“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” by J.K. Rowling

16 Nov

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” by J.K. Rowling (317p)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third novel in the world famous seven-part Harry Potter series, released in 1999. In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts a dreaded serial killer loyal to Lord Voldemort has escaped from the once impenetrable fortress of Azkaban and is after Harry, seeking to do what the dark lord could not and kill Harry Potter. Or is he?

As has become the norm, Harry is back at his relatives house in Surrey and is thoroughly miserable, enduring another summer of ridicule, suspicion and utter boredom. His Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge, is also visiting. At dinner one evening she mocks Harry, his upbringing and his deceased parents, to which Harry erupts in anger, losing his temper so badly he inadvertently causes Marge to inflate with air and float away into the night sky. He then decides he cannot spend anymore time at the Dursley’s and runs off, taking his chest and belongings with him. He is picked up by the Knight Bus, the bus for magical wizards lost without transport, and taken to the Leaky Cauldron in London. Harry spends the rest of the summer staying at the Leaky Cauldron where he first learns of Sirius Black, a man that escaped from the supposed impenetrable wizards prison of Azkaban seemingly intent on murdering Harry due to his loyalty to Lord Voldemort. Harry stills packs off to Hogwarts with Ron and Hermione anyway, believing himself to be safe under the protection of Dumbledore and the secure surrounds of Hogwarts Castle.

At Hogwarts, there are two new teachers: Remus Lupin for Defence Against The Dark Arts, while Harry’s friend Hagrid is the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher. The Dementors from Azkaban, soulless spirits that suck the happiness out of everything they encounter, patrol the school in search of Sirius Black. But it is at Hagrid’s first class of the semester where things first go wrong – to make an impression he has brought a hippogriff (the mythological mare/eagle cross-bread), but the animal attacks Draco Malfoy after Harry’s perpetual enemy insults it, resulting in Lucius Malfoy filing a letter of complaint and condemning the beast to an execution. The Dementors patrolling the grounds also seem to further effect Harry, causing him to faint and lapse into a state of unconsciousness, so he receives private lessons from Lupin in how to defend himself against them learning the patronus charm. Meanwhile, tensions between Ron and Hermione escalate as their pet rat and cat go to war with each other, while Harry receives a brand new firebolt broom, the fastest in the world but Hermione’s suspicions believe it is a dangerous “gift” from Sirius Black, still at large.

Over Christmas Harry is given the Marauders Map from Fred and George Weasley. The Marauders Map is a bewitched map of the Hogwarts castle layout that shows the movements of everyone in the castle as well as all the secret passageways in and out of the castle. Harry uses it to sneak out of the castle and join Ron and Hermione in the village of Hogsmeade, and again uses it to overhear the Minster for Magic discussing Black’s connection to the Potter family where it is revealed Sirius Black was Harry Potter’s godfather, best friend to James Potter and Harry’s legal guardian. Black was named the Potters’ Secret Keeper and he supposedly revealed the Potters’ secret whereabouts to Lord Voldemort and murdered their friend Peter Pettigrew, as well as the twelve Muggle bystanders to try and escape. The news devastates Harry and he vows revenge on Black, telling a stunned Ron and Hermione he plans to kill him.

But for now the three are busy revising for the end of year exams. After Harry passes his Diviniation exam he learns of the hippogriff Buckbeak’s imminent execution that night and set off to visit Hagrid to console him. At Hagrid’s hut Ron’s pet rat Scabbers appears once again, biting him, so Ron runs off to find the rat but it has taken refuge in the Whomping Willow where a large dog attacks them and takes the rat and Ron under the tree. Harry and Hermione follow and discover it leads to a tunnel to inside the Shrieking Shack where they find Sirius Black. Black was the dog, his hitherto unknown ability to transform explained, and Harry confronts him. Lupin then arrives and disarms Harry, where all is explained. Black was not the Secret Keeper, it was Pettigrew, who is also able to transform into an animal – a rat, no less. Pettigrew is revealed as Voldemort’s servant, who convinced the magical world it was really Black who betrayed the Potters to Voldemort, and thus resuming his life in hiding as a rat for so long. Lupin further explains he is a werewolf and that he, James Potter, Black and Pettigrew used to hang around in the Shrieking Shack on full moon nights to keep Lupin company.

They head back to the castle with Pettigrew under arrest but that night is a full moon, Lupin transforms into a werewolf and Pettigrew escapes. Black transforms into a dog to defend Harry from Lupin but is badly injured, just as the Dementors arrive to claim his soul. But Harry sees a mysterious figure in the distance cast a powerful stag-shaped Patronus, scattering the vicious creatures. Harry becomes convinced it is his father, or at least his father’s spirit, who produced the Patronus. Black is then captured and taken to the castle where the Dementors intend to perform the Dementor’s Kiss, thus sucking out his soul.

Hermione reveals to Harry that she was entrusted with a time-travelling device called a Time-Turner, which is how she was able to attend simultaneous classes. Prompted by Dumbledore, she and Harry travel three hours into the past, watching themselves go through the night’s previous events. They set Buckbeak free and return to the Whomping Willow. As the Dementors are about to attack the “other” Harry and Black, Harry realizes that the mysterious figure he saw earlier was actually himself. Armed with the new memory of his talk with Black, he casts the powerful Patronus that repels the Dementors. Harry and Hermione free Black, who escapes on Buckbeak as the two return to Dumbledore and resume their normal timeline. At novels end, Harry travels back to London to spend another miserable summer with the Dursley’s, his mind totally on the godfather he wishes to be with instead.

One of the important things to note about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is that it represents a real shift in the direction and feel of the novels. Where the first two are, at the heart of it, intended for children this is different. It feels more adult, it’s darker with murder, betrayal and revenge being the key themes. It is also my second favourite in the series as I loved it, have re-read it several times and enjoyed the film version the most. It is a very fast-paced story and the school year flies by, often taking secondary importance to the story of Sirius Black, who would become a major figure in Harry’s life later on in the series.

It is full of fun little subplots as well like the complex developing relationship between Ron and Hermione, which would culminate in the final book. As it is, Harry Potter and the Prisoner and Azkaban is a fun little novel that entertains and takes little time to read. I heartily recommend it, even for people that were turned off by the first two as this one really does appeal to both children but even more for adults.

9/10.

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One Response to ““Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” by J.K. Rowling”

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  1. Draco Malfoy Updates » “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” by J.K. Rowling … - November 16, 2008

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