Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is facing another summer at the Dursleys, but it’ll all be over soon as the World Cup looms on the horizon!  There, he enjoys the expert flying of the world’s best Quidditch players, and sees the Dark Mark cast into the sky the first time.  It’s a bit of a grim start to a new school year, which should be exciting because the Ministry of Magic and a coalition of magical schools have resurrected an exciting wizarding tradition – the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  Harry joins the three other champions and with the help of Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Dobby, his new DADA teacher, and just about everyone else, he competes for the pride of Hogwarts and the thousand galleon prize.  Not to mention eternal fame and glory, as though he needed more.  Of course, nothing goes according to plan and Harry’s scar seems to be aching him again….  After Sibyl Trelawny’s prediction last year, is it possible the Dark Lord will rise again? (Spoiler: yes)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my second favorite of all the Potter books, and for good reason – it’s filled with action, new characters, and it’s the turning point of the series.  Listening to the audiobook just made it better.  Narrator Jim Dale continues to improve his voices.  I particularly enjoyed his choice for Madame Maxime.  I also continue to enjoy his choices for the Weasley twins, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Snape.  I think a good narrator really brings the characters to life.

As for the story itself, I think that GoF is most enjoyable because it is different.  Yes, yes, it’s still a story about Harry fighting Voldemort, but the nature of it is much different than the previous three.  Harry’s routine classes start to slide into the back seat as the three tasks take prominence.  Having daily life at Hogwarts in the rearview mirror instead of front and center is a theme that will continue through the rest of the series.  Although I really enjoy walking through Harry’s classes, it’s very much essential that these things fade away to focus more prominently on Voldemort’s rise.

GoF challenges the relationship between Harry and his friends.  We see the first real fracture between himself and Ron, and the bitter seed planted here will continue to root and grow for the rest of the series.  In addition, the dance between Ron and Hermione as a future couple begins to get interesting at the Yule Ball.  But outside of the regulars, we also get to see a bit of development in Hagrid’s story, which is a wonderful treat, as well as some background on Neville Longbottom.  Both these characters have been hovering supportively near the trio since book one, and it’s nice to see they’ve not been forgotten.

Despite the shifting focus of the story, Rowling continues to outline the beauty and wonder of the magical world, and she never fails to add comedy to the edges.  Life, after all, is not always busy and grim.  While our usual comedians, the Weasley twins, are a bit busy this book, they still have their moment.  Add to that Dobby’s socks, the awkwardness of the Yule Ball, and the notorious Amazing Bouncing Ferret… and despite the dark turn of things, I still found myself chuckling.

All in all, I’d say Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire still holds its place as my second favorite of the Potter books and as one of my top 25 Desert Island books… It’s captivating, engrossing, fun, action-filled, witty, beautifully written, and dear to my heart.  It was good fun to renew my memories of this story, and I love looking back in retrospective and finding all the bits and pieces I’ve managed to miss in previous readings that the audio book really illuminated.  All the points to Gryffindor!

I don’t get any brownies points for this (I just like sharing) but if you want to check out Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in a bit more detail, I got my audio book from Audible, but you can also check out the official LibraryThing page or Goodreads for all your many options in acquiring this book in hard copy, ebook, or audio… as well as other review and fun data.

And, because I feel the need to defend my audio book listening… I do have a lovingly time-worn hard cover copy of this book I got for Christmas as a kid, as well as the whole Harry Potter collection in ebook format from Pottermore.  I love me some Harry Potter.

The Triangular Tragedy of YA Fiction

Any reader will be hardpressed to find a novel with a female protagonist whose romantic relationship doesn’t overflow the entire plot.  Authors embrace this formula for heartbreak and success in a variety of ways:  Anita Blake author Laurell K. Hamilton overthrew her supernatural plot of necromancy and sleuthing to highlight Anita’s relations as the only plot; The Selection‘s Kiera Cass made the plot a season of popular television show, The Bachelor.  In the case of Katniss Everdeen, author Suzanne Collins writes her protagonist as a person who both calculates the potential relationships as well as pushing them aside as momentarily distracting and unimportant.  Collins gets kudos from me on that one, because it’s nice to imagine Katniss rolling her eyes.  Still, no matter how you look at it, love triangles have taken over fiction.

Where did this trend begin?  While it’s easy to look back and point fingers at Twilight‘s Edward-Bella-Jacob or Harry’s Potter‘s Harry-Hermione-Ron, a love triangle as a plot device has been around for much longer than that.  Although much more interpretive and subtle, love traingles can be identified in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo  and The Three Musketeers and even in the classic love story, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  Love triangles even fall into the oral tradition, most famous of which must be King Arthur, Queen Gweniviere, and Sir Lancelot.  It is true that with the popular successes of J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, and Suzanne Collins, this plot device has come into the spotlight, but it should be understood that the romantic tension of a love triangle is an old tradition.

I recently came across an article written in 2013 by Lauren Slavin for Feminspire.com arguing that these overblown love triangle are hurting teen readers, stating that it isn’t the love triangles that are the problem, but the men in them are, and they’re creating a negative expectation for young women and their sexuality, as well as their expectations of their youthful relationships.  Specifically, she says, “reading book after book where competition over affections is seen as romantic could create a generation of young women who aspire for a tug-of-war relationship, which ends in the “friend-zoming” of one potential paramour,” and goes on to add, “Feminists cringe over the concept that a woman owes someone sex if that someone has romantic feelings for them– even romantic feelings that aren’t returned.”  She speaks about how these written relationships create a social view which leads to bullying and slut-shaming of real, feeling young women.  Her article, although a little wandering, makes some interesting points about the way teenagers take stories very much to heart, and a repeated message of the internalizing of literature and our human habit of attempting to replay it in our real lives.

I don’t want to take a feminist stance about the way these stories affect young women.  I don’t want to defend the writers and characters in their handling of these tricky situations of the heart.  I do, however think it is important to acknowledge how quickly the Love Triangle is becoming a required feature in the world of YA Fiction and the reasons why it is there….

Do we do it for the angst?  For the popularity?  I know that many young girls – wish that they might – do not have two debonair suitors at their beck and call.  Seeing these things reflected as normal in literature, but not appearing in their real lives could certainly be detrimental to self-esteem.

However, there is also the possibility that we are simply making a mountain out of a molehill.