Harry Potter is spending another dreadful summer with the Dursley’s at Privet Drive. After an incident where he blows of Uncle Vernon’s sister, Aunt Marge, Harry runs away from the Dursleys. He is quickly picked up by the Knight Bus, which is a magical bus that helps witches and wizards, and he then goes to the Leaky Cauldron where he is met by the Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge. Harry is then warned about Sirius Black, a dark wizard who murdered thirteen people with one curse and is the first person to escape Azkaban prison. While Harry awaits his new school year anticipation and dread mounts as he everyone seems to be terrified of Black and are worried for Harry though he does not know why.
In The Prisoner of Azkaban¸ the story still follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Besides these characters, two new characters are introduced. For this year at Hogwarts, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is Remus Lupin. Wearing patched robes and having a sickly appearance, Lupin hides a dark secret and is one of the best professors of this class. Besides Lupin, the other prominent character is Sirius Black. After 12 years in Azkaban for the murdering of a wizard and multiple Muggles, Sirius escapes his confines and is on the search for his target to finish the job he started many years ago.
Wow, just wow. I hadn’t read this book in quite a long time, so most of the details were totally forgotten, and it was like I was reading it for the first time. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban wouldn’t have cracked my top 3 if you had asked me what I thought a week ago. Today it’s my favourite. The way that J.K. Rowling controls the pace of this novel is awesome. We don’t get a ton of high-tempo action scenes for the majority of the book, but the day-to-day interactions prove to be even more captivating. I love the idea of Hogwarts, so to get a more in-depth look into the world of Hogwarts for a school year was great. The first 3/4 feels a lot more casual, and I think some of J.K. Rowling’s best storytelling comes out in this book. It takes a ton of skill and talent to build a world built for 300 pages and keeps people on the edge of their seats.
We also get a ton of character growth from Harry, Ron, and Hermione. That might be one of the high points, just watching them change from book to book, even in this one alone. This is a different style of development than we say in the first two. It’s more, individual development, whereas in the first two books they grew off each other in times of difficulty. That still happens here, but we get a lot of self-reflection, more tension between our protagonists, and more kind of “natural” adolescent development. Less fighting wizards, more juggling school, and the drama that comes with.
The last 80 pages are awesome, and the climax is perfectly timed. The way things open up all of the sudden is the exact shock to life this book needs. The smooth eventful pacing of the first 3/4 is flipped on its head by a chaotic last quarter, but it is a ton of fun. We are also introduced to a couple new branches of magic and the Wizarding World, and the universe continues to grow. The way these first three were built was awesome, and I couldn’t be more excited for the next couple of books. If you haven’t read these yet, absolutely worth the time.
Favourite Moment (Spoilers):
My first time through the Harry Potter series, I remember that this novel was my favourite. And now, after reading the novel once more, I can see why I loved it so much. Of all the novels the series, this one has that perfect balance of magic and slice of life. This novel has a heavier focus on the school life at Hogwarts, and I honestly found that enjoyable. Now, that doesn’t mean that the novel is just describing events day by day, but the interactions and character development of the protagonists are what set this apart. In this novel, Hermione and Ron get into an argument, and seeing the fallout of their relationship seemed natural. Sometimes disagreements happen between friends, and this situation felt just like that. Also, with reveals later on in the novel, I enjoyed reading about Harry’s reaction. Obviously, he’s scared, angry, and at a loss, but his response to the situation felt very natural.
Now, besides the characters and setting, I enjoyed the plot of this book a lot more. As I said earlier, this book had more slice of life, and less magical wonder. The central plot was strengthened by this aspect. In the novel, Harry is being hunted by Sirius Black, and the way the story focuses more on school reflect the situation better. Sirius is a murderer, and he is someone a thirteen-year-old shouldn’t be trying to locate and bring to justice. Having Harry stuck around a consistent setting and exploring more his relationships gave a deeper level to all the characters and helped things flow in a smooth and logical manner.
Overall, this is probably one of my favourite novels in this series. The plot was straightforward, yet interesting, the characters all had development and natural dialogue and reactions, even the pacing was on point. If you got through the second novel, I would recommend that you keep going.
Favourite Moment (Spoilers):
My favourite moment has to be the reveals at the end. Seeing Lupin become a werewolf and Sirius turning into a dog that was watching over Harry the whole time introduced to me some of my favourite characters in the series.
Any of you who have read any of our previous Harry Potter reviews know that it is my favourite book series of all time and let me say that this entry in the series is no exception. What really has always stood out to me for this novel is the darker tone and atmosphere that looms over the whole story. The characters are as good as always with growth for our trio as Harry, Ron, and Hermione all face their fears in more ways than one in this adventure. For me, this is one of the first books where we see Harry be less reactionary and more of a decision-maker as he takes charge in this story and actively seeks to solve his problems and help his friends. I also like that we see some tension in the trio as it is realistic for friends to butt heads and get angry with one another. One of my favourite aspects about this book, in particular, is how much time the reader gets to spend in Hogwarts just reading Harry’s experience in his classes and even just hanging about the castle on the weekends makes it feel more like a real school and a real place. I love reading about the assignments Harry needs to get done before his quidditch practice and then reading about him just sitting by the lake with Ron and Hermione and this book has a lot of that. The introduction of new characters like Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are done so well and they become fan favourites due to their interesting relationship with Harry and the main story as a whole. The Dementors are a good creature for our trio and Hogwarts as a whole to have to deal with. A creature that makes you feel miserable sounds awful and the fact that they become Harry’s biggest fear makes them all the more intriguing. In terms of story Prisoner of Azkaban has many twists and developments that are really well done and I still remember my first time reading them. This book also does a good job introducing new pieces of magic and branches of magic that I find fascinating like patronuses, animagi, care of magical creatures, and divination. In general, this novel serves as a way to further expand the story, the cast of characters, and the lore and serves as an important chapter in this series.
All in all, this book is another home run in the Harry Potter series with great action and adventure and I like it, even more, every time I read it. If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s time for a re-read, and if it is your first time it’s a great one!
Favourite Moment (Spoilers):
When Harry casts his first corporeal Patronus at the lake to save himself, Sirius, and Hermione. It was awesome to see Harry save the day and to show how powerful a wizard he actually is.