In this third novel in the Harry Potter series, Rowling is showing her maturity as a writer in creating more intricate plots, delving into Harry’s personal history, and deepening the characters. New characters, like Professor Lupin, were so great, I wanted to spend more time with them.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Originally published: 1999, UK (and US)
Rating: 4 = Recommended Reading
*2014 Reading Resolution: Modern Woman Writer – I should have been counting these novels all along!*
• More complex storyline
This book includes more of Harry’s past with the stories and characters of Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and Harry’s father, James. The stories of these characters add depth to the magical world Rowling has created, as well as flesh out the personal background of Harry, our central character. The more complex storyline allows Rowling to discuss previous generations at Hogwarts, new (to the reader) magical abilities, and Azkaban, the wizard prison. I could have heard even more stories from Harry’s father’s time at Hogwarts, and do hope Rowling will include some more later in the series. It seems like the complexity of these novels will only continue to increase from this point, which makes me hopeful that Rowling is out of the 2nd book rut (with an almost identical plot line to the first).
• Developing characters
Not only are Rowling’s storylines becoming more complex, but the main characters are showing more development than in the previous book. The trio—Harry, Ron, and Hermione—are growing up and Rowling is fleshing out their characters well.
Harry’s character depth comes from his desire to murder Sirius after hearing the story of why Sirius ended up in Azkaban. While Harry has been in some dangerous situations in the previous books, this desire to kill another human being is new for Harry and shows that he is both growing into an adult and that he has powerful emotions.
Ron’s depth comes from his protectiveness of Scabbers, his pet rat, and his intense grudge-holding against Hermione and particularly her cat Crookshanks. More than ever before, this novel shows Ron’s devotion to his pet (which also seems to extend to people) as well as his sensitivity to people who he believes have wronged him; he does not seem to forgive easily.
Hermione’s growth is more subtle, but she has been built up so far in the series as a very studious person who loves learning and school. In this novel, she faces a very full course load which causes her emotional distress and she drops Divination class because she doesn’t believe the divination powers are real. This reveals her skepticism and that she isn’t some super-student who cannot be affected by the stress of her work.
What Didn’t Work:
• Dementor confusion
I found that I had many questions about the dementors that were not sufficiently answered by the novel. The guards of the Azkaban prison, the dementors feed off of human happiness, leaving a person with their worst memories. Harry comes in contact with the dementors multiple times in this novel. They show up in the strangest places (like on the train) and at the most inopportune times (in the middle of a Quiddich match) when Harry encounters them. It makes it seem like the dementors are after Harry, but are they? Or, do they just affect him worse when he is in their vicinity (as Lupin tells Harry—he has more horrible memories than his classmates). If that’s true though, and Harry is just affected more than the others, then why don’t some of the adults suffer like Harry does? Don’t some of them have comparably terrifying memories? I am left with more questions about the dementors and how they function, particularly in relation to Harry.
Before reading the books, this was not my favorite of the films; I found the time-traveling bit at the end made the scenes too redundant. After reading the book and re-watching the movie, I am of a similar mind but for different reasons.
The first half of the movie was well-condensed and kept to the main points while shortening the long bits (like all of the Quiddich playing). I understood the choices they made here and it was well done.
The second half of the movie was more focused on the time-travel storyline than the Black/Lupin/Pettigrew situation. Not the choice I would have made (since I found the Black/Lupin/Pettigrew storyline way more interesting) but there was only so much room in the film for the information in the book (and they did hit the high points).
This is my favorite book in the series so far because of the increasing complexity of the plot and character depth the novel provides. I’m looking forward to the 4th book!