Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Bloomsbury. First published 2000.
The fourth book in the series, this is definitely now for older children (and adults, of course). It starts with a death, and ends with another. And while there are many jokes in between, the story line becomes grimmer, and Harry becomes more angry, frustrated and anxious. Draco Malfoy is now less just a nasty young boy, and more an evil object-to-hand, a kind of small scale model of the distant supervillain Voldemort. Malfoy, in fact, reminds me of the stereo-typical TV soap opera villain - a mother-in-law, usually - whom the audience is compelled to hate.
There are a couple of jokes in the book clearly aimed at adults - the Uranus one, of course, but also another I missed in my first reading 15 years ago. Dumbledore consoles Hagrid on his disreputable family by pointing out that he himself had a brother who'd been in serious trouble for performing unacceptable magic on a goat! Not a joke that many readers might get, but it was probably Rowling having a bit of private fun. There are other such surprising turns of phrase, which leads one to think that Rowling was really enjoying herself, teasing the reader, the publisher and maybe the critic. There are also some expressions I thought were rather old-fashioned, not used anymore in 21st century Britain. When Ron is asked if he did something or the other, he exclaims, 'As if!'. By this he implies that he was not capable of even thinking about doing such a deed. This phrase, meaning just such a thing, was common about four or five decades ago among the middle class children in India, educated in English medium schools. I can imagine my mother using it. I thought it had kind of fallen out of favour, and when I saw it now in this book, I was surprised. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it is very much in use now in India too, as much as in Britain.
Rowling is inventive as usual - Quidditich world cup, portkeys, the triwizard tournament, gillyweed, SPEW, and best of all, the pensieve. Again, as in the earlier books, the names are very well chosen - Drumstrang, Fleur and Krum are some of the more obviously good ones. It was about this time that the first of Harry Potter movies began to be made. The influence is clear - with the scenes becoming more cinematic. The description of the Beauxbaton carriage and the Drumstrang ship are so obviously made for CGI. The climactic duel in the graveyard is so full of red, white, green and golden beams of light, that it is difficult to escape the conclusion that when these portions were written by Rowling, the film technicians were looking over her shoulder - metaphorically, if not literally.
As an extension to the HP series it does not disappoint. But it's not just a book anymore - it is at this point that it starts to become the phenomenon it has eventually turned out to be.