The third Harry Potter adventure begins when Harry accidentally blows up his aunt. Fearing expulsion, Harry panics and runs away from home. When he’s found, instead of snapping his wand to pieces, everyone seems happy to see him alive. Harry finds out why when he hears that Sirius Black, one of Voldemort’s followers, has escaped from the wizard prison Azkaban, and is planning on taking down the one responsible for his master’s downfall, Harry Potter. Harry thus begins his third year of Hogwarts Achool of Witchcraft and Wizardry ready to learn magic, and play Quidditch, all with the knowledge that a madman is coming to kill him.
You can tell that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is an old favorite of mine. The dusk jacket is ripped, and the binding is starting to come apart. One thing I enjoy the most about this volume is the fact that it feels much more personal than books one and two. Here, Harry isn’t trying to find a mysterious magic object, or face down a school legend. He’s dealing with the knowledge that someone’s coming to Hogwarts just to kill him. This is made even more personal when we hear that Sirius Black was an old friend of Harry’s father, and is responsible for the death of Harry’s parents. Harry learns a lot about his parents in this volume. When approached by the dementors, he hears his mother and father’s last words. He meets an old friend of his father in Remus Lupin, the new defense against the dark arts teacher, and learns a little more about what James Potter was like in school. Even though Harry has always been the central character of the series, in this book, everything seems more closely connected to him, and the Potter family.
Harry also shows signs of growing up in this volume. In the first two volumes, when he meets Voldemort, the wizard who killed his parents, he is scared and shocked. In this book, when he overhears that Sirius is responsible for his parents death, he reacts with anger. When he meets up with Sirius at the end, he acts aggressively, holding him responsible for his parentless childhood. Granted, standing up to a half starved, half-crazed wizard is a bit different that standing up to the most powerful dark wizard of all time, but I do think this indicates that Harry is growing up and able to take a more assertive stance. Another sign that Harry is entering adolescence is his reaction on first meeting the pretty Cho Chang, something that is explored more in book four and five, which shows Harry plunging headfirst into adolescence.
The dementors, the Azkaban guards who roam Hogwarts in this volume, prove to be Rowling’s scariest creation. Drawing on images of the grim reaper, the dementors, are terrifying for two reason, the known and the unknown. We fear them from what we can see (or in this case, read about): the eerie way they move, and their ability to suck all of the happiness and joy out of an individual. We also fear what is under the cloak, what we can’t see. We feel it must be even more horrible that the terrifying things that we can see, because it has to be covered up.
Despite their awfulness, the dementors are tolerated at Hogwarts. Why? Because of the terrifying Sirius Black. It’s interesting at the end when we look at what’s feared, and what’s tolerated. Sirius is feared, but turns out to be an innocent man. Professor Lupin is feared because he is a werewolf, and is forced to leave because he knows that a werewolf will not be accepted as a professor. This is after he has proved himself to be an exemplary teacher. His class is always excited to learn, and he has an uncanny ability to see just what students need. This can be seen when he encourages Neville to face the boggart, giving the normally timid student courage. Despite all this, even Ron rejects him initially when learning that he’s a werewolf.
Harry Potter in the Prisoner of Azkaban is my second favorite Harry Potter book. It features great character development, and introduces one of my favorite characters (Lupin). I was very happy to read this again.
Rating: five stars
Length: 435 pages
Similar Books: For other books about magic and boarding schools, try A School for Sorcery by E. Rose Sabin, A College of Magics by Caroline Stevenmer, and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Harry Potter fans may also enjoy Inkheart (my review) and The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, and Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landry, all which present young adults who are pulled out of their normal lives and into a magical one.
Other books I've read by this author: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (my review), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (my review), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch through the Ages, The Tales of Beedle the Bard (my review)
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