This is the third time I’ve read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but the first since finishing Deathly Hallows and first time reading it critically. I’ve tailored this review in the following in mind: the intended audience for the book (much younger than myself) and it’s place in the series.
“Prisoner of Azkaban” is a little over a hundred pages longer than the first two books Rowlings wrote, but still features brevity and brilliant word choice that keeps the pace of the book going strong for her younger target audience without taking away from the more advanced plot. Having built a strong foundation in her worldbuilding of the Wizarding World, Rowlings grew the scoop of her narrative further back in time to when Harry’s parents attended Hogwarts. Unlike the previous two books, the central focus is not on Voldemort attempting to return but the escape of his accomplice in murder of the Potters’ from the aforementioned Azkaban and the threat to Harry’s own life.
Building upon the overall story in the first two books, “Prisoner of Azkaban” changes things up by not involving Voldemort directly in the plot but the results of his actions are ever present. Like “Chamber of Secrets”, Harry encounters magic in the book though this time he’s the one doing the magic directly. Once again Harry spends a good amount of time in the Wizarding World before returning to Hogwarts by staying at the Leaky Cauldron and exploring Diagon Alley, allowing the reader to explore with him. Harry learns about Sirius Black in small doses throughout the book including why the Ministry and others are being overprotective. Besides Sirius, the readers are introduced to Remus Lupin, Buckbeak, and the dementors for the first time though none of them will have a bigger impact than Peter Pettigrew. The depth of the plot, the more mature content, and not-everything-is-made right ending of the book gave readers a sense of things to come while keeping the “innocence” of the first two books. “Prisoner of Azkaban” is not where Harry’s story turns darker, but there is definitely a shadow.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a brilliant transitioning book, not as “light” as the first two and not as “dark” as the series would get, that stands up over time. For many, including maybe myself, it is their favorite book of the entire series.