This is an enhanced version of the original review. It’s six-hundred words longer, and has more images including a sketch of Lupin that I made myself.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The Chamber of Secrets was really an experimental mess of a book. But what comes from experimentation? Progress! And the Prisoner of Azkaban is proof that that experimentation paid off. Let’s get right into it.
Edit: I’ll add, that now that I’m nearly done Deathly Hallows, I can say with confidence that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite book in the series, despite it lacking my favourite character, Luna Lovegood.**
You might remember in my previous reviews that one of my big gripes with Harry Potter is that the books took so long to get of the ground. Eight chapters for the Philosopher’s Stone, and thirteen for the Chamber of Secrets. This time, things get started almost immediately, and I’m really happy that Rowling has realized the flaw in her other two and fixed it!
Edit: Right, so I believe that this book did have a slight dip in interest after the Knight Bus, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Goblet of Fire’s awful plummet into boredom until chapter 20.
Is Hogwarts Really Safe?
At first I thought this book would take place in Azkaban, maybe rescuing Hagrid or something. Instead, Rowling has brought a little bit of Azkaban to us. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid tells Harry that Gringots Bank is the safest place to store something, except maybe Hogwarts. I think he was wrong. Hogwarts is possibly the most dangerous school in fiction.
In the first book, maybe it’s safe, if you don’t consider the fact that there’s a Cerberus guarding something inside the castle. Why not somewhere else? Further, there’s the woods just outside full of dangerous creatures. And what about the whomping willow? I’m sure that’s harmed a student or two. The real proof though, is in this and the previous book. In the Chamber of Secrets, there’s a giant killer snake that has access to all the waterways. Real safe, right? And then here, despite large amounts of security, a man with a knife breaks in without issue multiple times! Hogwarts isn’t safe!
Edit: Looking back, Hogwarts is fairly safe, but only in book five. Here’s an overview:
- Voldemort is literally in the castle most of the book.
- Giant snake. Spiders in the past.
- Man with a knife, twice.
- The Goblet is tampered with. Voldemort’s most devoted follower is let in as a teacher. A student dies.
- Nothing! (Luna is also introduced.)
- !!!Killing of a Teacher!!!Death Eaters in the castle!!!
- Swarming with Death Eaters.
So, my statement was fairly valid. Gringot’s on the other hand, has only been broken into twice, and no one died.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was actually very interesting, and I enjoyed most of the middle portion. Not much to criticize until the end parts. I really enjoyed learning more about Harry’s past, about Harry’s father and his three friends.
Edit: Lupin’s classes were definitely the highlight. They were interesting, and adventurous. I also enjoyed the interactions between Harry and Lupin. Why don’t we talk about the new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher for a bit?
I loved Professor Lupin, I think he’s my favourite Harry Potter character so far. In fact, I might do a sketch of him, because my imagination conjured something much different then the movie’s actor. He taught in a practical manner, and helped Harry out a lot. Also, I’m a huge fan of the shabby casual air he had. Quite the opposite of Malfoy, don’t you think? I’d love it if Mr. Lupin returned in the future, although considering what little happens to Lockheart, I’m not getting my hopes up.
Edit: I was right, Lupin does not return, at least not in full force. He comes back in Order of the Phoenix, but it’s not the same Lupin. He’s like… a cheap imitation of Lupin. I was mildly disappointed, but as we know, Ms. Lovegood was introduced in that book, so the pain was numbed. We get our old Lupin back at the end half of the final book. Wow, what a wait, happy to see you again, Lupin!
This is where the weak point is. Honestly, I loved the Prisoner of Azkaban from start to finish, but the climax stood out. Something was wrong. Then I realized, it had the exact same issue as the Chamber of Secrets, the climax was a huge infodump! The information was far more interesting, and I was mostly engaged, but holy! The dump was twice as long this time, and there was no actual action scene afterwards, not a real one anyway.
Worse, it takes forever to get started. The kids meet up with the infamous Sirius Black (a suspicious name for an antagonist), and he just wants to explain himself. He says something along the lines of, “You’ve got it all wrong.” Then for a page or two, Harry and his friends interrupt him and flail their wands threateningly. This scene dragged on until Lupin shows up and the exposition begins.
Look, I don’t have a problem with exposition. My favourite book is probably over 30% infodump [Edit: The Lost World is closer to 40% exposition.], but it’s never used as a way to drive the plot forward, just to explain what’s happening. What is happening in Harry Potter, for books two and three, a lot of the climax is being told, not shown. This is poor writing at its most basic definition.
Edit: Added this entire section.
Sirius Black is a great character. He’s consistent, he’s moderately (not amazingly) interesting, and he’s a bit of fun. I had so much hope for Sirius, but things don’t turn out well for him later down the line. And I don’t mean what happened at the end of book five, that was actually kind of stupid.
What I mean is, Sirius was Harry’s godfather, he was Harry’s last guardian figure. He deserved not only more screen time, but more depth. Sirius is… a two dimensional character. He’s not flat, but he’s also not whole. He has two sides, the badass, biker side, and the happy go lucky dog side. But that’s it. Sirius would beat out Lupin as my second favourite side character, but he’s just so… empty feeling.
There was one vital scene for Sirius Black, and that was the one were Harry and Sirius have a long, deep conversation with each other. The one where they full develop their relationship, and learn a bit about each other. After that scene, every encounter between the two characters was enhanced, both future and past. You remember that scene?
Neither do I. And it’s a shame it never happened, because it needed to. Rest in Peace fully fleshed out Sirius, we are so sorry that you do not exist.
Look, I know I’ve been ragging on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but as I said before, I really liked this book. I think Sirius Black was great character, and I loved the twist involving him, and how the book began straight away instead of halfway through. I’m giving this book fourteen extra points on the previous. Fourteen points for Gryffindor! That’s 76/100! Awesome, if this were a movie, that would be a bit over four stars. I hope it’s all uphill from here, because I’m really starting to enjoy myself.
Edit: As we know, it is not uphill from here. The only book that surpasses this is Half-Blood Prince. Lupin and Sirius were great, as was Harry and his friends. It would be great if Rowling learned the meaning of pacing, but I’ll save that rant for the series overview. See you all next book, I hope you return.
You can find all the reviews at the Harry Potter Table of Contents.
Interested in getting the book yourself? You can buy it here, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (Amazon Affiliate)