Thursday, July 11, 2013
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Description: For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.
Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts ... he's at Hogwarts."
Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst. (from the book flap)
My thoughts: I absolutely loved this book!! Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favorite Harry Potter book, and it was great to reread it.
Harry and his friends are older now, and they begin to deal with more difficult situations. Friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and love are all important themes of the book, and all are dealt with in a more adult way than before. In Prisoner of Azkaban Harry and his friends have their first sustained contact with the adult world of wizardry, especially the Ministry of Magic. This is also the first book in the series where adult wizards and their problems are a huge aspect of the plot. Finally, this is the first book to not have a completely perfect ending. Harry, his friends, and his readers are all growing up and discovering that the world can be a complicated place.
Prisoner of Azkaban also introduces some of my favorite characters, Professor Lupin and Sirius Black himself (if you haven't read it yet, you'll see why. I promise). Professor Snape also has a great role; almost every time he speaks, I laughed.
Finally, this is the first book where Rowling's impressive world-building really comes up. One of the reasons many people say that the Harry Potter novels are so popular is because Rowling did an exquisite job at building the wizarding world around the reader: she references many normal aspects of wizarding life in passing, such as the crazy magical candy like Ice Mice (which jumps in your stomach--eek!), and in ways that make it seem like just another part of life. The detail she provides, without overwhelming the reader at any one time with massive amounts of description, makes it almost laughably easy to imagine the wizarding world. Anyway, the reason that I mentioned this here is because this is the first book where passing remarks made in earlier books have been relevant; Hagrid mentioned Sirius Black in the very first chapter of Philosopher's Stone. It is not the last time that important characters are mentioned books before they ever become important.
As to the Christian aspect/suitability of these books: the flawed nature of the outside world especially, but also of some people at Hogwarts, is highlighted in these books. Harry and his friends fight to do what is right, even at great cost to themselves. Rowling shows the difficulty of these choices and the costs that they have to pay for these choices while still leaving no doubt in the reader's mind that their choices were noble and good. The dementors (dark figures who drain the happiness out of anyone who gets too close to them) are similar to the nature of the world in many ways, which attempts to drain us of our joy and swallow us in fear.
By far my favorite Harry Potter book, and the first to truly grapple with problems of the world and doing right.