Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
After finishing the third book in the Harry Potter series, this was the first book I’ve read that justified a lot of the hype for the series. As Potter and friends are beginning the third year at Hogwarts, the big news is that Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban. Azkaban is a prison for wizards. Instead of walls, there are creatures called Dementors that drain the will out of those they see. Sirius is a known disciple of Voldemort and was responsible for a massacre of numerous muggles, and the rumor is he’s going to Hogwarts to find Harry.
The set up of the book didn’t have me particularly excited, and I was dreading a predictable twist when Rowling left several breadcrumbs to point to the new teacher either being or helping Sirius. Not only did Rowling come up with a much better twist, but it also added a lot of new depth to Harry’s own family history and the possibilities of magic in this world.
The best part about this book was the supporting characters finally getting to do things on their own and have their own character arcs. In particular, Hermione, Severus Snape and Professor Lupin provided more interesting character development than the first two books did with all of the side characters. Lupin and Black were very interesting additions to the cast of characters, and even small appearance characters like Professor Trelawney of Divination and Crookshanks the cat provided additional mysteries to keep the plot intriguing.
The five stars I’m giving this are not without reservation however. **Spoilers follow** While I enjoyed the ending in terms of who was responsible for what and making all the pieces fit, the actual climax involved a time travel element that was frustrating in its execution. Besides leaving logistical questions of how others didn’t see the two good guys traveled along their course without being seen, I can’t help but think that catching a rat would have been a better use of their spell than saving a bird creature. I’m cold, I know. **End of spoilers**
Still only towards the beginning of this series, I think it’s really interesting how the books are getting more complex as the characters are getting older. Besides Harry noticing the opposite sex for the first time and the violence getting a bit more threatening, the page counts are going up and the plot twists are getting ramped up. I’m experiencing something similar in the Repairman Jack series I’m reading, but that is after the fact that the author went back and wrote some young adult books about the protagonist’s early years. It’s a really clever idea for a kid’s book series to age with the readers and now I’m curious if there are other good series that follow a similar development.