It dawned on me the other day that I haven’t done a book review post for my blog in weeks. This makes me sad. It makes me sad for a couple of reasons. One, I want to review books on my blog and I haven’t been doing that. Two, the reason why I haven’t been reviewing books in spite of having read a few in the last few weeks is because my Mom always told me if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I refuse to give a fellow Writer, especially a fellow Indie Writer, a bad review. So I haven’t been able to review those books I’ve read. I wish it wasn’t so.
So what’s a girl to do? I’ve been reading truly terrible Indie Pubbed romance novels and I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter series. For the six thousandth time. Yes, I got a Kindle for my birthday in July and the first books I loaded onto it were the Harry Potter books … the hard copies of which I had sitting five feet away from me at the time that I downloaded them. But let’s face it, the Harry Potter books are genius. So I figured, why not give one a review?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This is the middle book in the Harry Potter series. It was the latest book to be published when I first started reading the series. I gobbled up one, two, and three one right after the other, almost as if they were one book. Then I read Goblet of Fire. My first reaction? WHOA. The first three were kids books. With Goblet of Fire stuff suddenly got serious. I mean, a student dies. It’s violent. It’s raw. Best of all, the third side of the triangle of opposing forces in the series begins to emerge.
But let’s back up a bit.
One of the things I loved so much about Sorcerer’s Stone was getting to know the world J.K. Rowling had created. In fact, I would argue that the entire first book of the series is one giant world-building exercise with an “Oh yeah, and this is the plot that is going to extend through the entire series” thrown in at the end. Goblet of Fire starts out with the Quidditch World Cup. I freakin’ LOVE everything having to do with that bit. Yes, there’s a little bit of plottage there, but there’s a lot of world-expansion to. Suddenly we have an extensive series of chapters that takes place outside of Hogwarts. It entertains just as it sets up what is to come.
From a writer’s perspective, the book is very nicely structured. Part One: build-up to the Triwizard Tournament. Part Two: the Triwizard Tournament. Part Three: Guess Who’s Back In Town. I personally have a thing for novels that are structured like a tv series season. What I love about this book is how every three or four chapters fits smoothly together like a tv series with hooks and cliff-hangers leading from one episode to the next. The first episode, for example. The Quidditch World Cup is the meat of the episode, but there’s a hook for the next episode, something fun is going to happen at Hogwarts, and a cliff-hanger to end it, OMG, look at that Dark Mark up in the sky, does this mean Voldemort is coming back? Rowling does this in all of her books and I think that’s what makes them so brilliant. Episodic content is the anti-sag for the middle of books.
Another thing that has me worshiping at the altar of J.K. Rowling is that no chapter, no paragraph, no word, no detail is wasted. She throws in hints and clues in every section of dialog, in every description of action and every detail. But when you’re reading it through the first time you don’t even notice. Take Rita Skeeter for example. I didn’t pick up on any of the bug references scattered throughout the book the first time I read it until Hermione figures out the mystery at the end. But when you read it the second time knowing what you know, it’s all there. The craft involved in weaving such a tight story, nothing wasted but with the appearance of casual detail, is awesome in the truest sense of the word. Not to mention that the titles are the shortest and most effective synopses I’ve ever seen.
It’s ironic to me that, from what I hear, this is Rowling’s least favorite book of the series. I read somewhere that it annoys her because the publishers rushed her to get it out and she wasn’t able to make it everything she wanted it to be. I can only imagine what it would have been if she had had the time to create everything she wanted to! To my mind Goblet of Fire is a perfect transition between children’s book fantasy and dark coming-of-age tale. They say that in a trilogy the second, middle book should be the darkest one. Well folks, the darkness starts here. Although personally I think that Order of the Phoenix is the darkest of the books … and my favorite one … aside from Deathly Hallows. The overwhelming feeling as you read the last few pages of Goblet of Fire is “oh shit”.
What a great way to end a book and a book review! Say what you want about YA, fantasy, or overly-hyped media extravaganzas, if you’re a Writer and you haven’t read the Harry Potter books yet you’re missing out on a brilliant example of craftsmanship. And if you’re someone who enjoys a good story and you haven’t read the Harry Potter books yet you’re just missing out. Don’t let the hype fool you! These books have all that hype for a reason!