Hip, hip Harry! A gulp of 'Goblet'

Tuesday, July 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling
(Scholastic, $25.95)

Bookstores open past the witching hour! Security guards posted round the clock to ensure the safety of a cassette recording! What on earth could cause unusual behavior in Muggles? If you guessed the release of the fourth book in the Harry Potter series, a tip of the Sorting Hat to you.

Opening with a moody first chapter, J.K. Rowling switches gears and keeps things light for the next 150 pages. Unusual but fairly harmless events occur at the World Quidditch Cup. Harry, Ron, Hermione and even Hagrid get bitten by the lovebug. There's even a scheme to free house-elves.

Then Harry is unexpectedly chosen as a contestant in the Triwizard Tournament. It seems someone else has entered Harry's name in the contest, knowing inexperienced wizards rarely survive it.

Ms. Rowling has plenty of surprises in store for Potter fans – including the death of a well-known character and the return to power of Lord Voldemort.

As usual, Ms. Rowling's strengths – vivid imagination and ingenuity – are in ample supply. The descriptions of Harry's world and the creatures in it nearly jump off the page. And although some evidence of overwriting is apparent in the first 200 pages, Ms. Rowling's unerring ability with narrative pace evens things out in the end. As for how it stacks up against the other Potter volumes, that's a little like comparing children – do you love the first (or second or third) child more because it's smaller, faster and more cheerful? Harry Potter's latest may find him (and his friends) and the author in a more somber mood, but, in the end, readers will find it was no less compelling – and well worth the wait.