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Harry's back - and as magical as ever.

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. By J K Rowling (Bloomsbury, pounds 14.99). Reviewed by Alison Davison.

So it's out at last - the fourth Harry Potter adventure is finally on the bookshop shelves and it's probably the only time (until the next one of course) that many adults will splash out this amount of money on a children's book.

And yes, it's worth it - every penny (and all 636 pages). The themes may be the same - good against evil, high moral principles against self-serving mean-mindedness - but the enchantment and inventiveness are there as fresh as ever. Of all the wizards in this book, none casts a spell as strong as Joanne Rowling.

We've moved on now and Harry and chums are 14. Not that it makes too much difference - Hermione gets an admirer and Harry gets rather fond of a girl called Cho but it's not exactly hormone city. 'It's a PG rather than a U,' my 12-year-old son decided, but I think (after wrestling the book from his grasp) that it would still be a U. The only thing likely to upset more sensitive parents is the word 'git' and that doesn't pop up very often.

I didn't find it as black as the previous book. The dementors are here again but, rather like the Daleks, they don't seem quite so scary on reappearance. It's sad, very sad at times. I won't tell you who dies but the most touching thing is Harry himself - as always.

The decent, unassuming little chap is an everyman hero for our times. How we wish he could have his parents back again. (But hang on - this magic stuff supplies a deus ex machina for every occasion.)

There's excitement by the Hogwarts' load of course. The Dursleys, those Dahlesquely-awful relatives, are fading into the background rather as Harry comes more under the comforting family wing of the Weasleys, but there's still Quidditch, there's still magic, jokes, friendship - and there's still Voldemort. Hogwarts school is to host the Triwizards Tournament. Harry doesn't even enter but mysteriously his name is still drawn form the goblet of fire as an entrant.

Why is he being manoeuvred into the contest? Should we worry when he keeps winning? Should he pick up that trophy or not?

Suffice to say that dark deeds are afoot. Voldemort is returning to full strength, gathering his fans around him and preparing for a deadly confrontation with Harry.

Who is the traitor helping him at Hogwarts with his dastardly plan? Who are Voldemort's secret supporters? And are the ones who oppose him necessarily good?

Like the other adventures, this teaches us that good and evil can be found on all sides and we must not judge too quickly on appearances.

The twists and surprises keep coming till the end, so stock up on the torch batteries because this is another under-the-bedcovers-please-can-I-just-read-the-next-bit story.

Humour is still plentiful too. Hagrid actually finds a little tentative love interest in the equally-daunting shape of the headmistress of a French wizards' school. I'm so glad to have found another half-giant, he tells her. Half-giant, how dare you? she yelps. I'm just big-boned.

It's great fun (a gleefully attacking finger is pointed at tabloid journalists) and a wonderful roller-coaster ride of thrills and spills.

It's also incredibly visual - filmic even - and intensely powerful in its evocations of evil. Echoes of McCarthyism, dictatorship, Nazism . . . they're all here. I can well imagine Potter fans learning about such things later in school and declaring: 'This is just like the Death Eaters!'
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Title Annotation:Books
Author:Davison, Alison
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 15, 2000
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