Monday, June 17, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 31-34

This week's chapters (Chapter 31, "The Third Task," Chapter 32, "Flesh, Blood and Bone," Chapter 33, "The Death Eaters," and Chapter 34, "Priori Incantatem") represent the turning point in this series where things begin to get dark, sad, and scary. (Spoilers begin in the next sentence.) Unforgivable curses are performed, Cedric Diggory is killed, and Voldemort rises once more. From here on, the series shifts from enjoying the novelties of the magical world to fighting the dangers dark magic represents, and the suspense and drama will only increase in the last three books.

My big issue with the way the third task ends is that the whole thing seems like way too much of an elaborate set-up. Voldemort doesn't strike me as particularly patient, and I can't imagine he couldn't have come up with some other way to get to Harry without having to wait for the entire tri-wizard tournament to be completed. Surely, "Moody" (whose true identity will be revealed in the final installment next week) could have turned anything into a portkey and sent Harry to the graveyard on any night of the week without having to involve any of the other champions. I've also always felt that Voldemort's victims coming out of his wand to protect Harry is too easy a way for Harry to escape death. I'll be curious to see whether Dumbledore's explanation at the end of the book makes better sense to me on this reading.

It did strike me, though, how scary Voldemort is. Rowling really does a nice job creating a believably terrifying villain. I always forget that he's supposed to have red eyes, and something about that just makes him really intimidating. Until this book, we have only had vague notions of the evilness of this character, but now he comes fully into focus as a truly formidable bad guy. There is something to be said for Harry standing up to face him.  I was pretty sure Harry was going to die in the graveyard scene, despite the fact that I've read the book before and knew he would survive! Voldemort's long rambling speech explaining to the Death Eaters where he's been all this time felt a little bit like an awkward info dump, but we needed to get that information somehow, and overall, even with that speech, he's scary to read about alone at night.

Despite the darkness, there are some really nice and fun moments in these chapters: Mrs. Weasley and Bill coming to stand in for Harry's family before the third task; Mrs. Weasley recalling her days at Hogwarts; Harry and Cedric setting aside their differences to claim victory for Hogwarts together; Harry laughing off Rita Skeeter's latest article about him, and Mrs. Weasley warming to Hermione only after confirming that she wasn't dating Harry. (Does she want Hermione for Ron, or Harry for Ginny? I wonder what her objection was...)

Chapter 34 ends on a cliffhanger (complete with an ellipsis!) and it's somewhat unsettling to know I'll have to wait a week for everyone to find out what has happened to Cedric. I'm not looking forward to Amos Diggory's reaction of grief, but I am eagerly anticipating Hermione's big reveal about Rita Skeeter and the unveiling of Barty Crouch, Jr. as the impostor masquerading as Alastor Moody. And then it's on to book five already!

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