It’s time for another book review! I am really tearing through the Harry Potter series, so here are my thoughts on the fourth installment in J.K. Rowling’s mega-bajillion dollar tour de force.
For a plot synopsis, as always check Wikipedia for a good one. Be forewarned that this book is over 700 pages long, so the plot synopsis reflects that. In a very brief nutshell, Harry is unexpectedly entered into the Triwizard Tournament between Hogwarts and two other wizarding schools, and the book revolves around the tournament and someone trying to harm Harry using the tournament.
I have been told that this book is the beginning of the series getting darker. Well, this book did have some intense moments at the end, but frankly I am not positive I agree with that assessment of this book. Frankly I think that this is the best of the first four, for a variety of reasons. It definitely held my interest the entire time I read it, and I am looking forward to book 5.
Above all, I like how the characters grow up in this book. Harry and Ron and Hermione start their fourth year at Hogwarts in the Goblet of Fire, and at 14 Harry starts to experience romantic interest in the character of Cho Chang, a Ravenclaw that Harry takes a shine to. There is certainly nothing inappropriate in their relationship (or lack thereof) from a Christian perspective, and I really like how Rowling begins to picture the kids taking an interest in the opposite gender. Even for kids around 12 or so, this is a good chance for parents to talk to their kids about relationships and growing up. I think it could make a good talk for parents and younger readers.
I also really like the subplot of Hermione being concerned for the house elves. She is concerned for their well being and for social justice for a group that most Hogwarts students (and most wizards in general) don’t even notice exist. This could be a great discussion from parents to kids about those who our society ignores and should stand up for. This also ties in with their support for Hagrid, who is revealed in this book to be a half giant. (I love Hagrid. He is probably my favorite character in the series so far)
Harry, in this book, is a real hero. He makes several, and I mean several, really good moral decisions. He helps Cedric Diggory (a Hufflepuff and the other Hogwarts champion in the Triwizard tournament) several times in the book; he makes sure that the tournament is a level playing field and defends Cedric’s life in the final challenge. He also foregoes winning the second challenge to save the lives of two people, even though he does not have any relationship with them and knowing that it will cost him the challenge and maybe the tournament. There are many good points about Harry in this book.
Not only that, but Harry gets put into proper perspective in this book. The first three books paint Harry as a phenom at Quidditch, but in this book we meet Viktor Krum of the Bulgarian national Quidditch team and learn that the Hogwarts Quidditch cup is small potatoes. Harry is not such a stud at Quidditch compared to Viktor, and his learning to live with that and respect Viktor is an important plot line.
The effects of lying come up in this book quite a bit. Bartemius Crouch sets into motion a lot of heartache with his lies and his obsession with rooting out dark magic, and his ethical dilemmas could be a good discussion too.
There are also several interesting points about perception versus reality, and about being careful who to trust and priorities in life. I think that Harry’s fight with Ron is a great time for parents to talk to kids about pride and making up in healthy ways when we argue with friends.
Okay, I admit it: I have become quite a Harry Potter fan. There is precious little to dislike about this book. Watch out for plot spoilers in this section.
Number one, there are deaths in the book. They are not gruesome, but they do happen at the hands of Voldemort as he comes back into some power. Parents should be aware of this to talk to kids about life and death.
The climax of the book is intense, and Harry narrowly escapes death at the hands of Voldemort. It is a scary time, though there was not imagery in it beyond Cedric’s death that was really scary. Even Cedric’s death is very abrupt and not at all gory. It just happens as he is subject to the Avada Kedavra curse. (say it out loud…it’s close to Abra Cadabra)
So far I think this is the best of the series. There is a lot to like and little to get frustrated over. I would recommend it to adults as a great, fun book to read, and to discerning kids 12 and up.