Harry's Life Gets More Complicated
Reviewed in the United States on 19 May 2013
We already know from the first book that Harry is going to encounter a scary, dangerous situation while at Hogwarts - and it is all about him. (Cue Voldemort and his minions.) Each subsequent book in the series brings additional characters into the life of Harry Potter. And with them come more knowledge, more mystery and more story lines.
The fourth book of the series doesn't start out with Harry. Instead, we get a glimpse of the life of the Riddles - all who mysteriously die in the night of no determined cause. But each had a "look of terror on his or her face" and the long-time gardener overhears a plotting conversation and Harry awakes with his scar hurting. Oh boy.
"Difference of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."
Harry is looking forward to the end of his summer and the Quidditch World Cup, between Ireland and Bulgaria. Mr. Weasley has scored the best seats in the house for the Weasley clan and Ron's two friends. However, Harry takes note of some odd things Ron's older brother Percy (now working at the Ministry of Magic) says about some peculiarities at the Ministry, as well as some other abnormal things about two heads of Ministry departments, Crouch and Bagman, and the odd disappearance of Ministry woman in the last known location of You-Know-Who. Although the Quidditch match is quite rousing, something goes horribly wrong...
Death Eaters (Voldemort's strongest supporters, cloaked and hooded) are storming the place seeking Muggle blood - and Harry, Ron and Hermione are in the wrong place at the wrong time when Voldemort's Dark Mark is cast into the sky. Ministry officials are overwhelmingly suspicious of Harry, Ron and Hermione, until they find Crouch's house-elf Winky standing in the spot where the Dark Mark was cast...with Harry's wand! Crouch immediately dismisses the terrified Winky, but raises the question in everyone's mind: Why did Crouch send Winky to save him a seat in the Top Box, where the Weasleys, Harry, Hermione, the Malfoys and other Ministry officials were seated, if he wasn't going to show up for the Quidditch match? Harry knows he has to tell Sirius, still in hiding.
Harry and Ron learn before setting off for Hogwarts that there won't be any Quidditch matches or a Cup to be won - something quite different will be happening this school year. At the feast, Dumbledore explains all: a Triwizard Tournament! A friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang in which in the past the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued. YIKES!
The tournament has been restricted to wizards age seventeen and older so that unprepared wizards are not at risk. It will be judged by the three headmasters of the competing schools, as well as a few other objective judges including Crouch. One representative from each school (Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang) will be selected by the Goblet of Fire to be the "champion" of their school and compete in three tasks. Yet...Harry's name is chosen as the fourth competitor! And he must compete - it's the rules! No one believes him that he didn't submit his name, and it sets a huge rift between Harry and Ron. A lot of anger lies between them, and Hermione is trying to bring them back together. Meanwhile, the whole school is angry at him, taunting him with ridiculous lies from a reporter's article, flashing POTTER STINKS buttons. Everyone's turned on Harry, and he's definitely got the feeling of being and outcast. Sirius and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Moody, are on alert: someone put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire - because they want him dead!
Hogwarts gets a new, but rather old, Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Indeed, "Mad-Eye" Moody is quite qualified: he used to work at the Ministry as an Auror (a Dark wizard catcher). Snape avoids Mad-Eye (as well as Drumstrang's headmaster). He goes against Ministry restrictions for teaching: he wants students to be prepared for danger, and teaches students how to recognize the three Unforgivable Curses (one of which killed Harry's parents), and how to combat them. And he also highly embarrasses Malfoy in quite a humorous way. He is obviously Harry's secret champion, a fresh delight in the quite ugly and nastiness that is Snape.
They get a weird vibe from Durmstrang's headmaster, Karkaroff. They're on even higher alert when Karkaroff bursts into the dungeon during a Potions lesson. Harry fiddles and spills things to stay and overhear their conversation, with Karkaroff showing Snape something in great fear, who shushes him. And Harry finds Crouch himself ransacking Snape's office from his magical map, which he hands over to Moody. If Crouch is so sick, as the Ministry and Percy Weasley are insisting, why is he sneaking into Hogwarts? Things are not adding up....
Hermione helps arrange for Harry to meet Sirius in late November in the Gryffindor common room. And boy does Sirius have a lot to say! He shares some scary information about Karkaroff, connecting him to Voldemort, and perhaps the reason Dumbledore wanted an Auror at Hogwarts...to keep Harry safe. Sirius is very strict in asking Harry to notify him of any strange happenings, which actually happens quite frequently.
Harry and Ron do make up; being boys, they leave things unsaid but Harry is more mindful of Ron and his feelings. The gang work together to help Harry complete the last two tasks. Harry gets in the good graces of Beauxbatons champion Fleur, and Karkaroff, is continually unfair in his judging marks for Harry's tasks.
All the while, Hermione is hellbent on advocating for house-elves, who are basically slaves. But they're delighted about their work, which Hermione doesn't understand. Dobby and Mr. Crouch's formerly employed Winky come to work at Hogwarts, and Winky reveals that Crouch has some rather dark secrets. Winky upholds that she won't reveal them, and insists that Mr. Bagman is a bad man....but toward the end of the book we find out that Bagman and Crouch are kind of enemies and exactly what kind of secrets Winky has been keeping.
During Voldemort's powerful time, Crouch was an avid prosecutor of his supporters - he was definitely on a manhunt. Harry gets the full experience of Crouch coldly sending his only child, his only son, to Azkaban without a trial, without an explanation as to how he got swept into the Dark Arts. Some insisted he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, which even Harry has been accused of...and which a young Bagman was also accused of. But his popularity as an England Quidditch player roused sympathy and support, which eliminated his connection with Voldemort. Crouch was none too happy that his peers let Bagman walk free. Indeed, throughout the entire book, play goes back and forth between Bagman and Crouch making readers think one is connected with Voldemort, who we learn some interesting information about. Harry also finds out who some of the other Death Eaters are, and is very surprised to find one of them is a professor at Hogwarts!
During the final task, Harry saves Cedric's butt a couple of times...and they find that Durmstrang's champion is not what he seems. Harry is badly hurt, and he and Cedric make a monumental decision as to the outcome of the winning champion. And what they get is not at all what they expected, as Harry comes face to face with Voldemort again. And this time Voldemort's out for blood - Harry's - and death.
The ending is QUITE twisted - readers will definitely be thrown for a loop as all comes together and is explained. It is quite a lot, but brings Sirius to Harry's side...and dually he reveals himself to Mrs. Weasley and Snape. Snape and Sirius unceremoniously agree to disagree over their tangled past at Dumbledore's urging, and to help Harry and the wizarding world.
Dumbledore sends Snape off on a covert task, that will be revealed in a later book. Sirius is sent to rally "the old gang." Mr. Weasley is called upon to reach out to contacts in the Ministry who won't turn a blind eye to the fact that Voldemort is back - and many within the Ministry who were cleared so many years ago are indeed still supporting the murderous Dark Lord.
One thing of great note that's different from the other books so far is that readers get more exposure to Harry's inner thoughts - he wants to enter the Triwizard Tournament, he wants to cast an Unforgivable Curse on Snape, etc. This is probably due in large part to the volatile amount of anger Harry has, especially toward Ron, and feeling as if everyone at Hogwarts hates him.
Also of important note is the growing crush of Hermione and Ron. Ron is extremely jealous of Hermoine, how she spends her time and who she spends it with. It will be interesting to see if this continues throughout the series or if Hermione decides she's had enough of Ron's oafish ways.
Of the series so far, I think I enjoyed this book the most. It was quite a bit longer, but I loved the entire idea wrapped up in this book - Rowling did some thorough planning and dropped hints at just the right times. If you've never read the Harry Potter series, I highly encourage you to do so. It is truly an enjoyable (and easy) read.
Check out what Harry, Ron and Hermione will run into in the next book,
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix