So, I’m finally sitting down to write my blog for the fourth book. I finished reading it a few weeks ago and have been holding back from starting the next book. I’ve not been motivated much to read the fourth book, nor to write my post for it. I think it’s because it is my least favourite book of the series. Even before the series was complete, I didn’t like book 4. It might be the “middle-child-syndrome” or in this case the “middle-book-syndrome”. There are many elements in this book that I simply don’t care for much. Let’s explore!
First off, Rowling deviates from her usual introduction. This time we start with Voldy right off the bat. Here we learn of Voldemort’s first killings, probably his parents, which ripped his soul a couple time and allowed him to create two horcruxes. We also learn that Voldemort was surviving off milk from Nagini, a rather odd fact that is also ironic seeing as he is actually feeding off of one of his horcruxes. I guess we can say he put in place some sort of insurance policy by using Nagini as a horcruxe. Again, this is probably nothing important, but I simply read into it way too much. But you never know!
We first encounter Harry in this book when he is awoken from a very lifelike dream, depicting the exact seen we had witnessed with Voldemort. This time Harry’s scar burns when Frank Bryce is murdered. Voldemort is gaining strength; therefore his connection to Harry is only made stronger. Things are getting real, and fast!
Let’s talk about Sirius. It is amazing how the previous book’s “villain” has turned into a good guy that becomes an asset to the protagonist. I guess Sirius has some major caching up on his god-fatherly duties, seeing as Harry is already 14! Nonetheless, I think he’s off to a great start in this book. It’s nice for Harry to have an outlet and a confident, of sorts, that he can share his plans and questions with, no matter how rule-breaking they might seem. Sirius is in a neutral position (not a teacher or headmaster) with relation to Harry. He can therefore advise him, free of any restraints brought on by his position.
Now, the inevitable, the Quiddich World Cup! I’m going to steal a page from Mario’s book now and talk about world building. The vastness of the Wizarding world dawns on Harry for the first time. Rowling really adds a new dimension to the world she has created and expands it to the entire globe! There are wizards in other countries and they have incredibly complex gatherings. Even for the readers, this is quite the realization. Beforehand, the wizarding world seemed somewhat limited to Hogwarts, the train and a few wizarding households in England. I think the Quiddich World Cup was the perfect event to allow the author to communicate the vastness of the wizarding community and to show the reader just how similar some of their ways were to those of Muggles, to a certain point, of course. Expanding a world, all while making the reader feel more connected to this new world. Home run for J.K. on that one! On a side note, I find it odd that Mrs. Weasley does not go to the World Cup. I can’t think of any reason she stayed home, the entire family was at the event. Surely she could have been portrayed as more than a housewife?
Another world-building element is the introduction of the Dark Mark and the Death-Eaters. Now the author materializes the villain’s surroundings. Like I said, things are getting real. Before hand, we had only heard stories of what life was like when the Dark Lord was all-mighty, now we’re getting a feel for it. Although it is not particularly enjoyable, it is every bit necessary to the plot.
One of the most unnecessary elements of the book in my opinion is Hermione’s House-elf Slavery activist activities. It seemed pointless throughout, not to mention it didn’t solve nor lead to anything. I find it odd that Hermione has never had any aversion to adapting to the wizarding world, seeing as she seemed to always find an explanation for everything. Was she unable to find any decent justification for the house-elves enslavement? Can it really be called enslavement when the work is done willingly? I just feel that this plot line was trying to mimic a sad page of our own history and hoping to teach us a lesson on the topic. Unfortunately, I feel that goal was unreached. The plot-line could have been developed more thoroughly, but I still feel it was ill-placed in this series. Maybe Rowling was trying to find a pet-project for Hermione, give her something to work on, seeing as Moody and Sirius were more than helpful to Harry this year.
There was however a mystery Hermione was able to solve on her own and that was the Rita Skeeter bugging! That Rita is quite the character, not to mention meddler and instigator! She brings a touch of humour to the story, all while serving as a great catalyst for many situations. She sparks rumours and creates friction between characters. I see this as preliminary tests of the trio’s friendship. They will be facing many more trials, all more dangerous and threatening that those they will be put up against in this book. In a way, Rita taught them to stick with one another, as opposed to letting outside influences weaken their bonds. She was the preliminary round.
So J.K. worked a lot on world expansion in this book. After the Quidditch World Cup comes the Triwizard Tournament. This time, she expands on a closer, more relatable fact. There is more than one magical teaching institution, cementing the fact that wizards are all over the place. The World Cup opened Harry’s eyes and mind to this fact, but now it must be sinking in as there are physically students from other schools present at Hogwarts for a legendary bonding event. I love how this event serves different purposes, depending on the person. For Voldemort, it’s the perfect occasion to infiltrate Hogwarts by means of a mole in the shape of Moody. Taking advantage of the fact that the Defence Against the Dark Arts post has been most unsteady since he first used it to get closer to Harry in his first year (Quirrel). For Dumbledore, it is the perfect event to allow the students to forge ties with the extended wizarding community. He often emphasizes the importance of working together in this book. Does he sense something? Is he aware the Dark Lord is gaining strength? If not, he sure accepts the facts and knows it is a possibility. Ever so wise that Albus! Also, by expanding so much on the world in this book, the author sets the scene for the remainder of the series. Things will start happening on a greater scale and will not be limited to the confines of Hogwarts.
Let’s talk about Moody. We are introduced to a new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, yet again. Right off the bat, we have a feeling we will like this guy, seeing as Lupin was just as odd and turned out to be a great guy. I mean Moody is an ex-auror, what more convincing do we need? All throughout the book, he helps Harry and seems to be good. Boy were we in for a surprise when the character we so loved turns out to be a fraud! Not to mention the brilliantly simple way he used to fool everyone: Polyjuice potion, a concoction not so mysterious to most and whose uses are endless. The author nailed the Barty Crouch Jr. and Moody duality. She introduces two characters in one, somewhat. We already know of Wormtail returning to his master, but surely there is someone else helping Voldemort. Of course it is none other than one of his most valiant servants. On a side note, Azkaban, which is supposedly the most secure wizarding location, seems to be fairly easy to escape from: Sirius and now Barty Crouch Jr. I’m just saying that it seems unconvincing that Azkaban is the most secure. That’s twice that some of their top prisoners make a run for it, and succeed! I think reinforcements might be needed... All that to say that we fall in love with a character that we will actually only get to know in subsequent books.
Moody teaches us about the unforgivable curses, taboo topic in the curriculum. This is definitely a way J.K. uses to inform us that too much of a good thing can be bad and that everything has its limits. Magic seems all wonderful and it fools us into thinking nothing bad can come of it, when in reality, like all things in life, magic has a dark side. To truly understand and appreciate magic, one must be made aware of the downside, and the unforgivable curses serve that purpose. It is only fitting that they are presented to us by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It also reveals a lot about the past. We learn of the spell that killed Harry’s parents and of the fate that plagues Neville’s parents. This was a definite eye-opening lesson for the students, not to mention a good dose of reality. Moody is right on one fact, knowing about the curses better prepares the students to deal with them if they are to ever be faced with them. Knowledge is power. For example, Harry learns is has the ability of fighting the Impreius Curse. I’m sure that will come in handy one day.
As well as the author succeeded in pinning Sirius as the villain in the third book, the plan of painting Karkaroff as the villain in this one did not really come through. Funny thing is, she uses Sirius to try and convince Harry that Karkaroff is rotten. Ironic? In the end, Karkaroff turns out to be a big wimp, and was not out to kill Harry after all, what do you know?
Although we’ve always kind of knew it, is now confirmed that Hagrid is a half giant. It only took another “big-boned” half-giant to get the facts. I loved finding out more about Hagrid’s past! Even though it was very interesting to hear those stories, this plot line will develop quite a bit in the next book and it will be juicy!
Hagrid played a big part in the Triwizard Tournament. I guess his game-keeping duties were expanded a bit. He grows the maze for the last task, he raises blast-ended skrewts (who happen to be one of the obstacles in the maze) and he knew of the dragons for the first task. I’m surprised he didn’t help Harry more than for the first task. Then again, Harry got quite a bit of help from, let’s see here, everyone! Hagrid for the dragons, Dobby and Neville for the gillyweed, Myrtle and Cedric for the egg clue, not to mention Hermione with everything else! Even Sirius tried to help him! Does this guy do anything for himself? I guess you’re only as cool, strong and smart as your entourage!
Let’s talk about the maze. Harry had to face many obstacles, but it seems they were all things he had to face before or knew what to do with. He’d helped Hagrid raise the skrewts all year, he’d practice his patronus using a boggart with Lupin the year before, he was able to solve the sphinx’s riddle (the answer was spider, a creature he was all too familiar with). All in all, he was prepared for the maze, but we then learn that Moody was filtering the obstacles Harry would have to face. Helped yet again!
Obviously, after the maze, one must address the meeting with Voldemort. The ever so evil villain confirms Dumbledore's theory. Voldemort was ripped from his body when he tried to kill Harry, creating another horcrux in the process, even though it was not his intention. It was painful, but he was still alive, even if he didn’t know what he was, because no one else ever got as far as he did down the path to immortality. So there we have it. At this point I think Dumbledore already knows that Harry is a horcrux, especially since his scar seems to be a window into Voldemort's mind. This is why Dumbledore reacted when Harry told him some of his own blood was used to resurrect Voldemort. So kind of like living off the milk of Nagini, Voldemort used another one of his horcruxes to get a bit of himself back.
At this point, the world as they know it will revert back to the way it was when Voldemort reigned. Dumbledore knows it for a fact and tries to warn Fudge. He advises him exactly on what actions to take. Dumbledore had known this day would come and had some sort of contingency plan, like I said, information is power. Instead of ignoring the facts, Dumbledore accepts the situation and know he must prepare to deal with it right away. The sooner they act, the better. As I mentioned in my first post, Dumbledore is better suited to being Minister for Magic than Fudge.
Dumbledore lost no time at all. He kicked into action and created the Order of the Phoenix! I believe this entire book's purpose was to set the scene for the next books. It was all about major world building and introducing new characters and plot lines that will be developed. Even if it is not my favourite, I understand the need for it in the series.