan to, stop reading now.)
The premise of the book is interesting. By incorporating the Tri Wizard Tournament into the plot, J.K. Rowling continued worldbuilding, adding to the complexity of the wizarding world. Since the first book, most plot reveals had gone toward a greater understanding Harry’s and Voldemort’s past. This, while important, left the actual world of wizards fairly small: Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Platform 9 3/4, the Borough, and the implied existence of the Ministry of Magic. However, with the Quidditch World Cup and the Tournament, Rowling vastly expanded our knowledge and understanding of wizards’ life outside of Hogwarts. I think this added perspective that the series needed, especially as the characters age and grow less dependent on their school.
The structure of the plot is reminiscent of the quest model seen often in middle grade novels. Much like in a hidden object computer game, one accomplished task brings the protagonist to the next task, to the next one. All of the books in the series so far have had similar plot structures, born from the construct of the series: the obligatory time with the Dursleys, the return to school, the buildup, and then the climax at the end of the term. This is forgivable, of course, because each plot itself is different, and as a series set at a boarding school, this is an inevitable design. However, book four takes this model one step farther, adding in a series of three tasks. This divides the book into periods of action and then lulls as the plot builds up to the next burst of drama. While the book is still an enjoyable read, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes off more disjointed than the previous three, and coupled with its length (734 pages in my copy), makes it a slower read. I can understand why many people I’ve talked to got stuck in the middle, bored, in the sandtrap that was the lulls in the otherwise dramatic plot.
J.K. Rowling could have done a better job characterizing the rest of the school champions taking part in the tournament. I got the basic impression of each one, but nothing more complex, which is strange coming from Rowling, who usually puts a lot of effort into her characters. The other champions–Fleur, Krum, and Cedric–were pivotal characters, and I would have liked for them to have more than their obvious characteristics.
I’ve talked a lot about the things I didn’t like about this book, but I want to be clear on the fact that I did like this book.
Harry’s confrontation with Voldemort at the end of the novel was my favorite Harry/Voldemort clash so far. It played with the connection the two share, juxtaposing it with the enmity between them. This promises even more dramatic confrontations in the future. In addition, the climax was darker than any other seen so far, revealing that the series is ready to leave the middle grade genre behind and enter the more twisted YA one in the remaining three books.
If the first book was an exposition for the next two, I believe the fourth book was another exposition, setting up the greater conflicts that will occur in the rest of the series. There is a noticeable shift in the plot’s focus, from the small world of Hogwarts to the larger world of magic entirely. The ending of the novel, as Dumbledore gathers his closest friends to work against the stubborn Ministry, hurtles the reader into the next book. It is clear from those last pages that things are officially larger than Harry, and that the future holds more danger and darkness than he could have imagined.