By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I've been doing such a good job writing actual reviews for these (I've read the whole series several times, but never wrote reviews) during Litchick's Epic Harry Potter Group Read, but this one has me stymied. I don't know where to start, but here goes...
Goblet of Fire is a pivotal installment in the Harry Potter series because it marks a major shift in tone. Prior to that moment--and it is a moment, specifically the instant Harry and Cedric grasp the Triwizard Cup and get spirited away from Hogwarts--you, the reader, float along on the relatively comfortable assumption that you're reading a lighthearted j-fic fantasy about magical kids having a magically good time, and even though there are dark elements (dementors, basilisks, etc. -- but they're just mythical creatures, right?) and people die (but only in the distant past or in dreams) and there's a bad guy (but he's critically weak and Harry has beat him before), the overall tone is pretty upbeat.
And then you stumble into Chapter Thirty-Two of Goblet of Fire, and you finally get that this isn't the rose-colored fairytale you thought. The stakes are much, much higher. The threat is much more real. Suddenly, you are jarred out of your complacency. For this reason, Goblet of Fire is a less comfortable read than the preceding books.
When I first read the books as they were coming out (I preordered each of the hardcovers months before their release date and cleared my calendar for the days following the arrival of the cardboard box from Amazon), this was the book where I realized most clearly that J.K. Rowling wasn't just making up the saga as she went along, that she must have had the entire seven year series plotted out in minute detail from the very beginning. Sure, there are continuity errors (for example, it doesn't make sense that there would have been a different gamekeeper in Molly Weasley's day when we learn in book two that Dumbledore allowed Hagrid to stay on as gamekeeper after his expulsion from Hogwarts fifty years ago), but only about very minor things having nothing to do with the main events of the plot and subplots. Goblet of Fire harkens back to the previous books, illuminating plot twists you thought you understood at the time in an entirely new light.
While my overall impression of this book is and has always been positive, I've always been annoyed by the fact that there's only one female contestant in the Triwizard Tournament and she's a dizzy blonde, perpetually trailing in points, the only one not to complete the second task and the first to be eliminated from the third and final task. I get that J.K. Rowling isn't trying to write a feminist manifesto and not everything has to have a deeper meaning, but I just wish Fleur Delacour wasn't such a stereotype. Especially since there are two Hogwarts champions, wouldn't it have been so much better if the second champion had been some smart, badass chick from Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, instead of pretty-boy Diggory?