So, my quest to complete the enjoyable but non-spectacular Harry Potter series took a turn for the worse with book Four, also known as the Goblet of Fire.
What I enjoyed about the first three books was the all-encompassing universe, and how all the little threads of story lines come together in the end. I have been led to believe, by fans and casual readers alike, that the first three books are simply fun children’s tales…it’s the final four books – all more than double the length of any of the first three – that are darker and more engaging. Maybe Goblet suffers from middle-child syndrome.
In Goblet of Fire (and don’t worry, I won’t wreck anything for those of you who haven’t read it yet), we are first forced to sit through a book-within-a-book about the Quidditch World Cup. Of course, this world cup is never even mentioned in the earlier books, and the reader knows nothing about any of the teams…so, though the several chapters about the world cup do drop hints of the later, more important plot, the sporting event itself, and the many details provided are completely uninteresting.
Finally, Harry and his young friends start the school year, eagerly wondering about a special surpise they’ve heard about. And here’s the surprise: students from two other schools will be competing in various wizarding contests along with Hogwart’s (that’s Harry school) for a tri-wizard cup. These competitions are so dangerous and life-threatening, that the schools agreed the cancel the competitions 100 years earlier. Sounds exciting, but then we find out that only one student from each school can compete (meaning that dozens of students from the visiting schools just sit around all year and waste a year of their education – I’m not joking here)! So, naturally, we assume the competitor from Hogwarts will be Harry, right? Wrong! Only students 17 years of age and older (Harry’s only 14) can participate. This leaves out not only Harry, but also, Ron, Hermoine, Ginny, Fred, George, Neville and pretty much every other character we’ve come to love out of the running. But wait – there’s more! The yearly quidditch games, which we actually do care about (since we’ve come to know the teams and players) is entirely cancelled. You know, because one student will be soooo busy with three challenges (yep, just three) that no one else will have time to play their favorite sport AT ALL. Additional, the inter-house championship is also evidently cancelled; or, at least, it receives nary a word in “Goblet”
As you might have guessed (and I guessed it on about page 6), Harry nevertheless manages to become the competitor from his school (and, to make things confusing, the competitors are called “champions”). How does he do it? Well, we don’t know. And neither does Harry. It seems someone else has put his name into the aforementioned goblet. But wait – isn’t Harry too young? Yes, but once the goblet chooses a player, you can’t say no. Hey, isn’t Harry worried he’s gonna die, seeing how he’s so young and inexperienced compared to the other champions? Well, yes, but he HAS to play…because some stupid cup told him he has to play. Aren’t the other students crying foul because Harry got to play and they didn’t? Again, yes, but how can you say no to a goblet? Did I mention it’s a freakin’ goblet?
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was forced to participate in an activity that A) I wasn’t too thrilled about in the first place; B) caused my peers to harass me and; C) might just cost me my life, I would do the most half-assed job ever (I know because this always happened in gym class). So when Harry has to battle a dragon, and he’s afraid that he’ll get killed, instead of just running to the other side, or collapsing on the ground stating he didn’t want to play anyway, he actually goes through all the motions of preparing, cheating and trying…just like all the real champions do.
Harry’s heart, though, just isn’t in it. In fact, it’s not in anything. When it comes time for the Christmas Ball, Harry doesn’t even want to go. Actually, it’s funny anyone even goes, because Hogwart’s, like most schools, is nearly deserted during the Xmas break as all the students have gone home for break. Inexplicably, no one bothers going home this year. Anyway, Harry doesn’t want to go to the dance, but his dorm master reminds him that it’s tradition for the school champion to ‘open the dance’. What? How can there be a tradition if there hasn’t been a tri-wizard challenge in 100 years, and if there’s never been a Xmas dance before? And why doesn’t Harry jsut say: “You know what? I didn’t volunteer for your stupid competition, so why don’t you get some other yes-boy to do your bidding?” Who knows.
Each individual task is exciting enough, but there’s only three of them, and they are separated by months, the last one even occurring in late June. (How long is Hogwart’s school year?! Nevermind, in this book, it makes no sense.)
How does it end? Well, I don’t want to ruin the ‘excitement’ for you, but, suffice it to say, it ends up not even mattering. Ha! Take that loyal readers of 700 pages! In the end, the dunces at Hogwarts send the boy you love to hate back with his abusive uncle and aunt…for the fourth time.
If “Order of the Pheonix” sucks as bad as “Goblet of Crap”, I won’t be completing the series.
Chamber of Secrets…B-
Prisoner of Azkaban…B
Goblet of Fire…C-