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Review: Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 4.0


Plot/Story:
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

The third novel in the infamous Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling incorporates many of the same elements and characters as books one and two but amplified. In this installment, we are introduced to a few new characters (Remus Lupin, Sirius Black) that play important roles in both the upcoming novels and in Harry Potter’s past, which leads to the development of Harry as he has little to no contact with anyone who had known or were really friends with his parents up to this point. Also, Rowling allows us glimpses at the budding natures of other characters –good and bad- who will play important roles as the Harry Potter saga unravels, including Draco Malfoy, Hagrid the Gamekeeper, Peter Pettigrew, and others. The back-history provided to the reader here is extremely important, and it gives a clearer impression of the life & times previous, during Voldemort’s height of power. That this occurs without the presence of the antagonist (for the first time) is interesting and, in a way, it allows for the mystery and terror to grow and develop for the readers. In Prisoner of Azkaban the reader also begins to see a deeper friendship develop between the three main characters, a bond which is tried and tested in interesting ways and, through it all, seems to become stronger and more powerful (an example of which is demonstrated near the end, when all three of the friends work together simultaneously to stop an antagonist from succeeding in his attempts at destroying another character. We are brought back, as readers, to the earlier novel in which the events which take place seem to play out in a way which is believable and, though certainly trying and frightening, are manageable by our three young heroes.


Characterization:
4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.

As mentioned above, there is so much growth and development for both the major and minor characters in this novel. We begin to see who will be important, and who will likely be “supporting cast.” Readers also begin to understand the personalities of these characters and why they make the choices they do. The new characters are brought in with veiled mystery that is slowly unraveled throughout the books – with bits and pieces of back story placed here and there throughout the storyline. Hints are dropped as to characters’ identities and natures with a final resolution that is, if not surprising, certainly important and bound to thrill the reader and inspire one to go out and get the next book. Perhaps some of the best development, outside the continued growth of the three main characters who, unlike in many young adult fantasy novels, do not remain static through the years, but do show marked growth and change from year-to-year and from challenge to challenge (with references to the previous books and events, etc.), is the development of a new character, Remus Lupin, and a familiar character, Severus Snape. The reader is offered a glimpse at their shared path and begins to see just how and why Snape might have grown into such a, well, jerk. Rowling does not make things black and white, however, which is one of the greatest strengths for this series and its characters. Players in this drama are not merely “good” or “bad,” but are complex and deep, with varying past histories and experiences which, we see, begin to unfold and reveal so much more about who they are and where they are coming from (and, perhaps, where they will end up?). Even Snape, who is so easy to hate, is presented with a degree of empathy so as to remind the reader that – be we muggles, wizards, or squibs – we are all human, after all.


Prose/Style:
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

Once again, Rowling’s prose draws the reader in. It becomes so easy sink into this extraordinary world, as if the story is wrapping itself around us and making us not merely observers, but characters in the story. We begin to feel the gamut of emotions which the main characters, particularly Harry, feel: love and hate, joy and sorrow, excitement and terror. That each character’s monologues and style of speech continues to be distinguishable from the other characters is also impressive, particularly when more and more characters that are having greater and deeper interactions with one another, are introduced and developed. I also particularly appreciated the continued development of internal dialogues and reflection, as well as the use of letter-writing as dialogue (I’m always a sucker for good epistolary moments).


Additional Elements:
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.

The setting of the novel, discussed in detail in my reviews for Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets is still incredibly beneficial to the plot. We are introduced to new places – Hogsmeade Village and The Shrieking Shack- which add further appreciation for this wizarding world and help us to continue to grow along with the characters, taking part in the new experiences they are having – whether it be discovering Honeydukes’ candy shop for the first time, and all the tasty treats it offers or visiting The Three Broomsticks pub and sipping our first Butterbeer (granted, vicariously through the characters). We also spend more time with Harry in Diagon Alley at the start of the novel, and we begin to appreciate the many different yet similar activities available to these special (and lucky!) people. Want to spend a day studying outside an ice cream shop – great! But Harry also gets the added treat of learning magical history through the many tales and stories of the wizened shop owner. The good/evil dynamic grows in a more concerted way in Prisoner of Azkaban as we begin to meet and learn about those embodiments of “the good side” and “the bad side” – we know from the start that Harry and Dumbledore appear to be our soldiers for good, and their powerful counterpart is present in Lord Voldemort, but we finally begin to see how widespread, how deep, and how dangerous the Dark Arts go. The intricate plot and its introduction of time as a theme, plus the ultimate resolution (fantastic yet believable, this time) make for a fun but matured installment, which seems to be a turning point for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as a gateway to adulthood and all the struggle and responsibility that will come with it.


Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: Young Adult +
Interest: Friendship, Family, Education

Standard

5 thoughts on “Review: Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban

  1. >That's an incredibly simplified summarization, which makes me wonder if you've bothered to actually read the series. A special school for special children? Yes, except the heroes and role models are the ones demonstrating and teaching the importance of inclusion & of treating "others" as equals, no less important or powerful in their own way as the special class. Also, the varied characters do not allow for a clear deliniation of "good is good & bad is bad" or "rich is good and poor is bad." Some of the wealthiest and most prominent characters are awful and far from praiseworthy, whereas, also, other of the extremely wealthy do all they can to err on the side of goodness and treat all characters and creatures with dignity and respect. Similarly, some of the poor are shown to be vindictive and menacing, whereas other destitute characters are kind and generous in their own way. Perhaps you should open your mind and heart a bit and give something new a try, without the cynicism. I'm not sure what "the glorious day" is referring to, but I'm not sure how one's appreciation for a certain fantasy series would be a barometer for anything at all.

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  2. >Ugh Steppenwolf- Just from that comment I would never read anything that you write (and I don't care how that sounds). I don't expect everyone to love Harry Potter and the world that Rowling has created but seriously saying that Harry Potter is the enemy to the people is a bit over the top…Can I be crass and just say that sometimes it is better to keep our thoughts and comments to ourselves?? Great review BTW! I love these books myself if you can't tell 🙂

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  3. >Thanks, Samantha! I couldn't agree more. I don't mind if someone dislikes a novel I enjoyed, but making such inane comments about one fantasy series' supposed influence on some sort of "damage" on the world when, ultimately, it induced millions of young people around the world to get interested in reading, stretching their imaginations, engaging with a deeper level of the good/bad dynamic, and just simply re-training their attention spans to allow for entertainment longer than a 30 minute t.v. show or fast-paced video game; well, those are all pluses for me. I suppose the Pope probably disagrees, but I doubt he's read the books either. 🙂

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