Thursday, 23 June 2011

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Contains some spoilers (just in case you've survived this long unspoiled!)

After J. K. Rowling's first two fun and magical boarding-school adventures, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban seems to be the point at which the series starts to assert itself as something extraordinary. The first two books worked well as connected, stand-alone stories, setting the scene for Hogwarts and the wizarding world. Although there is still much to learn and discover all the way through the series, book three is where, for me, The Story really begins.

Prisoner of Azkaban has a noticeably darker tone than its two predecessors. I will state this once, and in my reviews for the rest of the series you can just take this for granted. Each book is darker than the last. (When the last few films have been released, this information was announced by reviewers as if it were some great surprise. We all know it. Let's move on.) So far, despite events at Hogwarts, the wizarding world as a whole has been at peace. Now, there is a flutter of fear in the air. Notorious mass-murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the supposedly inescapeable Azkaban Prison - and all the evidence suggests that he's trying to kill Harry. The Dementors, shadowy prison guards who spread despair wherever they go, have been set to guard Hogwarts, but they don't seem to be doing any good, and their presence is having a serious effect on Harry. Thankfully, for the first time there is a competent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts: the mild-mannered Professor Remus Lupin, who gives Harry some valuable extra coaching. But Lupin has some dark secrets of his own...

Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my favourite books in the Harry Potter series. There is less world-building and more plot, a twisty, page-turning and very satisfying plot. We learn some of Harry's family history, about Harry's father at school, and about the circumstances leading up to their deaths. Harry starts studying two new subjects: Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. Although both of these classes are crucial to the plot of this story, it is probably Lupin's extra-curricular Patronus charm lessons that are the most valuable to Harry. In later books, the Patronus seems to come as second nature to Harry, passing it on to his fellow students, and I forget how advanced magic it is, but for Harry, aged only thirteen, to produce a Patronus is extraordinary.

Remus Lupin is one of my favourite characters in the books - and the first sympathetic werewolf I ever encountered. Rowling managed to change the way I viewed some of the typical "monsters" of fantasy and horror writing, and influenced a couple of werewolves into my own writing. Again, I was blown away by the twists and revelations that came at the end of the book, and by this point it is apparent that the books are coming together to lead up to some bigger event; that the stand-alone stories are just chapters in a seven-volume epic.

2 comments:

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban is really the best in the series.

    J.K. Rowling actually has a really clever way of including interesting concepts in a fairly sophisticated way. The Time Travel in the Prisoner of Azkhaban is actually very carefully mapped out, borderline science fiction.

    It was great!

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  2. I really like that we took a break from the Voldemort plotline, and got a better look at Harry's parent's past. It added to his character arc in such a unique way, because this is the first book that I have felt like Harry was able to be well and truly happy. Knowing even just these small parts of his past (and things like why his father was nicknamed prongs-- fab!) seemed to add pieces to his own identity, enough to change his entire demeanor. And I was so happy for him, finally having Sirius and Lupin to look to as proper family--people who he knows really care about him. I love that part on the last page where Harry tells the Dursleys about Sirius, saying, "He was my mum and dad's best friend. He's a convicted murderer, but he's broken out of Wizard prison and he's on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though . . . keep up with my news . . .check if I'm happy . . ."

    A few other things I liked are the Marauder's Map--which is fantastic! I want one. I love the time-turner part, it is brilliant and made the latter part of the book into very suspenseful reading. Enjoy!! :)

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