Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: A doorstop

Readers’ average rating:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA fantasy book reviews J.K. Rowling 4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

The one where Harry takes part in the Tri-wizard Tournament. The one where hormones start flying. The one where Voldemort grows ever stronger. The one where J. K. Rowling decided everyone needed more doorstops…

I want it said right from the beginning of this review that I adore the Harry Potter series in its entirety, but I do feel that some books are stronger than others. And this is one of the weakest in the series in my opinion.

For some reason, Rowling decided that she could no longer write her story in a few hundred pages. Instead, we’re presented with a positive brick of a book that stretches on for many hundreds more than I felt it should be. If all of the books had been written with the tight plotting and efficient writing of the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I would have been immensely happy. However, in Goblet of Fire, there are long periods of “filler” and subplots that seem to go nowhere.

I couldn’t believe that the whole section concerning the Quidditch World cup took a couple of hundred pages to go through. There were a lot of “and then… ” teenage-diary moments. “And then Harry and Ron went upstairs. And then they went to sleep. And then they were woken up. And then they walked up the hill to the Portkey. And then they found their place in the campsite.” A lot of these details could have been glossed over and shown to us through better writing.

It took another hundred or so before the Tri-wizard Tournament was introduced! I know that Rowling was building in certain events whose importance was only revealed later on, but none of it was done in the same accomplished manner she achieved in the previous novel.

We were also subjected to two of her most common flaws. The first of these is introducing new items into the wizarding world to suit where the plot is going — here, we have two new wizarding schools in the form of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons; Portkeys; and Veritaserum. I just felt that, if I had been in Harry’s position, either I would have asked whether Hogwarts was the only wizarding school or Hermione would have volunteered the information at an earlier stage. But Rowling needed to have other competitors for the Tournament, and so into the book they came. Portkeys were introduced at the beginning of the book so that Harry could be whisked away using one of them at the end. It is disappointing to see such a high-profile author use such a lazy method.

Her second massive flaw is giant dialogue-heavy sections where she, again, tells rather than shows. Here we have three! Firstly, Rowling uses Sirius to info-dump heavily about Voldemort and his Death Eaters (another phrase that we have never heard before this book). Then she “introduces” the Pensieve (although I am more forgiving of this since they do not seem very common in the world of wizards) to info-dump about the trials of the Death Eaters and shows the fate of Barty Crouch’s son. And finally we have a long dialogue section with Barty Crouch Jr. where he is under the influence of Veritaserum (mentioned as a throwaway line by Snape so that it can be used later in the book!) and explains his actions over the course of the novel. This, again, is incredibly lazy and leads to sections of information overload.

As I have said, I feel that the novel could have been shorter and snappier. We could easily have lost the whole Liberation of the House Elves subplot involving Hermione; it didn’t really progress at all. The lessons describing the Blast-Ended Skrewts were tiresome and boring, something I never expected from sequences with Hagrid. Although I could see the role that Rita Skeeter’s newspaper stories played in the plot, I felt too much page space was given to her.

This review is starting to sound rather scathing, but I genuinely liked the book other than those issues I have raised above. There is the usual charm and warmth you gain from reading a Harry Potter book. Seeing the pupils from the different schools and the wizards at the Quidditch World Cup adds a new depth to the world.

The end play with Voldemort is thrilling and extremely dark. I loved the tasks in the Tri-Wizard tournament.

Dumbledore really grows as a character in this book. I especially appreciated the lines where Dumbledore explodes into Moody’s office and Harry can finally see why he is the only wizard that Voldemort fears. He is stern and immensely powerful — this is very strong writing. Snape also gains valuable “screentime” and the start of his ambiguous relationship with both sides of the wizarding battle is explored.

There are moments of comic delight in the book, principally because of the increasing hormones evident in Hogwarts. Ron and Hermione are the main source of this, and it is a delight to see that their bickering is starting to reveal true feelings.

To sum up: the Harry Potter series is a tour de force and a marvel to read, but sometimes you have to slog a little, and this book is one of the slogs. It has moments of brilliance as usual, but also contains some rather laboured writing and wouldn’t have suffered from being a couple of hundred pages shorter.

~Amanda Rutter

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA fantasy book reviews J.K. Rowling 4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the first of the books to reach massive size, and it might be a little too long and I can’t always follow Voldemort’s logic. But it’s still a lot of fun, and its ending signals raised stakes and a turn for the darker in the series.

~Kelly Lasiter

YA fantasy book reviews J.K. Rowling 4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireLike Amanda and Kelly have said, there are some dumb-villain plot issus here (I can think of lots of easier ways for Voldemort to get hold of Harry Potter) and the book is longer than it needs to be, but fans won’t mind spending that extra time with Harry and his friends.

~Kat  Hooper

YA fantasy book reviews J.K. Rowling 4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireI agree with Amanda; this book was a couple hundred pages too long. Even though the emergence of Voldemort at the end is dark and truly scary, Rowling loses all  discipline starting with this book in the series.

~Marion Deeds

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AMANDA RUTTER, one of our guest reviewers, used to be an accountant in the UK but she escaped the world of numbers and is now living in a fantasy world she creates. She runs Angry Robot's YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. And we knew her when....

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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One comment

  1. Simon hartshorn /

    The writing style aside (and then moments occur throughout the series) I thought that GOF was perhaps the best book in the series. To me it transformed the books from kids lit to a more mature series with grander themes. To criticise the books for over describing the quidditch World Cup is bizarre to me, that whole set piece is wonderfully descriptive and I felt as though I was in the stands watching it myself. It was a crying shame in my opinion that the film skipped over this section as much as it did. The first lord of the rings book had 300 pages of them traipsing through a woods and is considered a masterpiece , at least something happened in GOF.

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