Annnnnnnnd I’m back. This book took a little longer to hack through. Mostly because if you put the first three books together, they might be as long as this one. Might. I could do the math…but I don’t want to. I didn’t start a blog to do book reviews so I could do addition. That is nonsense. Anyway, this book is 600 or so pages. And it can drag a little bit in parts…but this is the first book where the nerd can really come out and flourish in the Wizarding World.
The first three books are very Hogwarts-centric, outside of the Azkaban mentions. Whether intentional or not you’re given very little real direction about how the Wizarding World works (point for alliteration). On a few occasions the world will open up a bit, but everything is centered around the characters at Hogwarts (as it should be) and a nerd like me wants to see more of how they fit into the universe the author created. This is the first time that Rowling opens up the world a bit more…and I can’t lie I got a bit of nerd wood. Also there’s intrigue, interrogations, internal struggle, and shape-shifting. Betrayal and subterfuge abounds. If Harry Potter has an Empire Strikes Back volume, it’s definitely Goblet of Fire. At least the last 60 pages or so. Empire is definitely the best Star Wars movie, and if you disagree you should take whatever device you’re reading this on…tablet, phone, or laptop…and smack yourself in the head with it. I don’t feel quite as strongy about Goblet, and I don’t know if it has unseated Prisoner as the fave, but its definitely second if not first. I like it when evil (sort of) wins.
You find out that witches and wizards are everywhere, not just in Merry Old England, which was kind of implied in the first three. You see contingent from Bulgaria, Ireland, even the good ol’ USA. There’s an in-depth look at a French school, and a deliciously evil Bulgarian one, during the oh-so-plotty Triwizard Tournament. As the series progresses Rowling gets better and better at her craft…but lord, having a French and vaguely Soviet school was apparently a invitation for her to inflict dialogue on us. Every time Viktor Krumm and Fleur spoke, nails screeched against a chalkboard inside my brain, and my eyes wanted to crawl out of their sockets. Yes, it was really that bad. Viktor sounded like a love-sick teenage version of Boris and/or Natasha. Fleur left out so many consonants I thought she might have been having a seizure. I prayed for the return of Hagrid’s stilted dialogue. Thank god they’re only in one book.
I may have gotten a little off the rails there. That’s really the only issue I had with this particular installment of the Harry Potter tales. Besides the expounding on the Harry Potter universe, the plot was even twistier this time around and we got more subtle reveal of the meta-plot. Also, Voldemort came back. Shit got real, real fast. In a scene that could have gone very wrong very easily, Rowling handles the big reveal in a very efficient, if mildly melodramatic fashion.
Rowling, aside from the dialogue, is definitely growing as a writer. The pacing isn’t as frenetic and fast here as in the first three (Maybe that’s why it took 600 pages to tell the story). And while it is longer, and some of the Triwizard side-plots could’ve been truncated a bit (the movie definitely made some strategic cuts without losing any of the movement), the length wasn’t too much of a drag on the reader. I found this installment relied lot more on the story and the action to move the plot versus relying on the characters to speed things along, like the first three books. The new additions to the line-up are not as fleshed out or enjoyable as the folks from the first three volumes, but I feel like that’s ok. Invest me in any more characters, and the book you’ll have to write will double as a brake-brace. For tractor trailers.
Fleur, Krumm, Madame Maxine, even Mad-Eye moody, portrayed so memorably by Brendan Gleeson in the movies, was a bit forgettable. Maybe that’s because he wasn’t exactly himself. The story is what mattered in this volume, and it was a nice change. All the old favorites were still around. The budding teenage romance angle, which managed to involve Krumm Fleur, Ron, Hermione, and Harry, is enough to make an almost-30-year-old laugh. Same with the awkwardness surrounding the school dance. The slimy reporter archetype of Rita Skeeter has an appropriate ending. The old favorites of Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid the Horrible-Speaker are still keeping everybody in line, and good olde Snape is still…haunting…the…grounds…in typical Alan Rickman-style. Which is smooth…and Snapey. We get more of his dark story as well…a Death Eater turned agent of good…or is he? Rowling’s use of meta-plot grows in this volume as well, and remains one of her strengths as a writer.
In summation: another good read. Not as fast, or as easy to get through, but still enjoyable. The characters are still good, even if the new ones aren’t developed as well. The story-driven aspect makes it seem a little less childish and a bit more serious, as it should since the subject matter is getting darker. Maybe not the best of the four I’ve read…but definitely a contender. Especially since it delves into nerd-indulgence and gives you the full monty of the Wizarding World.
And now I’m through the halfway marker. No turning back.