Old School Wednesdays presents an epic reread of The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. THIS MONTH ON THE RE-READ: we take a look at book 4.
Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?
This time, on our Old School Wednesday journey, we continue our OSW feature for the first half (ok, two-thirds) of 2016–The Epic Harry Potter Re-Read with our joint review of the first book!
Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK) / Scholastic (US)
Publication Date: First published 2000
Hardcover: A whopping 734 pages
The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can’t know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable …With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master story-teller
Stand alone or series: Book 4 in the Harry Potter series
How did we get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Print
Previously on the Epic Harry Potter Re-read:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
**All reviews/discussions on this re-readalong will contain inevitable spoilers–if you don’t want to be spoiled, best look away. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.**
This re-read continues to surprise me, I am finding new things in these books, rethinking what I liked before versus what I like now. It’s a great exercise in looking at one’s reading memories and revaluating one’s reading experiences.
I remember distinctly loving Goblet of Fire before. Not so much now. In fact, I love precisely one quarter of this book – the last one. But I will get to it later.
The problems with Goblet of Fire are many. Although one has to admire J.K. Rowling for the different threads expertly woven into the novel – So. Much. Foreshadow – the fact remains that most of the novel’s plot is protracted, boring gibberish – omg did I just say that out loud? I feel a little dizzy.
I am not a huge fan of the Triwizard Tournament for many reasons: it beggars belief that such a dangerous tournament featuring teenagers was allowed to happen in the first place. The lead up to each task is boring. The tasks themselves are underwhelming and underdeveloped by the time they show on page. But the biggest problem is that the tournament and Harry’s participation is completely, 100% unnecessary. Consider that Crouch-Moody had to find a way to fool the Goblet, that Harry had to go through all this, participate on the tasks, take part on a tournament that lasted MONTHS so that he could… Touch a portkey. Bearing in mind that Crouch-Moody had a placement as a trusted teacher at Hogwarts for almost one year with plenty of opportunities to just, oh, I don’t know, hand over to Harry a parchment, a pen, a book – anything, really – that was a portkey at any. Given. Time. It is all just so convoluted.
Since we are on this subject: are we going to talk about how Crouch-Moody was able to fool the most important wizards in the Wizarding World for almost a year? Actually, no, scrap that: maybe that is a good thing. Maybe that is just another facet, another way of reinforcing the idea that just because magic exists, it doesn’t mean that things are magically solved or that wizards and witches are perfect. Definitely scrap that: in fact, this is possibly my favourite aspect of the book. How slowly but surely, Rowling is unveiling this world to show us how people like Voldemort can rise, where fascist wizards are a dime a dozen and House-elves are an actual thing that exists.
On that latter subject, I am not sure how I feel about SPEW and Hermione – do we see a touch of White Saviourism there? Why is Hermione the only one who cares? Why is Dobby the only House-elf who thought differently and why wasn’t Dobby the SPEW’s creator? Plus, I’d understand the Malfoys having a House-elf but the widely-spread accepted usage, abuse and way of thinking about House-elves (“BUT THEY LIKE IT”) is gross – especially for a story taking place in the 20th century. I stand with Hermione in befuddlement when realising that Hogwarts runs on House-elves. Dumbledore, Minerva, what even. I can’t form words coherently. I remember being really upset that the movies cut the House-elves storyline but now maybe I think this is a godsend because what a mess.
With that said, what did I like about Goblet of Fire? Everything featuring the adults. Everything about the history of Voldemort’s ascension to power and his return now. Dumbledore’s Pensieve. The Death Eaters. The Unforgivable Curses. The Longbottoms’ story- actually all the terrifyingly sad stories of that entire wiped-out generation of wizards. Dumbledore’s speech in the end and the start of the Order of Phoenix: anyone else got goosebumps at Dumbledore’s call to action to Sirius, Snape, Molly, Arthur, Minerva? That moment was awesome. Harry and Voldemort’s showdown, the two wands, the ghosts and Cedric’s “take my body back to my parents, Harry”. I cried.
It’s clear though I disliked more things than a I liked about Goblet of Fire. It’s possible GASP that I liked Chamber of Secrets more. Talk about a revelation.
Allow me to start my part of the review by stating plainly that:
- I agree with Ana’s part of the review with regard to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, particularly where Hermione and the House Elves are concerned;
- This IS a really bloated book and there isn’t actual causality that makes sense within the plot;
- I loved the book anyway.
Let’s knock these out systematically, shall we?
First: the House Elves, SPEW, and Hermione the White Savior syndrome. When I first read these books I was much younger and largely unaware of the issues present in the text–and as such, didn’t see much of an issue with SPEW and Hermione’s crusade to save the House Elves from others and from themselves. Upon rereading now as a more attuned and critical-thinking reader, it’s impossible not to notice the huge glaring problem of Hermione’s White Savior storyline. This thread is particularly problematic because it highlights a key problem with White Saviordom–the fact that Hermione never once asks or tries to understand what the House Elves themselves want. No, instead she finds ways to trick them into freedom–a freedom that she herself has ascribed to being what the Elves must want. I agree with Ana in questioning why Dobby was not the voice and leader of SPEW (a much more subversive message that is actually about the House Elves and not about Hermione’s personal need to save and liberate the Elves). I don’t object to the examination of the House Elves servitude to Wizards–it’s an awful system, and one that makes readers see this Wizarding world isn’t all chocolate toads and butterbeer; I just wish it had been more thoroughly examined and subverted.
Beyond this core issue, let’s unpack the other two parts of the review and criticism: the bloated nature of the book and action that has no bearing on the actual development of the plot. To these two claims, I say… yes, I see that this is true. But also: I LOVE the Tri-Wizard Tournament, the different challenges that Harry and the rival schools face, the idea of international partnerships between schools, and all of the good stuff in between. I love an arena story, and ultimately, that is what Goblet of Fire is all about. Is it superfluous? Does all of the action happen but have actually little internal logic as it pertains to getting Harry in front of Lord Voldermort, especially regarding the polyjuice and portkey bits? Well, yeah. But you know what else The Goblet of Fire has? Dragons, and lake dwellers, and an abundance of awesome, and a ton of backstory for Tom Riddle, and worldbuilding for the Wizarding world overall, and SO MUCH FORESHADOWING. I like to think of this book as the Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc storyline–nothing that the main character does has any actual influence on the story itself. But, like Raiders, this book is so, so, so cool that I forgive the meaningless action. (I’m fickle like that, what can I say?!)
The interplay between Harry, Hermione, and Ron is fantastic per usual–the sprinkling of Sirius is also awesome. I very much love how much Harry, Ron and Hermione are growing with the series–this book in particular shows how different each of them are. Further, as Ana says, I love the cast of adult characters and the struggle of the memory of Voldemort that they each face–the Dark Mark is introduced here, along with the Death Eaters, Dumbledorre’s pensieve, and more. It’s all SO SO COOL.
This is a classic case of long book, lots of bloat… but it’s good bloat. It’s the kind that I like to read, complete with Hungarian Horntails and the like. Take that as you will!
Also, at the end of the day, The Goblet of Fire is the book that changes everything–Voldemort is back, and things will never, ever be the same. It’s about to get dark, people.
Thea: 7 – Very Good
About the Epic Harry Potter Re-Read:
Extending through August, we will be re-reading each book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. (We’ll also be re-watching all of the movies, but we won’t be reviewing those.) Why are we doing such a thing? Because we are nostalgic for these books that we basically grew up with; because we’ve had so much fun with re-reads over the past year, especially for Old School Wednesdays (see Percy Jackson and The Dark Tower); and most of all, because this August, we Book Smugglers are going to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London. AAAAAA!!!!
Are you also a Harry Potter fan? Are you new to the books? Do you want to join our re-read fun? Well you’re in some serious luck (and you don’t even need Felix Felicis) because here’s the full schedule.
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets – February 24
http://www.thebooksmugglers.com/2016/03/old-school-wednesdays-harry-potter-re-read-harry-potter-prisoner-azkaban.html – March 23
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire – May 4
Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix – May 25
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince – June 22
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – July 27
Join us, won’t you?