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

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Book review by Daniela Chamorro Mantica

Ages 9+

Darker than what came before

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good-and that Prisoner of Azkaban will not disappoint.

Twenty-somethings who grew up with the Harry Potter series continuously cite Prisoner as one of the books that had an impact on them when they read it, for good reason. The third book in the series marks a huge development for both the series and the characters. It's darker than the previous books, causing a bump in the recommended reading age by a few years.

The story in Prisoner of Azkaban varies slightly from the simpler mystery of the first two novels. This time around, Hogwarts is threatened by Sirius Black, a madman and murderer who has escaped the wizarding prison, Azkaban.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - black and white - inside

The threat of Black requires that the school be guarded by dementors, hooded Azkaban guards that cause those around them to relive their worst memories. The theme of fear is further developed in the novel with the introduction of boggarts, shape-shifters who turn into one's biggest fear. Rowling uses these dark creatures to send the message that depression and fear can be fought, and not just with chocolate, laughter, and happy thoughts.

Continuing her slow world-building, Rowling also introduces other elements of the wizarding world along with these dark creatures, including Patronuses, Firebolts, werewolves, hippogriffs, Hogsmeade, the Knight Bus, Time-Turners, and the amazing Marauder's Map.

This last object opens up some of Hogwarts' secret passageways and shortcuts, only aiding in the trio's mischief.

Ron and Hermione's rocky relationship develops with the introduction of Crookshanks, Hermione's cat, who repeatedly goes after Ron's cat Scabbers. In reality, the difficulties of Ron and Hermione's friendship goes beyond pet trouble, but the superficial arguments quickly devolve into the fights that will characterize this pair.

Review - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The real meat of the story lies in revelations about Black's true purpose in coming to Hogwarts, his connection to new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Remus Lupin, his connection to Harry, and the truth of the Potters' deaths.

This is not to say that it's a somber book. Harry starts off the book by blowing up his aunt; Snape in Mrs. Longbottom's clothing will be forever imprinted on reader's minds; and Divination professor Trelawney gives dramatic predictions of death and doom.

Hagrid makes his teaching debut. Hermione proves you can be brainy and brave when she takes every class possible and then punches Malfoy in the face. Harry experiences the beginning of his first crush (he really likes Quidditch players). There are no shortage of fun moments among the deeper themes and dark elements. Everything works together, and no element is wasted.

Finally, the ending is like two endings in one, and man, does it deliver-mysteries are solved, revelations made, and identities uncovered, culminating in a suspenseful finale where everything is on the line.

Most of all, the ending promises much more to come, leaving us craving more as we finish Prisoner of Azkaban with Ron's parting words: "Don't let the muggles get you down!"

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