from BBS upload“The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it ‘the Riddle House’, even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.”

Sometimes you can look back at something you’ve done or said and be proud of it. Other times you can realise you’ve been an utter fool. I mention this because I recently found an old, short review I made on Shelfari where I declared Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire my least favourite of the Potter series. I don’t quite know what made me say such a thing as a simple reread as told me that, actually, this is probably my favourite. And I know I said about the last one too, but as evidenced, I’m clearly allowed to change my opinion.

For those of you reading this, but somehow unfamiliar with the plot, I shall extrapolate thusly: Harry Potter, fourteen-year-old wizard, is stuck at the house of his non-magical aunt and uncle, almost starving and desperate to get back to school. Before that happens, he is invited by his best friend Ron and his family to the Quidditch World Cup final between Ireland and Bulgaria.

After one of the most impressive games of Quidditch ever played, everyone returns happy and excited to their tents, but sleep is disturbed when some wizards start a riot, and things come to a head when the Dark Mark, sign of the darkest wizard of all time Lord Voldemort, is seen above the crowds. Some of the wiser members of the community see that something very wrong is going on indeed.

Meanwhile, back at school, Hogwarts is to be hosting the Triwizard Tournament, a contest wherein the three schools of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang enter one student each to compete for a massive cash prize and the respect of all their peers. Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum are chosen for each house, respectively, but then before anyone knows what it happening, a fourth champion is chosen: Harry Potter.

Harry and his fellow champions must now face three challenges and battle it out to become the winner of the Triwizard Tournament, and as if a dragon, a deep lake and a labyrinth weren’t enough, dark forces are coming together both inside and outside of the school walls, and life for the whole wizarding community is about to become very difficult once again.

Like in the third book, we see the world expanded hugely here once more. Last time we encountered a wizarding village, and this time we get to see wizards and witches from all over the world, revealing for the first time that magic truly is an international operation. We also get a lot of backstory – a couple of the later chapters are almost purely exposition – and begin to find out things about Neville Longbottom’s history, and the relationship between Snape and Dumbledore. There are introductions for new, vivid characters such as ruthless journalist Rita Skeeter (love to hate her), paranoid and insane Mad-Eye Moody, and conman Ludo Bagman, the latter of whom is one of my favourite characters for reasons I’ve never been able to satisfactorily explain. There is even an unnamed cameo by Bellatrix Lestrange, and the Lovegoods are mentioned; these will both bear fruit in the following book.

Rita Skeeter: the nastiest woman to put quill to parchment

Rita Skeeter: the nastiest woman to put quill to parchment

My one issue with the book is that Rowling repeats herself a lot here, traipsing, in early chapters, over old ground and filling in the reader with information they ought to know, as if they’ve never read the first three books. Granted, it was at this point that the books started to become such a phenomenon that required instant purchase (from here on in, all my copies are first editions), so perhaps people were picking it up and thinking they needn’t read the others, but thankfully Rowling still throws in a few references that are unexplained so not everything is spelt out.

I also noticed this time round that this book in particular is setting up Rowling as a future crime writer under her alternate name of Robert Galbraith. It’s something of a whodunnit, and relies on red herrings and neat twists to convince us that something other than the truth is going on. She’s adept at it, leaving out just enough information to make us think that we’ve got it all and not even notice that certain things can be taken in different ways or are being kept from us. Harry is, of course, an unreliable narrator in many ways, being unused to many aspects of the wizarding world and also generally being a little bit slow on the uptake now and again.

I still have some unanswered questions here, but they’re becoming fewer and fewer as the series progresses and Rowling has a clearer vision of her story. But still:

Why does Mr Crouch refer to Percy Weasley as ‘Weatherby’ when he works with his father, and thus would surely know his name? Why does Voldemort refer to Peter Pettigrew as ‘Wormtail’, when that name comes from a different part of his life? Where do the students have their bathrooms and why do we never see them wash or bathe? Where the hell is Durmstrang? And one for the fan fiction writers – what if Hermione and Krum had decided to give a long-distance relationship a go?

The series has now crossed the point of no return – we’re over halfway through, Voldemort is back (er … spoiler), and everything is going to change for every single character. Ollivander makes an appearance here, right in the middle, perfectly complementing his other two appearances at each end of the tale. Rowling has pulled out all the stops, ends the book at just the right moment with Dumbledore setting his plans in motion, leaving us wondering what will happen in the next book. We had to wait three years to find out. This time I will only be waiting a month. I shall return to Hogwarts in August.

The magic is still strong; if anything, stronger than ever.