My favorite of the Harry Potter books so far! (I’ve read them all many times but it’s been years — I remember that the first time around this was probably my favorite, but I’m not sure if I’ll still feel that way now.)
First of all (and this is true of every book in the series) I love feeling immersed in the Wizarding World. Rowling does a better job of creating an entire fictional world than anybody else I can think of, with her incredible eye to detail, memorable characters, and amusing magical episodes.
But what I love about this one is that it isn’t primarily world-building anymore; we’re firmly established now. I love tournaments and quests, and this story has three of them. Harry, the unlikely hero, ends up as a Triwizard Champion, even though he doesn’t want to be and he’s immensely unqualified. He’s therefore easy to identify with. He’s not brilliant and perfect at everything he does; he’s brave but unsure of himself, and he ends up succeeding because he has a lot of help. He’s humble. It’s easy to root for a character like that.
And yet… this book doesn’t end happy, exactly. It’s a blend of victory and defeat–or more accurately, victory that turns into defeat in an unexpected way. The climax of this one is rivaled, I think, only by the climax in Book 7. There are a few “deux ex machina” moments: Harry’s in an impossible spot so “the gods come down and save him” more or less. But because of the world Rowling has created, she’s already led us to expect that anything is possible, so it works. We can suspend our disbelief quite easily.
(Side note: Rowling uses a ridiculous amount of adverbs–in fact I think she invents new adverbs never used before in the history of the world. Also, I got distracted by how often she uses ellipses. Especially in climactic scenes, almost no sentences end in periods… but this isn’t a big deal, just something I noticed this time around.)
Also, Book 4 was pretty similar to the fourth film, with a few exceptions: Hermione’s obsession with SPEW, her organization to fight for the rights of house elves, never makes it into the film. I’d totally forgotten about that. There are also a few fairly major characters, like Ludo Bagman and Winky the House Elf, who don’t appear on screen. Some of the details of what happens to Barty Crouch Senior are never explained, and the whole debacle with Bertha Jorkins’ disappearance never gets mentioned. But since this book is about twice as long as any of the first three, I guess sacrifices had to be made somewhere.
My rating: *****
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