THE FOURTH BOOK of the greatest YA series of books ever written (and arguably the greatest set of fantasy books ever written - for any age) continues with the detailing of the education (and adoration) of the world’s favourite wizarding apprentices at the world’s favourite wizarding castle. But it must be said, GOBLET OF FIRE opens with a much darker tone than the preceding three volumes and never really lets up.
The early highlight of the book - and the only real throwback to the complete and utter joy found in the opening trilogy - comes as a gift to the reader in chapter four. Whilst it could also double as a philosophical debate on the merits (or lack thereof) of bullying, and what happens to bullies in the long run, seasoned fans of the series may well find themselves LOL’ing at Cousin Dudley and his cohorts when the Weasleys arrive to take Harry back to The Burrow.
Damn, it was funny.
But the joy doesn't last long. Voldermort is on the loose and our Harry is in more danger than he realises. The Quidditch World Cup is on, and the gang have tickets to see who wins the final. And even at this event, the epitome of all things magical, memories of an incredible final are ruined for everyone by the appearance of a Dark Mark in the sky, along with rumours, false accusations and hot tempers leading to all sorts of nasty comments which would have been better left unsaid.
And even once the real story commences with another year at Hogwarts (and therefore a new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher), Mad Eye Moody - the new teacher of this fine discipline - continues the worrisome tone of the book by seeing what students in his class can fight back (survive) against the three so-called ’Unforgivable Curses’.
But it doesn’t stop there. The legendary TRI-WIZARDING TOURNAMENT is being held in the grounds of Hogwarts for the first time in centuries, and as Dumbledore explains to the members of all three schools lucky enough to bear witness to this event, entry is open to all students above the age of seventeen. So then, how does our Harry get invited to participate? And why? And at what risk? And who manipulated vents that out the young prodigy into this position in the first place.
After a brief conversation with Sirius in chapter nineteen, both Harry and the reader are much wiser. None of which I intend to reveal here, of course, but one wonders how Sirius manages to know so much, so far away from the action at Le Castle Le Magnifique. We also learn a little of the first task the Champions need to overcome if they wish to advance to the second task. But more importantly, Ron is still at odds with his BFF and that is upsetting the soul of Harry, Hermoine as well as the rest of the world known as readers. But that is for the story’s central characters to work out. And work it out, they will.
The point is, four hundred pages in and this book, whilst it doesn’t feel *wrong*, simply doesn’t have the same tone, the same sense of happiness and joy, and the same sense of self discovery that the first three books possessed and gifted the world with. Not to mention the unequivocally brilliant ending that was the finale to volume three. This may be Ms Rowling’s way of teaching kids around the world that life is not always fun, its not always happy but it’s fair to say that life is not always a life and death struggle against the forces of evil, either. Sure there is still fun to be had at Hogwarts in Year Four, but with Quidditch taken out of the book’s formula one of the most brilliant aspects of studying (and living) magic has been taken away from our heroes. And from the reader, as well.
And so it is up to JK to prove me wrong. THE GOBLET OF FIRE is exciting, it is thrilling, it’s highly educational and slightly political (anyone care to join SPEW? It’s for a great cause...) but as I have just mentioned, it is not the same joyful, laugh a minute reading experience the earlier books were. Keep reading, I will. That goes without saying. And if the book’s second half disproves what I have talked about in this review, I am sure to let you know. But for now take it from me. This book is mandatory reading but just don’t expect the soul enhancement you got from books one, two and three.