According to Rowling herself: “Book Four’s a very, very, VERY important book. Something very important happens in Book Four. But also, it’s literally a central book. It’s almost the heart of the series, and it’s pivotal.” And I kind of agree, because it’s true a lot of major things are happening.
The previous book ended with Ron’s promise to take Harry and Hermione with him to the Quidditch World Cup Finals. This isn’t mentioned until the third chapter however. The opening of the book is a backflash that seems not related to Harry Potter at all. In the second chapter it becomes clear that Harry dreamed the first chapter (although we’re not sure if it actually happened or not).
So Harry, his friends and Ron’s family go to the Quidditch World Cup final (Ireland beats Bulgaria by the way) and they’re having a great time, which of course doesn’t last. The sports festival is shaken up when a group of Dead Eaters (followers of the most evil wizard of all time Voldemort) go about mucking about with some Muggles (non-magical folk) and ruining the atmosphere and scaring a whole lot of people.
This scene really starts up the atmosphere of the book: people are generally tense and scared throughout the story (and it only gets worse towards the end). Anyways, they get home safely without too much trouble and when they get to school amazing things are about to happen. The Triwizard Tournament is being hosted at Hogwarts: this is a magical competition between three schools. However, the Goblet was tricked into believing there were 4 schools and Harry Potter was the only candidate for the fourth school, so he got selected too. This Goblet being magical, it was like a binding contract and Harry was forced to compete (the other champions were much older and more experienced). There are three tasks:
- The first task is to do with dragons. Each of the champions gets appointed a dragon by the luck of the draw who is guarding a golden egg that they have to capture. The other three champions manage to fulfil the task with varying success. Harry uses a spell to summon his broom and uses that to outsmart the dragon. Because of that he is tied for first place.
- The second task takes place around and in the lake on the Hogwarts grounds. The Merpeople have taken hostage a friend of or someone important to each of the champions and they have to go and save them from the bottom of the lake. One of the champions fails in her task, the other two manage fine. Harry uses a plant that allows him to breathe under water and he gets to the people they’re supposed to safe first. But he refuses to only save his own loved one and leave the rest. So he stays underwater until the other two arrive and eventually ends up saving the two remaining loved ones. This means he came in last, but because he was there first and refused to leave, he gets quite a high score, which puts him in first place overall.
- The last task is a huge maze that the champions have to navigate to get to the Triwizard Cup waiting in the middle. One of the champions gets hexed into eliminating himself and one other candidate from the competition. The third champion is called Cedric and is the “other” champion for Hogwarts. Harry and Cedric save each other a few times and when they find the Cup, they decide to go for it together, sharing the win.
However, the competition isn’t over when they touch the Cup. Someone messed with it and made it into a Portkey (which is a magical item that will transport you to a certain place once you touch it) and Harry and Cedric are transported to a cemetery. There Harry comes face to face with Voldemort’s followers, who immediately kill Cedric, and he is forced to take part in a ritual resurrecting Voldemort himself. When Voldemort has regained his body completely, he and Harry battle it out and the most amazing thing happens: the two wands connect and it is practically impossible for either to get the upper hand. (Afterwards it is explained that this happened because the wands both carry a feather from the same Phoenix as a core) This never-happened-before feat causes a lot of confusion and Harry uses that to escape from the cemetery with Cedric’s body and he ends up back on Hogwarts grounds.
People start to celebrate seeing these two winners until they realise something is really wrong. Harry is in shock but manages to make it clear that Cedric is dead and that Voldemort killed him. This causes a big riot, mainly because people don’t want to believe that He Who Shall Not Be Named could have returned and they don’t really know what to think of it. The school’s principal however, believes Harry and supports him openly. At his end-of-schoolyear-speech he acknowledges Cedric’s death as a great tragedy and explains the conditions surrounding his death. He proclaims that Voldemort has indeed returned and that trying times are upon them. He further insists on the importance of friendship and trust to battle what is to come.
It’s safe to say the school year ends in low spirits. Harry and his friends go home with fear in their hearts and uncertain about what the future will bring. They are however determined to stick it out and see what the future brings for them.
This book has been called the most important of the series, because it heralds the return of Harry’s arch-enemy and it is disastrous to the entire magical world. In spite of all that, this is one of my least favourite books. It has nothing to do with style or writing, because everybody has to admit this story is structured and written better than the previous books. Which is something I really like by the way, you can really feel Rowling grow as a writer throughout the series. That doesn’t bother me, because if you read the books as I feel like you’re supposed to (one a year, beginning when you are 10/11 years old) you also grow as a reader and it makes sense that the books get more complicated and develop bigger story lines (that continue over different books). So, my not liking the book has nothing to do with the style but more with the story itself. It is all a little bit too much and too complicated for me. It is also the first book that doesn’t end well and I am definitely a sucker for happy endings! That’s not to say I don’t like the book, because I do. I love the entire series! This is just my least favourite out of seven.
Do you agree that it is the most important book of the series? Is this one also your least favourites or is this the book you’ve (re)read the most? Let me know in the comments!