Pros: characters, plot, ending, everything
If there ever was a time to hide your kids, your wife, and your husband – it is now. Events are out of control as Sirius Black, a crazed wizard, breaks out of the top security sorcerer’s prison, the appalling Azkaban. This escape is inexplicable since Azkaban is guarded by the cadaverous Dementors – creatures that literally suck the joy and meaning out of a human soul, leaving only oblivion and madness behind.
Things are certainly going to get worse before they get better. Sirius Black, murdered, betrayer, and loyal servant of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is seeking none other than our lovable and beleaguered hero – Harry Potter. As the wizarding world reels from the revelation, Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic take it upon themselves to protect Harry in the confines of Hogwarts but all this hiding just might not be enough to protect everybody’s favourite mage!
As the third in the ever popular Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban capitalizes on all the elements that have come to make the series beloved while moving in a more serious and adult direction. As the characters grow into maturity, so does the plot. The complicated nature of the situation, combined with the emotional nature of the revelation (Sirius was the man who murdered Harry’s mother and father) adds even more depth to the already excellent characterization.
The book opens as Harry reaches his limit and stands up for himself, rebelling against the Dursleys. The segment showcases all the former humor that has made the series so enjoyable while also capitalizing on an important plot point – Harry is alone in the world. He is unprotected, has rebelled against wizarding rules, and is the object of Sirius and Voldemort’s maniacal scheming. Harry has reached an important liminal stage where he must transition from childhood into the man his father would have wished. Indeed, this practical concern is the impetus behind the entire novel as Harry must choose between following the rules or following his heart.
The decision is difficult and readers (and Harry) are finally allowed to discover more concerning the actual death of Harry’s parents. This leads to a particularly emotional novel that draws readers into Harry’s world. These are characters that will stay close to the heart. Before we joined the story to laugh along with the childish antics, relish in the quirkiness of the characters and the wizard’s world, and solve a few semi-light hearted mysteries. Now, the stakes are getting higher as Voldemort increases in power and Harry discovers more about his parents’ death.
This particular novel is mostly focused on Harry, but of course, Rowling keeps the plot enriched by the presences of other characters. Ron and Hermione have returned as Harry’s friends and compatriots in crime. Their dilemmas, while less important to the overall story, are enjoyable and entertaining. Readers love Harry, but they also love his friends with almost equal fervor. It’s like the Three Stooges, the story can’t retain its shape or dynamic energy sans any of the characters.
Dumbledore is equally as lovable in this installment. Snape is delightfully vitriolic (even more so than normal). Hagrid is once again up to his tricks – collecting more dangerous animals and turning them into cuddly pets. Malfoy is vicious and detestable as ever (Rowling certainly knows how to create enmity in her tales as well).
A new character, Professor Lupin, is also allowed to join the fray and, I must say, I hope that he reappears in later installments. Lupin is a professor character that is almost as likable as Dumbledore plus he is surrounded by a very entertaining personal mystery.
The plot combines all the usual elements of mystery, trickery, and suspense amplified from previous installments. The filaments of Voldemort’s plans are beginning to come together in a solid formation and the elements of mystery and betrayal are at their very best.
Likewise, this particular installment has several stunning surprises that have been secretly set up from the first two books. Readers will be delighted by the carefully crafted, compelling mystery and the big revelations. The Prisoner of Azkaban has left itself poised for a delightful sequel complete with quirky comedy, beloved characters, and an ever twisting plot filled with danger and conniving villains. A most worthwhile series. Readers must remember to hide all their kids (and their husbands) before Lord Voldemort and his cohorts attack again.
Harry Potter Books:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets