Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Friday, April 1, 2011

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
By J.K. Rowling

Another summer has past and Harry has suffered through weeks or torment from his relatives, the Dursleys. News reaches him that a vicious murderer, Sirius Black, has escaped from prison. Soon he realizes that Black is more than just you’re average criminal and his escape means danger for Harry.


This is the first book that abandoned the formulaic big battle with Voldemort at the end of the story. Instead it delves into the deeper mythology of the story. We learn a bit about Harry’s Dad’s past and how it relates to Snape’s grudge against Harry.

Crookshanks, a cat the Hermione buys, is a huge character in this book. Rowling’s description of him is perfect… “Its face looked grumpy and oddly squashed, as though it had run headlong into a brick wall.” We find out that Crookshanks has been helping Sirius all along, which makes me wish Rowling had given a little more explanation about who the cat really is. How can he know so much if he’s just a regular feline? Also, it’s interesting the Rowling decided to let all of the students have pets if they want them. What if other students have pet allergies?

There were some things, as always, that were lost when this one was turned into a film. In the book Harry volunteers to approach Buckbeak in Hagrid’s first class. In the movie he’s chosen against his will. That’s a huge difference, because the book demonstrates Harry’s kindness and value of Hagrid’s friendship.

There are a few big series points that are foreshadowed in this book. Professor Trelawney’s prediction in Book 5 is referenced and Dumbledore comments on Pettigrew’s debt to Harry, which is huge in the final book. We also meet both Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang for the first time. They are both Quidditch seekers for other teams. Cedric is friendly to Harry and treats him kindly even though he’s the competition. I love that Rowling introduced these characters, so important in the upcoming books, before their story was crucial. She does a great job incorporating new characters into the fabric of the story early on.

In this novel Neville is compared to Peter Pettigrew (before you know Peter is bad), which is interesting. It once again highlights Neville’s honor. He chooses to stand up for what’s right throughout the series, even though people often perceive him as a weaker character.

The major thing I came away with from this re-read is Snape’s story. Once you finish the series and learn his entire back story, this book becomes heartbreaking. You can see how painful it would be for him to have to work side-by-side with Lupin and see Sirius escape from Azkaban. Obviously he’s not great at moving on and letting things go, but he also can’t seem to catch a break. Even though his bitterness and sour disposition makes him hard to love, he still chooses the right side, even when it’s incredibly difficult.

A few things I'd forgotten about the third book:

1) The two weeks Harry spends by himself in Diagon Alley. He’s only 13 and this is the first time in his life that he’s really on his own.

2) Sir Cadogan, the humorous knight in a painting that takes over for the Fat Lady at the Griffidor common room entrance.

3) Hagrid tells Harry and Ron that their friendship with Hermione is more important than the things they’re fighting with her about. This is a testament to Hagrid’s character and his love for all of them. The movies tend to trivialize him and make him more of a quick joke, but he’s such a great character.

Read for the Harry Potter Challenge hosted here.


Ann Summerville said...

I have never read a Harry Potter book. Am I the only person in America who hasn't?

Amanda said...

I absolutely love this book, it's one of my two favorites in the series. I love that she changed up the ending, I love that it was so positive rather than foreboding at the end, and I love that it wasn't all about Harry. This is the first book that feels like a collective person's journey rather than one person's.

Peggy Tryton said...

Excellent points! I love that we see Harry's sense of loss and finally pride when he discovers who was behind the Patronus.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Cozy - Yes! Read them immediately!

Amanda - Mine too, it's such a great books. The characters and plot mature so much from the first two.

Peggy - Exactly, what a turning point for him, both in his feeling connected to his parents and his self-confidence.

Teacher/Learner said...

I also love Hagrid and I think it's his accent in the book that makes him a joke in the movies ("'Allo, 'ow 'ar ya?") but he is much deeper than depicted. I recall liking this book but not quite as much as the first 2 in the series, so re-reading it will be interesting.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Teacher - I'd agree about the accent, it doesn't translate well to the screen. Interesting that you liked the first 2 more, this one definitely made me love the series instead of just like it.

Anonymous said...

Which movie do you enjoy the most? Just curious. I also love how Rowling made Harry's dad a less than stellar individual since, until that time, the martyrdom of Harry's parents made them seem like two infallible characters who could do no wrong.

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

This is my favorite from the series, I think.

For pet allergies use a deflecting spell?

BookQuoter said...

This is my favorite too. I wish Sirius didn't die.
Love your sentiments about Snape, he is my favorite character, can you believe it?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Captain - Of course! I didn't really think about the fact that they have magic. Allergies probably aren't an issue.

BookQuoter - The slow reveal on Snape's character is one of the best parts of the series!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

ssbxvm - The 3rd movie is actually my least fav. It had such a different tone form the rest. I loved the first film, because everything was so new and exciting. I think my favorite is probably that one and the 7th (part 1). I've loved watching the characters mature and the last one did such a great job showing that.