Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
By J.K. Rowling
by Kenny Brechner
I had resolved not to toss one more log on a raging bonfire, not to review Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that is, but, as has often been proved, "we be but Fate's whipping-tops bandied what way she will." Driven across the Goblet's of Fire's pages by the gale force prompting of an insatiable seven year old, whose determination to eat breathe and sleep the new Harry Potter book made John Henry's zeal for steel driving look slack, I was to be discovered wedged into the bathroom reading chapter 27 aloud while my son showered, fitting in an extra few paragraphs while he brushed his teeth before camp, suffused with the book, in short, until no other topic would do.
The first three Harry Potter books have gotten progressively better. The fourth is not an exception, it is in fact superb. This progression indicates not so much that one book is better than another, but that each book has built on its predecessors. Their steady elevation reflects the solidity of Rowlings' imagined world, the fully realized plot structure which was in place for the entire series from its inception, and a very effective formula Rowlings has employed in each book.
Each of the first four books has followed a set pattern. There is a heightening of tension in the beginning, a delivery of concentrated foreshadowing of trouble to come with some details which cannot be understood without further knowledge. The tension then stands back down during Harry's travails with, and escape from, the Dursleys. A low point of tension follows, marked by the comfort surrounding Harry's reentry into the magical community.
The tension gradually begins to rise during Harry's school year, as a series of clues are gathered by Harry and his friends. These discoveries are built around the intermittent excitement of Quiddith Matches, or in the case of the Goblet of Fire, the Triwizard Tournament. The tension then culminates in a marvelously sustained denouement in which all is made known and all is accomplished.
In the aftermath of the denouement Harry is then restored into his world in three stages. First, he takes stock of things privately with his headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, then with Ron and Hermione, and finally, he prepares himself for another interlude with the Dursleys.
Rowling's formula, accompanied by her unflagging imagination and narrative drive, blossoms as never before in the Goblet of Fire. Many characters who had been slightly one dimensional come fully to life. Its sustained climax is stunningly executed and Harry's reintegration into his world is charged with a purpose, clarity and depth that brilliantly realizes its foreshadowing.
The Goblet of Fire fulfills all the promise of its predecessors, and could only disappoint someone who hoped it would be bad. One might hazard a guess that the unbelievable anticipation, promotion and scrutiny surrounding Rowling' work has helped her sustain their integrity and keep Harry in character. After all, only Harry himself has to perform under as much pressure as his creator.