Quiddich is probably my least favourite aspect of Harry Potter. Goblet of Fire starts off with a lot of quiddich. If I wasn’t already aware the titular goblet isn’t a quiddich prize, I’d have been worried the book was going to be all quiddich all the time. But in fact, after the quiddich heavy opening, the book is almost quiddich free. Which might be why I started actually enjoying the book about a third of the way in.
That’s right, at least the last half of Goblet of Fire is actually fairly decent. For the first time the characters are actually fleshed out into three dimensional (though still stereotypical) people and more time is spent on believable interpersonal relationships. These interpersonal relationships take the form of Degrassi-like jealousies and emo-douchiness, but at least they ring true. Finally people are behaving in this magical world like people instead of archetypes cut from farytales. Which is why, in spite of the series seeming to get better, the first three books are still lifeless and shallow. I can see how readers can project the three dimensional characters from the latter books onto the early books in hindsight, but that doesn’t make them good books. They should have been able to stand alone. I still feel the strategy to begin the books for a young audience and age them progressively with the characters was a conceptual flaw. The last third of Goblet of Fire just affirms that more. The darker, deeper, and better, the writing gets, the worse the earlier books seem to be.
Another problem attached to this is the way the wizarding world fits in with our muggle world. In Philosopher’s Stone the wizarding world being hidden from us more or less works because the book, written in a simpler more just-go-with-it-it’s-a-damn-kids’-book way, allows for more willful suspension of disbelief. The sheer goofiness of the first few books is their get out of Azkaban free card. But once Rowling took the plunge and started to bring the stories homea bit more, the holes in the premise that there’s hundreds of thousands of wizards living secretly all over the world become a little more gaping. Why are they hidden? How do they manage to stay hidden? Surely there’d be enough rogue criminal wizards running around using magic to rob muggle banks and live the good muggle life there wouldn’t be enough memory charms to keep it secret. Are there wizard “Men in Black” running around continually flashing us? And I don’t believe they could catch all the bad wizards and stick them in Azkaban either. If the wizards live among us, why don’t they understand our technology at all? For that matter, do they or don’t they live and work among us? It seems to flip back and forth to suit the situation. Again, why are they hidden? Why aren’t they helping out with climate change and pollution? It’s their planet too. Are wizards just bastards? And what are the rules about muggles not being able to see magical creature like dragons and gnomes but other stuff needing to have charms placed on it to “hide” it? How does that all work?
This is my main qualm about the series at this point. While the action is taking place at Hogwarts, I can ignore it. But once we’re back at Privet Drive, all these WTF questions keep popping up in my mind. I’m wondering how (or if) this is all going to get explained by the end of the books.