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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Cover art by Mary GrandPre

Published by Scholastic Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

As Harry Potter approaches his fourth year at Hogwarts, things are even worse at number four, Privet Drive, if that can actually be possible. Harry's spoiled bully of a cousin, Dudley Dursley, is on a diet. When he had grown so large he was unable to fit into even the largest size of school uniforms, it finally broke through the persistent denial of his doting parents, Vernon and Petunia Dursley. Accustomed to satisfying his greed without restraint, Dudley hates being restricted to "rabbit food." His temper is becoming even worse, if that could be possible.

All Harry can do is try to stay out of trouble until the new term begins at Hogwarts. At least he now has a protector, his wizard godfather, but Sirius Black is still in hiding while he gets his name cleared of thirteen murders he didn't commit. So he can provide no refuge, and Harry must not only endure Dudley's foul temper, but also his Aunt Petunia's belief that things can be made easier for darling Dudders if only Harry's portions can be made even smaller and his lot in life even worse.

However, rescue comes from an unexpected corner when his wizarding friends the Weasleys arrive via Floo Powder to take him off to the World Quiddich Cup. But things aren't over, even when Harry arrives at Hogwarts. He won't be playing Quiddich this year, but he has a chance to be a player in an elaborate magical challenge with two other wizarding schools, the French school Beaubatons and the Slavic school Durmstrang, both of whom are played somewhat humorously according to type.

Harry's not supposed to even be eligible for this competition, which is restricted to students over the age of seventeen because of the difficulty and possible danger. But someone has put his name in as a candidate, and when he is selected by the magical Goblet of Fire, he must compete. However, there is evidence that the person who put his name in for him is no friend of his.

At the same time, Harry must deal with a new enemy -- trash journalism. The paparazzi are represented by Rita Skeeter, whose Quick Quote Quill doesn't always stick to the facts very well, particularly when careless writing can make a drab story more sensational.

Rowling continues to surprise her readers, with characters whose allegiances are often not what they seem. As Sirius Black proved to be anything but the villain everyone thought him to be in Prisoner of Azkaban, this volume features an "innocent" whose hands may not be nearly so clean as his tender years might have indicated. Even people who seem to be helping Harry are not necessarily working to his long term benefit.

Previous volumes had held some hints of darkness, with even the good acts of the protagonists sometimes having bittersweet consequences. However, those generally happened out of site and were only discussed by the principal characters. This time death will come much closer, right on camera, as it were.

This volume also marks the first of the big volumes, which proved that kids will indeed read thick books. This was a very significant break in the world of children's publishing, which had previously adhered to very strict limits on word count, even if it meant slicing a book in two at an awkward point if that was what it took to keep the word count down to what was deemed to be an appropriate level.

Review posted October 5, 2000

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