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

5

The first Harry Potter book was less than fantastic and the second only a little better. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I opened the pages to Prisoner of Azkaban. Non-readers asked me why I was torturing myself, reading books I didn’t enjoy. Avid readers encouraged me to keep going, adamant that I’d see how great the series was. I’m not trying to purposefully agitate all the Potterheads out there, but I must admit Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was exactly what I expected.

I may have never have picked up the Harry Potter series if not for the Vampire Academy series. This series continues to be my favorite in the YA genre. Last year, I decided to re-read the whole series and what was released of the spin-off series, Bloodlines, before the release of The Fiery Heart. It was then I discovered a terrible truth. The first two books of Vampire Academy were…. lackluster. What had enthralled me at 17 was still exciting, but not nearly as much as I had thought it was. Then, it dawned on me. This is the way of the YA genre. The first few books are always lackluster, despite all the potential the story has. They have to lure in young adults who may not be used to reading large, complicated books. Then, once they have their attention, they can take them along for a greater ride than they ever thought books could give. So was Vampire Academy written and so I expected Harry Potter was written.

So I suffered, giving the first two books poor reviews because they were poor. Still, I saw the potential and continued on. The Prisoner of Azkaban started slowly. I not impressed until about half way through the book. Then the mystery started to pick up and I started to wonder exactly what was going on. Having finished the book, I still wonder. This has grown beyond foolish child-play. Dear Harry is only 13-years-old and he seems to have far more enemies than Voldemort. This book reminds me very much of Shadow Kiss, the third book of the Vampire Academy series. All of a sudden, all of these innocent, childish ideas are taking on a far more serious tone. Thing that used to be little more than pranks are now taking a darkly sinister turn. I dare say, I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

While I still feel J.K. Rowling missed many opportunities to bring more interest to the book through better descriptions, I no longer think this is my largest problem with the series. I don’t think the third person resonates with me. I can’t connect with characters; I can’t lose myself in the book. It’s just personal taste. That said, this book rose beyond that. I can’t call it a favorite of mine, but it was quite the read!

While I lack the connections I feel to characters in my favorites books, I admit I felt for Hermione in the Prisoner of Azkaban. I could devote a whole post to this, but I’ll save that for another day. For now, I will just say that her way of taking on more than she can chew, of trying to learn and absorb everything she has a chance of getting her hands on, is very much like myself. So I was at 13 and so I am now.

I could devote a whole other post to Snape, who seems to be a textbook case of a bitter victim of bullying transformed into a bully himself. I know some secrets about Snape from watching the movies that I can’t forget. Even without those movies, though, I don’t think I’d see Snape as evil. He’s just bitter. It’s unfortunate and I don’t feel like I can say more about why he is quite so bitter until I learn more about him.

In the end, I am left with more questions than answers. Is seems like little Harry Potter is playing a part in some master plan. I hate to point the finger at Albus Dumbledore, but he seems to be the one most frequently pushing Harry towards these great dangers. He also seems to know Harry has the power to overcome them. Still, I can’t help but feel that everything that has occurred up to this point has been a part of some master plan. Whether it is a part of Dumbledore’s plan or a plan Dumbledore is fighting against I have yet to know. All I can say for now is, unlike the first and the second book, I finished, this the third book of the Harry Potter series, excited to read the next.

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling”

  1. A lot of die hard Potterheads would faint that you would use lackluster and Harry Potter in the same sentence. I think we all come at our Harry Potter phase at a certain age, where the book becomes more than a book for some because they grew up with the series. And this is about the same thing that I feel with Twilight, but that’s a different thing altogether. With saying that…
    I’m glad you decided to read the book. I promise you sh*t goes down later on. The older Harry gets, the more complicated the story gets. And this is evident by the 5th book, but the 4th is where you first see it happen.
    I think Harry Potter transitions from middle grade to YA in the 4th book and then the 7th is just the graduation from YA.

    1. Yeah, I’ve started the 4th one and I can feel the difference right away. It’s almost like a different book entirely. Things are described in more detail and topics are more serious than ever before. I’m a little amazed. It seems clear to me the first three were nothing more than a hook. Me? I would have preferred the books be that big and complex from the beginning. But then, that’s why I don’t read too much YA anymore. I don’t’ like reading a few slow books until it gets good. I want something good from the beginning.

      1. Yeah it took Jo Rowling a while to but she got there. I bet she would have re-written the first books if she could. But yeah, I get you with not reading YA anymore. I’m currently reading a YA book that supposedly got insane good reviews, but is just so all over the place and not in a good way.
        What series would you say that you enjoyed from the very beginning?

        1. I still read a little. Everything by Richelle Mead is like crack to me. But this is defiantly a trend in YA. Even my favorite series start out slow. Even The Hunger Games are slow, which is why the movie skipped the first half of the first book.

          That’s not bad. I think some people like being slowly guided into a story. It’s just not really my preference these days.

  2. Askaban is my favourite of the HP novels and was the one that first properly engaged me and made me enthusiastic about reading the rest of the series (I was reading them because, as a literature teacher, I wanted to make myself aware of what my students were reading). I too can very much relate to Hermione, both from my own school dats and now. In fact, my kids often tell me, “You’re being a total Hermione right now”. Snaps was always my favorite character, possibly because I was first reading the books as an adult and a teacher. My interpretation is that we see him as a nasty bully in the early books as his role is shaped by his interactions with the child characters and that is how they perceive him. He becomes a more complex character only as they gain insight into his character and learn more about him. He turns out to be – in my opinion – the most well-constructed character in the series.

    1. So you read Harry Potter with a similar mind to my own. I’m tired of hearing people rant over them like they are the best thing since sliced bread. I want to see what the fuss is about. I still think Vampire Academy is better, but to each their own.

      I’m starting to have an emotional connection to Hermione. The way she acts is so like me and the way she is treated is often similar to how I was. I just want to jump in and punch a kid “DON’T MAKE FUN OF HER JUST BECAUSE SHE’S SMART!!!”

      I don’t think even my young self would have seen Snape as evil. He’s too much like a bully victim. The kids are often really mean to teachers and I don’t like that either.

  3. I really liked books 3-5; but I was too scared to watch the prisoner of Azkaban movie (these dementors or what they are called are something I don’t want to see on the screen). Young Hermione is awesome, she’s one of the few YA heroines I could and can identify with at least to a certain degree (both in looks and character). Glad you kept reading despite the first two books! It’s not the best series of YA literature, but not the worst either.

    1. The Dementors reminded me of Myrddraal (from The Wheel of Time) in how they were described. I don’t know what it is about a face with no eyes that is so terrifying, but there it is. I wonder what Dementors did before someone decided to keep them in prisons…

    1. I’m still hoping it gets better. This one still doesn’t live up to the hype Harry Potter gets, but it wasn’t a bad book. I can’t argue that.

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