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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The third book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

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Harry Potter: Back in Black

  • Jul 22, 2005
Pros: Unique twists. The series defines itself in this book

Cons: Not as imaginative as the other books in the series

The Bottom Line: Honestly, if you're not into the series after reading this, you're dead to me.

Just today, I received a rather shocking awakening to just how popular the Harry Potter series has become: Since I have no money and didn’t want any spoilers in the new book to be revealed to me before I read it, I went down to my local library to order myself a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I was given two numbers, both of which took me by surprise. 356: The number my name reserved on the list. Then 300, which is the number of copies of Half-Blood Prince that are apparently floating around in the Buffalo library system.

I bet Harry Potter creator JK Rowling is on her knees thanking the idio.... I mean the Christian Conservatives for trying to shut her down. Hey, I’m indebted to those nutcases for getting me interested in the Harry Potter series.

Since I haven’t gotten ahold of the sixth volume yet, today I’ll be talking about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book in the series. Since I’ve grown tired of explaining the roots of Harry Potter, I’ll tell the short short version of the general gist of the books: Harry Potter: Future Wizard. Attending the Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn subjects that are far more interesting and useful than anything you or I have ever been taught. Voldemort: Bad guy. Got too powerful years ago. Took over wizard-land. Tried to kill Harry in his infancy, but lost his powers instead. Harry: Orphaned, sent to live with evil in-laws, learns he’s a wizard on eleventh birthday.

Prisoner of Azkaban is the last book of Harry’s innocent, simplistic years. After this, the series takes a sharp turn into the blue with more involved plot lines, darker subject matter, characters become more human-like, and wizard politics. I suspect JK Rowling will eventually be remembered for doing to wizards what Dante did for Hell and Bram Stoker did for vampires (that is, if a lofty perch like that hasn’t already been occupied by whoever it was that authored the legend of King Arthur). In Prisoner of Azkaban, we get to say one last goodbye to the younger, more innocent Harry, that of the singular plot lines and black and white definitions of good and evil, that of the two-dimensional characters we only think we know, and the general direction we all thought the series would go in. It’s the last time we get to see Hogwarts before the ultimate resurrection of Voldemort.

Prisoner of Azkaban picks up where all the other ones do, at the Dursley household on Privet Drive. Life still sucks. Vernon and Petunia have seemingly stepped up their endless quest to show Harry how much better than him Dudley is. Their new innovation in for Dudley’s life is a television set for the kitchen, because it’s too tough for Dudley to get up and walk to the kitchen during commercials. Although the Dursleys haven’t tried to keep Harry locked in his room like last year, they still pretty much pretend he doesn’t exist. Well, this year Harry’s horrible Aunt Marge is coming by, and she has a habit of saying just about every nasty thing she can about Harry and his original parents. This year, she makes the mistake of talking trash about Harry’s father, which results in her floating ten feet in the air and bloating up like a hot air balloon, and Harry just walking out of the Dursley household. He gets picked up by this magic vehicle called the Knight Bus which takes him straight to Diagon Alley, where he lives out the summer before going back to school.

The big news in both the wizard and muggle worlds is the escape of one Sirius Black, murderer extrordinaire. Everyone is up in arms about it, and here we get to see what wizards think of guns - ”A type of metal wand muggles use to kill each other.” Sirius, according to the British media, was one of you-know-who’s most fanatical followers, and was raised to pureblood legend when he used a very explosive curse to kill a fairly large number of people at one time. Since his boss was beat out of his powers just a week after his capture, they figure he’s going to kamikaze his way toward Harry and attempt to finish the job his master started. The obsession with security leads the school to hire Grim Reaper-like monsters called dementors - which are used mainly as wardens at Azkaban - in case Sirius pays a visit to the school grounds.

None of the new measures prevent Harry from pulling his old tricks, however. Between his new classes, Quidditch duties, and regular bouts with school bully Draco Malfoy, Harry still finds time to sneak off to the local wizarding city and learn some shocking facts about not only Sirius Black, but Black’s connection with his father, and Ron’s pet rat Scabbers. Oh yes, he also notices future crush Cho Chang for the first time.

JK Rowling would like us to believe that the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is the turning point of the series. That may be true, but without Prisoner of Azkaban, many of the happenings in Goblet of Fire wouldn’t make any sense. It’s in Prisoner of Azkaban that Harry begins to get in touch with puberty, and it’s here that an important event that allows the ultimate coming out of Voldemort happens. In Prisoner of Azkaban, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is one who goes on to play a vital supporting role in the series. In fact, the whole intertwining of Harry Potter’s big picture all begins in Prisoner of Azkaban. You can safely enjoy the Harry Potter series if you skip Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets (though I’m not saying you should do that). While there are connections between those two and future Potter books, those connections are minimal at best and only mentioned in passing. To get the understanding of what the series in general is all about, it’s imperative that you read Prisoner of Azkaban.

While Prisoner of Azkaban is undoubtedly at least the second-best book in the series (my personal favorite is Order of the Phoenix), it’s probably the least imaginative. There are moments, true, like a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who uses various creatures to teach the class, a divination class, and a class about magical creatures, there’s really nothing in Prisoner of Azkaban that you can read and not feel like you’re already familiar with the idea. Rowling briefly flings with time travel, but only for a single chapter that feels like it was tacked on to the end at the last second to appease editors who didn’t think the book was magical enough. It works into the plot very nicely, but still, it’s a secret right up until the big moment. Even the finale of the book is more dialogue driven than usual. Other ideas, like the haunted house in Hogsmede and the secret passages, serve their purposes proper but are nothing that hasn’t been done before.

There are no house elves in Prisoner of Azkaban, so there’s nothing to worry about. Hermione’s SPEW promotions, as well as the ultra-annoying exchanges between Dobby and Winky don’t show up until Goblet of Fire. Draco Malfoy is here, though, and as loathable as ever. Harry is unable to be around Dementors because they make him faint, him having an extra-traumatic event happen to him. When he’s around one, he can hear his parents trying to get him away from Voldemort’s evil clutches. Malfoy, unfortunately, has the fortune to learn about this and go as low as to try to exploit it during a Quidditch match. However, with the characters in the series slowly becoming more and more well-rounded, I do wish Crabbe and Goyle would develop personalities of their own, or at least transfer to a different school so they won’t take up space anymore.

Play-by-play Quidditch matches can get a little boring sometimes, right? Well, in Prisoner of Azkaban, they’re not as boring - in one, the announcer has to be periodically reminded by Professor McGonagall that he’s supposed to be announcing the game, not advertising for Harry’s new broom, the Firebolt. Only the third game really drags, because it’s a very important match between two hated rivals, and the atmosphere leading up to the game resembles that of a Yankees and Red Sox match. Aside from that gripe, however, the plot moves along at a faster pace than the other books in the series.

The Harry Potter series may have been created with the success of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but it doesn’t really begin until Prisoner of Azkaban. If you want to hop onto the Potter-mania broomstick, start.... Well, with Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets if you want to do it proper. But if you want to cut corners, this would be the place to start.


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More Harry Potter and the Prisoner ... reviews
review by . January 11, 2010
My least favorite of the Harry Potter opus so far. The conclusion takes too long to unwind, without the eyes-glued-to-the-page excitement of the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2). Some fun new concepts are introduced--the helpful Marauder's Map, the creepy Dementors, the powerful Patronus--and two well-drawn new teachers are highlighted--Divinations Professor Trelawney providing comic relief and Dark Arts Professor Lupin providing the most useful instruction Harry's …
Quick Tip by . September 29, 2010
The series suddenly got darker, and the characters deeper in this one. Not sure about the twist, but it worked.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
i give a 5 because sirius black is my favorite character out of the entire HP series, and the idea of the marauders map was quite entertaining.
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
harry finds a long lost family member, hes not so alone anymore and he saves a hippogriff even better.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
This book is one of my favorites of the series. I love the pace, the lack of Voldemort which was a good break, (no, I am not afraid to speak his name), and the unfolding of more secrets about Harry's life. Also, the final chapters had a flow and brightness I think none of the other endings had.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
great book...... the movie DID NOT do the book any justice. I am SO glad that I read the book first..... but GEESSSSSSSS
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
a fan of Harry Potter. What else can I say?
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
My favorite Harry Potter novel!
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2010
The first book of the series that really leaves you craving more. This book was a game-changer for the series. Thank God for Harry Potter.
review by . May 17, 2009
How is it that every Harry Potter book I read is better then the one I read before? How does J.K. Rowling do it? I thought the first Harry Potter was so great that there isn't a word to discribe it. Then I read the second one and I'm in awe. The third one is so amazing that I don't want to take the time to write this review, I just want to start on #4. But I can't do that because I have a few books that I have to review and a couple of them I have to have them done on or by a certain date. So my …
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For most children, summer vacation is something to look forward to. But not for our 13-year-old hero, who's forced to spend his summers with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who detest him. The third book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series catapults into action when the young wizard "accidentally" causes the Dursleys' dreadful visitor Aunt Marge to inflate like a monstrous balloon and drift up to the ceiling. Fearing punishment from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon (and from officials at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who strictly forbid students to cast spells in the non-magic world of Muggles), Harry lunges out into the darkness with his heavy trunk and his owl Hedwig.

As it turns out, Harry isn't punished at all for his errant wizardry. Instead he is mysteriously rescued from his Muggle neighborhood and whisked off in a triple-decker, violently purple bus to spend the remaining weeks of summer in a friendly inn called the Leaky Cauldron. What Harry has to face as he begins his third year at Hogwarts explains why the officials let him off easily. It seems that Sirius Black--an escaped convict from the prison of Azkaban--is on the loose. Not only that, but he's after Harry Potter. But why? And why do the Dementors, the guards hired to protect him, chill Harry's very heart when others are unaffected? Once again, Rowling has created a mystery that will have children and adults cheering, not to mention standing in line for her next book....

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ISBN-10: 0439136350
ISBN-13: 978-0439136358
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Children's Books, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Novel
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