Harry Potter is lucky to reach the age of thirteen, since he has already survived the murderous attacks of the feared Dark Lord on more than one occasion. But his hopes for a quiet term concentrating on Quidditch are dashed when a maniacal mass-murderer escapes from Azkaban, pursued by the soul-sucking Dementors who guard the prison.
It's assumed that Hogwarts is the safest place for Harry to be. But is it a coincidence that he can feel eyes watching him in the dark, and should he be taking Professor Trelawney's ghoulish predictions seriously?
The third book in the series, Prisoner of Azkaban has always been one of my favourite Harry Potter books. For me, the adventure really begins here. It is darker than the previous two and reveals truths that shape the rest of the series.
Harry begins his third year as a Hogwarts student by running away from the horrid Dursleys and finding out that Sirius Black, the escaped Azkaban prisoner, wants to kill him on behalf of Voldemort. When images of a huge black dog begin to haunt Harry, Professor Trelawney's prediction of his death don't seem too far fetched!
What I love most about this book is again the history Rowling reveals bit by bit - the truth of James and Lily's murders; James's friendship with Lupin, Black, and Pettigrew; one of the reasons behind Snape's all-consuming hatred and bitterness. These are backstories that shape not only the narrative and future books, but the characters that readers have come to know. For me, these revelations make Rowling's story and characters three dimensional. She has created an entire world where past actions significantly impact the present, and she brings it all together one piece at a time. Is it any wonder I'm on the edge of my seat reading these books, unable to put them down?
PoA is a well rounded book. Yes, it has darker elements, but there's still light in that darkness, which shines through in the many humorous - and simply human - moments. Harry, Ron and Hermione's friendship is pushed to breaking, which I enjoy reading because friends do fight - especially friends with such distinctly individual personalities and goals. Indeed, Hermione stands out throughout this book, sticking up for what she believes is right and even toeing the line when it comes to rules!
Overall, Prisoner of Azkaban paves the way for the rest of the series. Harry's journey has only just begun, and it's great to see him grow as he learns truths he has been denied while growing up.
I have a couple of favourite scenes, one funny, and another heartwarming. I think the first is pretty self-explanatory!
'"Have you ever seen anything quite as pathetic?" said Malfoy. "And he's supposed to be our teacher!"
Harry and Ron both made furious moves towards Malfoy, but Hermione got there first - SMACK!
She had slapped Malfoy around the face with all the strength she could muster. Malfoy staggered. Harry, Ron, Crabbe and Goyle stood flabbergasted as Hermione raised her hand again."
The last, I don't want to give away too much of. In fact, it's so little it won't make much sense at all. If you've read the book, you'll understand. But if you haven't, I'm not spoiling anything, and you'll get it when you read it. It makes me happy and sad all at once, these days.
'Some sort of explosion took place in the pit of Harry's stomach.'
I feel much the same way during that whole scene.