Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
While I liked this book the first time I read it, after subsequent re-reads, I keep finding more and more problems that make it much harder to enjoy.
I own a first edition US hardcover and have read it. I've also listened to the Stephen Fry audio book recording.
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The description of the wizard's camp site and the various wizards from all over the world is really colorful.
- I like how the characters become more brooding as they get older and become teenagers. It makes them seem more realistic.
- For most of the book, "Mad Eye" Moody is a really lovable character.
- Rowling does a good job of describing the jitters teens feel when it comes to finding a date for a dance as well as how terrible dating teens can be to one another.
- The whole idea of magic using power words becomes more problematic as the number of spells expand. Are the words created or discovered? Where did they come from? Are new words still being discovered? Why does a single word have a very specific outcome?
- The Wizarding world is really bigoted and highly unjust. They refuse to let non-humans carry wands, they killed or banished all the giants, they keep house elves as slaves, etc. Barty Croutch sentences Sirius to prison without even a trial?!
- Arthur Weasley's incompetence toward Muggle objects is quaint at first, but quickly becomes ridiculous when he can't distinguish between the number 20 and 5.
- The Ministry of Magic, and most of the wizarding world, seems to be entirely inept. A small band of Deatheaters start making trouble after the World Cup, and they aren't able to arrest a single one of them? They can't even successfully stun teenagers, but have no trouble making wild accusations toward them. Fudge unwittingly kills Barty Croutch, Jr., he refuses to accept that Voldemort has returned, etc.
- Why does Hogwarts cancel Quidditch for the entire school for the Tri-Wizard tournament if only a single student from Hogwarts is going to be in it, and there is no knowing if the school champion will even be a Quidditch player, and there will only be three events, and they will each be spaced months apart? That's like cancelling the entire year of a school's football team because the school's hosting a state gymnastics tournament with only one contestant from the school. The maze on the Quidditch pitch could have been grown anywhere. It seems as though Rowling did this solely to make sure that Quidditch couldn't be played without Harry. And really, the school champions don't have to take exams? Then, what's the point of going to school?
- Some of the teachers names are directly related to what they teach. Your name is Sprout? You'll teach herbology. Your name is Vector? You'll teach arithmancy, etc. I'm hoping these are nicknames, otherwise, the wizarding world seems to have very predetermined occupations.
- Despite being lovable, Hagrid really is a terrible Care of Magical Creatures teacher, and Dumbledore was unwise to give him the position. The students learn very little in his class, he's unable to maintain order, and he routinely puts his students in grave danger.
- Why does Hogwarts continue to let Peeves stay in the school if all he does is ruin things and create mischief without contributing? Are the numerous professors all incapable of exorcising him?
- Since the teachers were in fear of under-aged students putting their names into the Goblet of Fire, why didn't they just require all the students to put their names in all at once and then close it off? Why not post someone to guard it? An age charm will stop minors, but it won't stop an older student from putting in a younger student's name. Their negligence eventually led to a student's death.
- Even though Harry was forced to enter the tournament due to a contrived "magician's contract," why didn't the teachers just require him to purposely lose each event at the start? That would be fair to everyone else, while also keeping him safe.
- Kakarov was a confessed Deatheater who just barely made it out of prison, but the people of the wizarding world loved him enough to make him the headmaster of a children's school? Nobody saw this as a bad idea?
- Having children steal eggs from mother dragons makes for an exciting challenge, but the extremely likely chance of a student being mauled to death makes it seem ludicrous. Madame Pompfrey may be able to regrow bones, but I doubt she can fix shredded organs.
- Diggory and Crum just started dating Cho and Hermione, yet they are the most important people in both of their lives? Even more important than all their long time family and friends? They must have terrible lives! And this creates a rather pathetic save the princess trope.
- The wizarding world seems to have only a single news journal, The Daily Prophet, and its quality appears to be on par with Fox "News." They give carte blanche to a constant lying hack like Rita Skeeter who puts out hit pieces on children. Do wizards not have laws about slander? And why would the majority of wizards, including the Minister of Magic, even read her, let alone take her seriously? Also, if being an unregistered animagus is such a crime that Skeeter was willing to give up her livelihood for an entire year to protect, why would she let random Slytherin students know about it?
- The Tri-Wizard Tournament is considered a spectator sport that the entire school comes out to watch, but two of the three events take place in areas that can't be seen, so why do they even bother with an audience? Okay folks, for the next hour, we're going to watch bubbles appearing on the surface of the the lake! Then, we're going to watch the outer walls of a hedge maze, how exciting!
- Throughout the series we've been reminded that Hogwarts is protected from being discovered both by muggle technology and wizard divination. We're also told, over and over again, that apparating on, into, or out of the grounds is impossible. Lots of serious magic has been spent protecting the castle in this manner, and yet, nobody ever considered blocking port keys?
- Voldemort's plan was a total mess. He had someone abduct a powerful aurur and use a difficult-to-make potion to impersonate him for several months without anyone (even long time friends) noticing he was different, so that he could sneak Harry's name into the Goblet of Fire even though the teachers were watching for foul play. All of this hinged not just on Harry being allowed to play and escaping injury in the first two tasks, but also beating three more competent students in the final task. Here's a slightly simpler route: mail Harry a package with a port key in it. When Harry opens the package and touches the port key, he will teleport to the graveyard. A more convoluted, but just as effective approach: kidnap a student on their way to platform 9 3/4, impersonate them with polyjucie, walk up to Harry, and toss a port key to him. When he catches it, he'll be teleported to the graveyard. Or, if you prefer an old fashioned approach: when Harry is in Hogsmede, and outside of the protection of Hogwarts, hand him a port key, and he'll teleport to the graveyard. Don't want to bother with portkeys? Then just have Barty Croutch, Jr. murder Harry in his sleep.
- Pretty much everything about Barty Croutch, Jr. is unbelievable. His escape from Azkaban was surprisingly easy (that's two confirmed escapes in the past year from an inescapable prison). Didn't any other prisoners think to try such tactics? Also, if Barty spent all that time being tortured in Azkaban and then under his father's imperious curse, how did he become a wizard so powerful he could successfully use the imperious curse on Moody, someone specifically trained to fight against it? And simply looking like someone else won't make people (especially those who have known you for years, like Dumbledore), believe that you are that person, yet Croutch was able to keep up the ruse for almost a year without anyone suspecting a thing!