An open letter to J.K. Rowling
Dear Ms. Rowling,
Last summer when you gave us Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I tore through it and almost called you at home to badger you about releasing Book Four. I have not known such anticipation since my little-known addiction to Days of Our Lives (I was a college student and very, very young; have since recovered, thank you very much). Harry having to return to the Dursleys after reuniting with Sirius Black is nothing compared to the painful wait I have endured for the fourth installment. Suffice to say, it's been the longest summer vacation in history. Just when I thought I couldn't take it any longer, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire arrived.
I was thrilled to read that Harry found reprieve by spending the final two weeks of summer with the Weasleys. And Arthur Weasley scoring tickets to the Quidditch World Cup was quite a feat. But the best was yet to come-I was so happy to return to Hogwarts! I'd been kept away too long. I even found myself missing Professor Snape, if that tells you anything, but it didn't take me long to see that he was still smarmy, still snippy, and still slimy.
The main storyline around which everything is centered is the Triwizard Tournament. Young wizards enter themselves, and the Goblet of Fire chooses the names, one wizard champion for each participating school. Cedric Diggory, Harry's Quidditch rival from the Hufflepuff House, is selected as the Hogwarts champion. As the selections are wrapping up, everyone is shocked when the Goblet releases Harry's name. Since Harry did not meet the age requirement, who put his name in the Goblet? Someone who felt he deserved a chance? Or someone who wanted him dead?
Mixed feelings and misunderstandings plague Harry throughout the Tournament; many of his fellow students have a difficult time offering their support. At times, Harry is so mistreated, returning to Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley seems almost inviting. Almost.
It wouldn't be a new school year without a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, however. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore has managed to snag Auror great Mad-Eye Moody, who has agreed teach Defense Against the Dark Arts for one year. It's a shame the other wizard schools, namely Durmstrang and Beauxbaton, actually teach the Dark Arts instead of defense against them. But I think that speaks volumes about the ethics and character of Dumbledore and Hogwarts as a whole. Mad-Eye is a living legend, despite the paranoia that has accompanied the onset of age. And judging from some of the folks from Durmstrang and Beauxbaton who visited during the Triwizard Tournament, Mad-Eye's wisdom proves to be helpful beyond the classroom. Why do I get the feeling that we haven't heard the last from these two schools, or Mad-Eye?
Readers finally meet the rest of the Weasley family; Bill Weasley is living proof that all Head Boys do not end up as tightly wound as Percy (and if he doesn't loosen up, he's bound to explode). Yet adolescence has caught up with our favorite wizards-including Fred and George, who are permanently stationed there-and you handle this in both literal and metaphorical terms. Despite the whirling of good and evil that surrounds Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts, he and his friends are not exempt from peer pressure, unrequited love, and just plain hormonal edginess. The veelas' effect on Harry and Ron is hilarious-but I sense that the day is coming that it won't be as funny. And both boys are slack about finding dates to the Yule Ball, but they do pay a price for their aloofness. Harry's ability to combat the Unforgivable Curses gives new life to the 'just say no' mantra, but really, Ms. Rowling-can Hermione please have a good day in your next book? Her rantings are tiresome, and if she continues in this manner, important matters like house elves' rights will, I fear, fall on deaf ears. Maybe she should spend a year abroad, or take anger management courses; this is more than just teenage angst.
Of course, all of this intricate plotting adds up to one major catastrophe: Lord Voldemort returns. And it's not the weak, helpless Voldemort that we've reckoned with before; the Dark Lord is back, he's strong, and he's not alone. We've long suspected several Dark Wizards were in our midst, but one or two will surprise your readers. And there are many more who are not caught. The killing sprees have begun, and you have already promised us there will be more. It's sad to have to say good-bye to friends in this way, but even wizards are not immune to loss and grief.
All of the magic remains, and whether or not it's intentional, there's quite a bit left dangling. Hagrid's magical creatures-namely screwts and nifflers-serve very little purpose outside of comic relief. Cho Chang did not take on a large role, either. Will world-famous Quidditch seeker Viktor Krum transfer to Hogwarts, causing trouble for Harry's sport and Ron's heart? And when will Ron and Hermione stop this crazy Tracy and Hepburn banter? The biggest matter left unresolved, however, is that Lord Voldemort remains at large. He is no longer hiding, and while good has temporarily triumphed over evil, it's an uneasy victory.
Despite the Extra-Long Length Charm you put on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ms. Rowling, your 734 pages were not strong enough to pacify me. I've inhaled them and like Harry, I have conquered. At the risk of hearing an audible groan from your direction, I have to ask: WHEN CAN WE EXPECT BOOK FIVE?!?!
See Miriam's Predictions for Books Five, Six and Seven.