Sunday, August 14, 2005

Book Review - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It has been years since I last picked up novel in the Harry Potter series and quite forcibly I might add having just purchased the hard-cover edition of the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, for my parents who, regrettably, are more caught up in reading the series then I am. It was much the same situation with the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (or Philosopher’s, depending on where you live) Stone, which I only began reading to see what all the fuss was about as the release of the feature film adaptation quickly approached. I was not able to finish the book in time and did so only after seeing the movie in theaters during its opening weekend. I began reading the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but regrettably failed to even get half-way through it by the time the movie came out. After that I stopped trying and admitted to myself that it was better to simply watch the films then to read the books and become a nit-picker whenever something was not presented in the film adaptations.

I do happen to enjoy the feature film series quite a bit actually. Unmistakably they are entertaining on one level or another, depending on which film you are talking about, and, from at least a film critic’s perspective, enthusiasm for them increase with each new adaptation onscreen, the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, being the best in the series thus far. Sadly, this was not enough to motivate me to pick up where I left off in the book series, at least until now.

I have to admit that I am quite excited about the release of the upcoming film adaptation, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and judging by the overwhelming reception of the movie’s teaser trailer I am not the only one. This, and the media firestorm surround the then-impending release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (not to mention having been working at the local Wal-Mart for a portion of the summer I heard the advertisements enough to be practically brainwashed into reading it), is what got me to pick up the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and begin reading over the course of the rest of my summer vacation. Surprisingly I was able to finish the novel much quicker then I had anticipated and, much to my chagrin, in a faster pace then the political books I have usually found myself reading, political science being of course my major after all.

There were several items of note within the novel that most intrigued about it and promptly induced me to read further, most remarkably its ability to deal with certain subjects, such as death, torture, slavery, and, yes, even politics, in a series designed for children. Normally this practice would never be attempted and if it were and was done in a half-assed fashion, as some authors at this point in their success are proned to do, it can quickly turn off its fan base. Rowling, however, successfully avoids this fatal mistake and matures her material and characters right alongside her audience so that the connection young readers have had with them remains and even grows stronger as the series goes on.

Given the state of skepticism the public has regarding media journalism, not only in the United States but around the world, more noticeable now following the election of President George W. Bush in 2000 and again in 2004 then ever before, it is remarkable, not to mention amusing, to see how easily manipulative the media can be should they have a partisan agenda or rhetoric.

The inclusion of the Tri-wizard Tournament, though I did question why it continued to be referred to by this name when in fact there were four wizards, albeit with one unintentionally selected by the Goblet of Fire, in the competition, with the usual goings-on within the grounds of Hogwarts and the growing threat of Lord Voldemort make for exhilarating and fast-paced novel.

Although such delicate issues as race, purity, and superiority were all certainly touched upon within Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, this of course with the introduction of wizard racial slur ‘mud-blood’, the Goblet of Fire takes it much further, introducing scenes that are disturbingly reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan in the United States following the loss of the Confederacy in the Civil War and Nazism in 1930s Germany. It may not be too apparent to its target audience but for older readers it will be all too recognizable.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an inviting read for those of any age, even for those who have not picked a book in the Harry Potter series for quite some time. If even just half the action which appears in this novel ends up in the feature film adaptation, due out in theaters this November, fans will be satisfied. Judging by the recently announced PG-13 rating for the film, things are already looking up for the adaptation.

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