3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.
The third novel in the infamous Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling incorporates many of the same elements and characters as books one and two but amplified. In this installment, we are introduced to a few new characters (Remus Lupin, Sirius Black) that play important roles in both the upcoming novels and in Harry Potter’s past, which leads to the development of Harry as he has little to no contact with anyone who had known or were really friends with his parents up to this point. Also, Rowling allows us glimpses at the budding natures of other characters –good and bad- who will play important roles as the Harry Potter saga unravels, including Draco Malfoy, Hagrid the Gamekeeper, Peter Pettigrew, and others. The back-history provided to the reader here is extremely important, and it gives a clearer impression of the life & times previous, during Voldemort’s height of power. That this occurs without the presence of the antagonist (for the first time) is interesting and, in a way, it allows for the mystery and terror to grow and develop for the readers. In Prisoner of Azkaban the reader also begins to see a deeper friendship develop between the three main characters, a bond which is tried and tested in interesting ways and, through it all, seems to become stronger and more powerful (an example of which is demonstrated near the end, when all three of the friends work together simultaneously to stop an antagonist from succeeding in his attempts at destroying another character. We are brought back, as readers, to the earlier novel in which the events which take place seem to play out in a way which is believable and, though certainly trying and frightening, are manageable by our three young heroes.
4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.
As mentioned above, there is so much growth and development for both the major and minor characters in this novel. We begin to see who will be important, and who will likely be “supporting cast.” Readers also begin to understand the personalities of these characters and why they make the choices they do. The new characters are brought in with veiled mystery that is slowly unraveled throughout the books – with bits and pieces of back story placed here and there throughout the storyline. Hints are dropped as to characters’ identities and natures with a final resolution that is, if not surprising, certainly important and bound to thrill the reader and inspire one to go out and get the next book. Perhaps some of the best development, outside the continued growth of the three main characters who, unlike in many young adult fantasy novels, do not remain static through the years, but do show marked growth and change from year-to-year and from challenge to challenge (with references to the previous books and events, etc.), is the development of a new character, Remus Lupin, and a familiar character, Severus Snape. The reader is offered a glimpse at their shared path and begins to see just how and why Snape might have grown into such a, well, jerk. Rowling does not make things black and white, however, which is one of the greatest strengths for this series and its characters. Players in this drama are not merely “good” or “bad,” but are complex and deep, with varying past histories and experiences which, we see, begin to unfold and reveal so much more about who they are and where they are coming from (and, perhaps, where they will end up?). Even Snape, who is so easy to hate, is presented with a degree of empathy so as to remind the reader that – be we muggles, wizards, or squibs – we are all human, after all.
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.
Once again, Rowling’s prose draws the reader in. It becomes so easy sink into this extraordinary world, as if the story is wrapping itself around us and making us not merely observers, but characters in the story. We begin to feel the gamut of emotions which the main characters, particularly Harry, feel: love and hate, joy and sorrow, excitement and terror. That each character’s monologues and style of speech continues to be distinguishable from the other characters is also impressive, particularly when more and more characters that are having greater and deeper interactions with one another, are introduced and developed. I also particularly appreciated the continued development of internal dialogues and reflection, as well as the use of letter-writing as dialogue (I’m always a sucker for good epistolary moments).
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.
The setting of the novel, discussed in detail in my reviews for Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets is still incredibly beneficial to the plot. We are introduced to new places – Hogsmeade Village and The Shrieking Shack- which add further appreciation for this wizarding world and help us to continue to grow along with the characters, taking part in the new experiences they are having – whether it be discovering Honeydukes’ candy shop for the first time, and all the tasty treats it offers or visiting The Three Broomsticks pub and sipping our first Butterbeer (granted, vicariously through the characters). We also spend more time with Harry in Diagon Alley at the start of the novel, and we begin to appreciate the many different yet similar activities available to these special (and lucky!) people. Want to spend a day studying outside an ice cream shop – great! But Harry also gets the added treat of learning magical history through the many tales and stories of the wizened shop owner. The good/evil dynamic grows in a more concerted way in Prisoner of Azkaban as we begin to meet and learn about those embodiments of “the good side” and “the bad side” – we know from the start that Harry and Dumbledore appear to be our soldiers for good, and their powerful counterpart is present in Lord Voldemort, but we finally begin to see how widespread, how deep, and how dangerous the Dark Arts go. The intricate plot and its introduction of time as a theme, plus the ultimate resolution (fantastic yet believable, this time) make for a fun but matured installment, which seems to be a turning point for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as a gateway to adulthood and all the struggle and responsibility that will come with it.
Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: Young Adult +
Interest: Friendship, Family, Education