on August 18, 2003
It is odd how a chance comment on a radio talk show can spark off a train of thought one had long since parked in a siding. So my interest in HP revived when I heard in discussion of children's books the old saw that, " 'Grimm's Fairy Tales' are for children, but some of them are too scary for children" (and, ergo, best avoided, thus leaving no-one to read them). But Harry's adventures are very obviously a modern day fairy tale, seemingly, he did not belong in this Grimm category. This is a curious blindspot, and I did wonder what lay under this attitude. Personally, I hope in due course J.K. Rowling will receive a well-deserved official honour from the government for services to the UK Exchequer (is being made a 'Dame' is equivalent to a 'Sir'?), and she has my warm praise for boosting childhood reading habits, but the literary questions are something else.
In Grimm most of the stories really strike home. They deliver justice and come-uppance to bullies, snobs, liars, the greedy, and the self-obsessed. They bestow good endings on the good--rather like Potter's tales. The few dull tales amongst them are either disjointed or too slight, they leave you asking, 'And your point is?'--rather like Potter's tales. So the discerning parent, if worried about the few scary stories in Grimm, will merely avoid reading those few out to the child who is too young for them (Grimm's tales are meant to be spoken, as they are a written record of oral tales, whereas HP is silent reading). And if the child is old enough and bold enough to seek out and read Grimm's Tales independently, then they probably are old enough! But does this tell us what the real 'value system' difference is between the worlds of Grimm and Harry?
Harry gets into some murky matters in this book. As promised, the Dark Mark (see chap.9), rises a little stronger as each book is enconjured (q.v., 'learn a Summoning Charm', p.149). However, there is the properly natural magic of 'a hundred Veela...gliding out onto the pitch', casting their near-irresistible cheerleading spell of loveliness on the guys. Then there is that wickedly accurate parody of British journalism, Rita Skeeter of the 'Daily Prophet' (they do like to think they foretell as opposed to just tell), with a Coleopteran sting in the tail. But in fact the overall effect of Voldemort and Co. on the tone of the story is much more maleficent than anything in the venerable Grimm. Even a minor character like Peeves the poltergeist tends to out-grim the traditional tales. ('Peeves the poltergeist, a little man in a bell-covered hat and orange bow-tie, his wide, malicious face contorted with concentration took aim again...Peeves stuck out his tongue...cackling insanely' (p.152-3)). So the wise parent may want to know what it is that really drives these adventures.
It is no plot spoiler, as everyone knows by now, to say that there is a death in this book (and it was extensively trailed before release), and of course Grimm's tales, the daily news on TV, and everyday life contain deaths too. The issue is how you handle it in the literature or chosen medium. The death in the Goblet of Fire does not really matter, it is a bit like terminating a crash test dummy. Paradoxically this is the worrying thing: there is no real tragedy in it. We are not made to care about this character before this book in the series came out, and we do not build up any feeling for or against the character during the book. This is the key flaw. We are meant to care about 'the good': the fact that they do not have a good ending is the essence of tragedy. But in this book the Dark is more real, more dynamic, and more exciting than the Good. In fact, the 'good' in this book really tend to mere neutrality, a secular silhouette of goodness. It explains why the magic is so trumpery. Grimm's tales are of course shot through with a real spiritual strength and life (with many a miracle, but no churches, vicars, bibles, or angels), essentially being of medieval European Christian stock. Had I space we could consider the same way that 'Arabian Nights' are from Islamic stock of AD800. So it is the empowering and guiding worldview that is the real difference between Grimm's tales and Potter's, and it is the underlying reason why some would tend to neglect them in favour of Harry. The preference is probably instinctive as much as conscious. But we must ask ourselves what the real test is, which will endure, which will succeed in the long run--bearing in mind Grimm's headstart, which, being long earned, we cannot discount?
on November 27, 2001
Look I understand that this book(s) has been proclaimed the book that would get kids back on track, and that it is the bible for devil worshipers, but it's not. It's a fad dose anyone remember furbys? Tickle me Elmo? Power rangers? This book is interesting it has a few intresting values, like friendship, and striving to try your best, and so on. I did enjoy this book, I did read it, it did keep my attention but it is not all that great. The plot is kind of chunky and they are so quick to say Snape dose everything. She needs to cure them of this bias. Also it's about to time to express the fact that they may have hormones, you can only think about Voldemort for so long. I'm sure you noticed it but up untill now all the charaters didn't seem to be interested in dating or any of those normal teenage activites. Also couldn't she make it so that they figure out more about the plot. It never falls into place until the last 3-4 chapters, it really annoys me that we have all of the information wrong untill the last page. Dose anyone else think Dudley should be hit by a car? or at least his biased Aunt and Uncle.
on June 10, 2001
As a mother of three and a devout Christian I have enjoyed the Harry Potter series up until now. The first three books, although not equal, were all fun and imaginative with just enough suspense and adventure to be exciting. This book was simply too dark and disturbing for children, and it bothers me that Harry Potter marketing is increasingly being aimed at children as the books themselves are becoming less child-like. This book was ridiculously long and sorely needed an editor. I was very unsettled by the increase in not just bad language, but also unkind talk and thoughts between characters who are supposed to be the "good guys". For instance calling one another names, wanting to hit someone because of disagreement, belittling one another, the list goes on and on. The whole thing just left a bad taste. Worst of all was the unbelievably cruel and abrupt death of Cedric, surely the most noble of all the characters in this book, including Harry! Ms. Rowling seems to want to introduce more adult concepts in her books, and I understand that desire, but if that is the plan the marketing should not be aimed at children. Of course children are more forgiving readers than adults are and the obvious plot holes don't bother them as much. The most obvious one being, why didn't Mad Eye Moody give Harry a portkey ANYTIME during the school year. Altogether a disappointing book and yet still a book about characters that my children have come to know and like. It worked for me to read it aloud to my younger children. Unfortunately I allowed my eleven year old to read this book before I did. I've realized that I will no longer be able to let my children read anymore Harry Potter books until I've read them first. Too bad that parents now need to screen Ms. Rowling's books rather than just enjoy them.
on April 9, 2001
First of all I would like to note that the low rating I gave to this book comes from my point of view as an adult. I believe that this is a great book for children, as every book which makes a child happy is good (as once said by L. Frank Baum, making a child happy is a holy work), and of course it is very good that a child shall spend hours of his time on a book! Now, for my opinion. As I said earlier it is wonderful for a child, yet I find it a bit unfinished. There is a limited cast of characters and they lack emotional depth, the plot has many surprises but many of them are just foolish. Also, a main character never gets removed (dies), and because of the young age the book is made for you will see that many components are missing (like love, violence, philosophy, etc.). The fact that the book's plot is set in today's world extremely annoyed me, a plot is much better if it happens in a new world (invented by the author). In comparison with masterpieces like "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings", "The Wheel of Time", "The Sword of Truth", "A Song of Ice and Fire", Harry is much worse. I'd like to end the review with the following piece of advice: It's great as an introduction to the fantasy genre and a great book for kids in general.
on December 19, 2000
I couldn't wait for Harry Potter Book 4. The first three had been great. I knew the book would be 700 something pages. I knew I could read it all in less than a week. I was 10 years old, with Book 4 being an early birthday present. My birthday was the next week. It was August. I thought Book 4 would be a wonderful way to start a birthday. Instead I got a migrane. After that, I read the book in short bouts, trying to not get a headache. It worked, but lost my intrest. The book became very boring. So Harry Potter's enemy has come back to kill him. So what if a boy dies. I read it as fast as I could, fast to catch all the details. The problem was, there was no details. The characters just didn't seem real. It didn't seem as if the characters were wanting to do what they were doing, just that they were. It nearly made me just plain give up Harry Potter. I didn't, but I'm not going to read Harry Potter Book 4 AGAIN. Two months later my friends were talking about Harry Potter, and my best friend turned to me and said "Wasn't Book 4 really exciting? It was really scary at the end, wasn't it?" Well, no, not at all. I said I thought it was very boring. So there are some people that love the book, and there are some people who think it is a waste of time. I couldn't possibly say who you are. However, if you love manga and anime, this book probably won't grab you. Thanks for listening! Jill Lamour also known as Crystal Shards
on September 5, 2000
My children, ages 8 and 10, anxiously awaited the arrival of the fourth Harry Potter book. We were enthralled by the first three, but all of us agree that "The Goblet of Fire" was very disappointing in several ways. For example, there were several subplots which were never really developed and should have been left out. An example of this is Herminone's defense of the House Elves. I thought that it was in particularly bad taste to have a magical creature which enjoys being a slave and speaks in a way which is reminiscent of early depictions of black slaves. My children and I had a hard time following the plot, as the book seemed to ramble on at times. We were also disturbed at how dark this book was. Was there a reason for Cedric's fate? Why was there so much violence, torture, murder, and profanity in a children's book? This book also lacked the comic relief of the other books. It was no longer fun to be Harry's friend. Ms. Rowlings has a responsibilty to do better next time.
on August 24, 2000
This has to be within my recent memory the most overhyped and overrated piece of fiction, juvenile or otherwise. I recall the evening of its first day, and being in a Brooklyn coffee shop and seeing single adults enraptured in a manner comparable to when "GWTW" first appeared in 1936. Back then, Scarlett was an unknown quantity, whereas Harry is now a pop icon. However I am sorry to say the hoopla attendant to his fourth appearance is not justified. The story is overwritten, taking a good hundred or more pages to really get going, it needs judicious editing, and while dark and grim in spots, Rowling is never as daring as we had all anticipated she would be. When death does occur, as indeed it does, the impact is less than I might have imagined. The first three Potters got to the point and told their stories. They held one spellbound, like serial cliffhangers, always wanting more. Book number four gives too much of a good thing, missing the mark maintained by the others. It is amazing to me how the average child will have the patience to wade through a tome larger than what the average adult reads. Will I read number5? Of course. With characters having seeped into our consciousness, there is no way Pottermania can be stopped. Too bad that number four, claimed to be the "turning point" in the series, delivers less than what seemed to be promised.
on July 30, 2000
As a 15 year old reader, this book seems to me just the type of book our society would embrace. It resembles an above average action movie- just sit down, relax, and put your brain on autopilot, and pretty soon, you're done, and you've achieved a superficial satisfaction with predictable plots, boring, uncomplicated characters, and enough gizmos and special effects, however predictable, to make you feel that the book achieved some kind of inventiveness. Endearing characters! How? To be endearing, characters must have flaws- something to sympathize with! Do these characters have flaws, or can they even be described using more than 2 different adjectives each? The good characters are good, kind, and selfless. Any mistake is either not their fault or easily forgiven- few consequences. The bad characters are "bad to the bone"- be it the family- (believable? Or just another bland twist on the evil stepsisters/stepmother/Roald Dahl-esque family in 'Matilda' premise?) - or the bully, Malfroy. Can't he possess any endearing traits? Most bullies possess some redeeming qualities, or at least are a victim in some way themselves. The types of magic used in these stories are also unremarkable. Spells, enchanted objects, incantations...how mundane. And used to excess. Cheep thrills and the long = better mentality add up to the Harry Potter mania. I wouldn't be so scathingly negative if it weren't for the Harry Potter series' popularity. They are *somewhat* entertaining, but meanwhile, people are raving that these are THE greatest books ever, or at least close. People think that no other children's fantasy comes close. That is a monsterous misconseption! When a younger reader, I read tons of children's fantasy. True, proven, innovative classics do exist. Just look at Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit', Peter Beagle's 'The Lost Unicorn', 'The Phantom Tollbooth', C. S. Lewis' 'The Chronicals of Narnia', wonderfully funny Roald Dahl, Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising' sequence, Lloyd Alexander's 'The Prydan Chronicles', John Bellairs' fun, darkish fantasy/mysteries, Phillip Pullman's still unfolding, greatly promising 'His Dark Materials' series, Diana Wynne Jones' marvelously twisted, ingenious, funny books, Madeline L'Engle's fabulous 'A Wrinkle in Time' (and sequels)- among thousands of other titles. All of the above are wonderful, innovative, deceptively simple (in some cases), and unforgettably unique books all worthy of multiple re-readings. To Harry Potter, like a mediocre action movie, I will only give one screening. The question is not whether the above books have a plethora of merits, but whether you will read some and wade into deeper waters than lightly enjoyable Harry Potter books.
on July 29, 2000
I disagree with most reviewers here. This book does NOT live up to the legacy set by the other three. I still love Harry Potter, but this book is average compared to the excellence of the others. I kept asking myself, "Where was the editor?" This book could have easily been cut in 1/2 and been a better read as a result. Themes, descriptions and events from the previous three books were repeated here unnecessarily. Scenes were stretched out. Conversations and descriptions lacked the snappy wit we've come to expect from J.K. Rowling. An issue of slavery was introduced poorly and then dropped without resolution. The only new & exciting part of Harry Potter Book IV was the end. It's not easy to keep a long book series original. J.K. Rowling is very talented, but it turns out she's human, too. While the first 3 books in the series are masterpieces, book 4 is simply average. Let's hope she regains the "magic" with the rest of the series. If not, I'll wait to read her writing again when she begins a new story - outside of the world of Harry Potter.
on July 22, 2000
I had to review the first two Potter books and now this one for a local newspaper, and found the task to be a chore. Like the first two books, this installment reveals that J.K. Rowling still substitutes rampant, overstuffed imagination for clever writing and plot construction. There is no secret behind this book's success with young kids: it reads like a frantic, gluttonously effects-laden video game in its detail. EVERYTHING is busy or magical: every ball, doorknob, picture, spoon, broom, bowl,...EVERYTHING. The magic is so overdone that it becomes hyperactive at best... mundane and trivial at worst. This book, like its predecessors, is far from wondrous or mysterious. It finds a place in a culture where "overload" has become synonymous with "quality." Further, Rowling's so-called "brilliant imagination" often comes across as little more than good old-fashioned, amateurish self-indulgence. It boils my blood to hear this fluff compared to Tolkien's work. Sadly, with the Potter series, even books have become nothing more than sensational toys. DOES IT HAVE A GOOD POINT? You bet! Kids are reading, at least, and in record numbers. That alone makes Harry & the Goblet of Fire a great idea for children everywhere. Hopefully it will lead them to read better works by far better writers. However, the number of ADULTS who are drawn to the Potter books is utterly stupefying. It shows how low the bar has fallen in adult literacy (and spiritual desperation!) when adults start claiming that this series has "changed their lives." To adults who say that, I would say "You need to get a life before you can change it." Don't get me wrong: this book is fine for kids 9-15. Anyone younger would probably not understand it. And any adult who sits around pining for the release of the next installment should be really, really embarrassed.