Saturday, 27 October 2012

Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
In the third Harry Potter book, all the awesome is brought.  Or, to be clearer, everything I love about the series crystalises in one book, including an "oh, J.K. Rowling you did not just do that" moment.  And, on top of all that, one of my favourite characters makes their first appearance.  As nearly perfect as the series gets.

Published: 1999
Pages: 317 (Bloomsbury, 1999)
Series: Harry Potter #3
First Read: Summer 1999
Times Read: At least 10
Part of: The Harry Potter Readalong

Synopsis: The notorious murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban.  As a supporter of Voldemort, he is out for revenge on Harry Potter for defeating the Dark Lord.  Harry, however, is more worried about the Azkaban guards swarming around the school - until he learns that there is a greater connection between himself and Sirius Black than he knew...

Review: As with Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, I'm splitting this into two sections for those who haven't read the books and those who have.

For those who haven't read the book(s) before
This is my favourite Harry Potter book, and I think it will remain so even after I've finished this readalong.  To me, it encapsulates everything that makes the books fantastic: the magic, the mystery, the characters, the plot, the sense of a fully formed world, the humour and the depth of feeling.  Everything locks together and the clicks into place perfectly.  More than any other book in the series, it makes you aware of just how well J.K. Rowling plotted the individual novels.

I am tempted to say that if you read only one Harry Potter book it should be this one.  Not only because it is the perfect example of the series, but because there isn't a lot of back story and all of it is mentioned (it's missing from later books) so the basic catch up is easy.

And I really have to stop now because anything I say, however oblique, has the potential to ruin the plot.  Go forth and read!

For those who have read the book(s) before
Before I get truly, ridiculously fangirly, I'm just going to bring up the one thing that has always bugged me about this book.  I hate doing it, because I do love Azkaban, but I notice it every time I read the bok so here goes: there is an error with Lupin's lycanthropy (at least, I've always thought so).  He says that without the Wolfsbane Potion he would become "a fully fledged monster once a month" (258) but he only transforms when his by direct moonlight  it happens as they all return to Hogwarts (278) and he doesn't change on the way to the Whomping Willow because "[c]louds were obscuring the moon completely" (296).  So, why not just stay in a windowless room every full moon?  It may cut back on your social engagements but at least you wouldn't change. 

Sorry, that has just bugged me for ages.  On with my thoughts on the book...

SIRIUS!  Oh my God, Sirius!  And Lupin!  But I like Sirius more (sorry, Lupin)!  And timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly stuff!  And That Plot Twist!  Fangirl flail!

And an invocation of depression through the Dementors, who are terrifying.  I don't think the concept of anything else in Harry Potter is as scary (not even the Inferi).  They make you remember your worst moments and there's no relief from it; that to me is horrible to contemplate.  And Harry has to hear his parents dying over and over - this book, more so then Chamber, builds on what it means for Harry to have grown up without a family, and the thread runs right from his wanting his dad to have cast the Patronus to The Forest Again. 

I was going to say that, much as I love Azkaban, it seems more standalone than some of the others - despite Pettirgrew escaping - but there are themes that are constants of the series.  It's also the first time we see Snape's side of things, and get the first real hints that James Potter was a pillock.  I am on Snape's side in how he viewed the Marauders (though less so on how he chose to deal with his teen angst - maybe don't join a group of evil doers, Severus, at least not till you've given it a good long think).  And as much as I love Sirius there are hints in his entire portrayal that he wasn't as badass a teenager as he is an adult.

This is getting a little muddly, mostly because I can't think of how best to convey my love of this book.  You've all (hopefully) read it, you know how awesome it is.  I really think it is the best book in the series as well as my favourite - though Deathly Hallows runs it a very close second.  I think reading Azkaban is what cemented me as a full on Harry Potter fan; there was no going back after this.

Rating: 10/10

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