Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ReRead)

Epic Harry Potter re-read continues on to the center point of the series...

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

First Read: I was there at midnight, with so many other fans, waiting to midwife this book into the world... I tore through it the next day in 2000

Format: Pottermore provided me with this audio book (Jim Dale as narrator again). Good gravy, I'm nuts about that site - some folks don't seem too keen on the user interface, but I think it's great. Great premise and great execution, so far as I'm concerned.

Thoughts: Whew. Now that we're past the shorter books at the beginning, these are some looonnnggg audio books. It takes between 18-25 hours to get through each of Books 4-7, so this will be slower going.

Here is the rundown on my impressions from this round of rereading:
  • Goblet remains the best starting point for adult first-readers, I think. Azkaban would be a fine place to start, as well, but by the time we get to Book 4, Rowling is cooking with gas and her story & humor can connect with readers of any age.
  • Jo continues her love affair with adverbs in Book 4, though she does seem to have backed off a little bit by this point. People are still too prone to say things "darkly" whenever they are suspicious of something, but overall the situation seems to be much better controlled this go-round
  • This books has an interesting structure - it reminds me of a video game layered on a mystery. You have the build up to and description of each of the tasks which creates a nice framework for the rest of the story to build around and helps significantly with the necessary handwaving around this book's main mystery (which is very cannily constructed - I think Agatha would have been proud of the way Jo pulls this off).
  • However, though I did like the structure, there's no denying that there's simply too much put into one book. The book would have flowed much better if one or two of the subplots had been cut. It's hard for me to think which one should get the ax, because I did enjoy all of the narrative. That being said, her editor probably should have put their foot down - the beginning in particular is stuffed to the gills with action and setup that probably could have been trimmed without anyone noticing. The lack of editing and the subsequent success of this book led to the same problem in the next book, which is felt much more strongly. 
  • SPOILER ALERT: Knowing the bit about Barty Crouch Jr. and his impersonation of Mad-Eye Moody, I marveled at her success of pulling the switch-a-roo. The Polyjuice Potion had been firmly set up in the previous books and the necessary information is plainly given throughout the story in other contexts that don't jar you into realizing she's info dumping. 
  • I encountered Voldemort as less scary than I thought the first few times around - part of this is because I'm older, I'm sure, and I see more of his flaws from the remaining books. Either way, I was able to see more clearly that he is a very nuanced villain. We learn more of his backstory in time, but even in this book, we are able to see that he is kind of an arrogant ass, even if he is the most powerful dark wizard ever. Everyone is super scared of him, but (and maybe it's because through the whole series, we never see any markedly unique kinds of magic from him) he's only different from other baddies in that his depravity level is higher. Even then - is he more depraved than Bellatrix? Or Umbridge? When we find out more about him, maybe that's a conclusion that we reach, but considering how much hype/infamy he has in the world (people won't even say his name), upon reread, seeing him in his full form is a little bit of a let down in the terror department
  • Also, is Voldemort's scariness compromised by the fact that he consistently fails to kill Harry? Kind of hard to be too afraid of him until Book 7, because I know Harry is going to keep thwarting him.
  • An interesting (and recurring) theme is explored more thoroughly in this book - a distrust of the media and the degree to which we allow ourselves to be influenced by those sources. The seeds for the malevolent force that the media becomes in the series are planted. This is an interesting theme, btu one that takes up too much of the narrative in an already overfull book.
  • I also found myself growing a little bored with the day to day class stuff... in the quest to make this a leaner, meaner story machine, I wish someone had taken the pen to those bits.
  • Is anyone else a little skeeved by the Hermione/Viktor relationship on second read? It's a 17-18 year old stalking a 14 year old in the library. Kind of creepy- I would have been warning Hermione about stranger danger if I were there
  • This was an overall pleasurable rereading experience. Again, I found myself laughing at loud at points and appreciating Jo's observance of some of the more nuanced aspects of teenage-dom. I suspect, however, now that I'm getting better sense of the series as a whole, I won't end up liking this one as much as Book 6 & 7. 
This was my second favorite of the books on my first reading... I'm not sure whether or not it will hold up by the end. Tune back in to find out!

Do you have a favorite book in the Harry Potter series?

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