Here we go again, book number four out of seven. This one is significantly longer, coming in at over 600 pages. I’m not entirely sure why Rowling decided to do this, since a huge part of the book isn’t really moving the storyline along that much. I don’t mind, though. It’s fun to read those stories, even though at some points I was wondering what the plot was going to be going forward.
The first new development I noticed was that our familiar opening chapters involving the Dursley family and their oppressive behavior towards Harry has by now turned into a plain ridiculous, non-threatening scene. Harry is older and isn’t affected by it much anymore. The Weasley’s showing up in their chimney and having fun with them was the final straw that eliminated them as a threat for our protagonist. I was relieved, because it’s nice to see someone grow.
The first twenty percent of the book basically consist of our heroes enjoying the Quidditch World Cup with a few unusual twists that will become relevant to the story much later in the book. At the time it just seemed to me like a long filler part. The riot at the end is seemingly the only plot point and in the end it turns out that except for a tiny detail involving the house-elf next to them, that’s also true. Entertaining readers with a big stage Quidditch game.
The whole build-up in this book takes up such a large part that even half-way through it, I was wondering what the actual plot was going to be. There were also still many of these cringy situations were you just couldn’t help but get angry at Harry’s weird decision making process.
It was also disappointing to realize that at least up until the fifty percent mark the formulaic story arc is repeated yet again: Through no fault of his own everyone hates him and he feels miserable. The trigger this time: Being selected as the unusual 4th champion for the Triwizard Tournament. After having saved the school from certain downfall for three times now, feats the teachers and kids all acknowledged, they again turn on him? I find this harder and harder to believe and it nearly killed the illusion for me this time.
Reconciliation happens quickly. He succeeds magnificently at the first of the three tasks presented to the four champions, which is again written in such a powerful way I couldn’t stop reading. Afterwards, people love him again and everything is great. Warm and fuzzy. Now I’m back and invested in the book, but it really took a while.
At this point I had the realization that Harry Potter books can be compared to food from McDonald’s. Made for the masses, no masterpieces, but highly enjoyable and a bit of a guilty pleasure. I don’t mind this. The books just aren’t as unhealthy as the food, though.
This book starts very differently from how it ends. You can’t say the tone of it slowly changes, because that’s not really true, it’s more like a sudden turn of events after eighty-five percent of the book that colors all the events leading up to them as a children’s story, and the rest as a book for adults. I’m pretty sure many kids reading this book were terrified afterwards. I was shocked at the violence of it. It’s really a 180 degree turn in tone and within a few pages the first important and beloved character, Cedric Diggory, dies, and the ominous antagonist Voldemort suddenly rises again by letting his servant Wormtail aka Peter Pettigrew aka Scabbers perform a horrifying ritual involving the latter cutting off his own right hand. This is not a childrens’ story anymore.
But it’s still just so brilliantly written I finished those last one hundred pages in one frantic sitting.
Through that last part I got this uneasy feeling of powerlessness again, which seems to be Harry’s main theme. I find this hard to take at times. Him being used by evil and allowing evil to rise again against his own will. What would have been the best course of action in retrospect? Had Harry died before the ritual, Voldemort couldn’t have risen. Rowling is a brilliant author at always balancing this uneasy feeling with the big pay-offs when Harry is loved again because of some heroic action he took. The end of this book, though, was dark and sad.
I have a bunch of questions remaining. For example, how are the Slytherins not expelled, especially Malfoy, since it’s now clear his dad is a Death Eater and immediately came to see Voldemort upon his return? How is he not taken into custody and questioned immediately? Is that the Ministry of Magic’s responsibility which is currently destroyed by incompetent Mr Fudge?
Also, what is the society of wizards and witches like – are there really just a few schools and the Ministry, and every adult wizard is just living a closeted life among Muggles? Are there no other hidden villages, countries, entities, etc.?
After that shocker of an ending, I feel like I need a break from the series and read a different non-fiction book which helps me feel more empowered again. It really got to me, thinking of the kids who read this expecting a similar book to the previous three. I do still want to continue reading the series badly, but just not right away.
📔 Highlights & Notes
Chapter 24 – Rita Skeeter’s Scoop
‘[..] Knows people can turn out OK even if their families weren’ … well … all tha’ respectable. But some don’ understand that. There’s some who’d always hold it against yeh … there’s some who’d even pretend they just had big bones rather than stand up an’ say–I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. “Never be ashamed,” my ol’ dad used ter say, “there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.” An’ he was right. [..]’ (Hagrid)
Chapter 27 – Padfoot Returns
‘[..] If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’ (Sirius Black)
Chapter 35 – The Parting of the Ways
‘[..] You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognise that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be! [..]’ (Dumbledore)
Chapter 37 – The Beginning
‘[..] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open. [..]’ (Dumbledore)