Thursday, November 7, 2013

Revisiting Potter, Part 3: The Prisoner of Azkaban

I’m going to be honest—I could blow through all these Harry Potter books in the next couple of weeks, because I am absolutely loving this re-read. I’m not going to do that, though, because I’m trying to spread them out so that maybe after this time around, I’ll remember one from another.

Prisoner of Azkaban is probably the one I know best, because my husband adores the movie, and until recently, it was the only one in our collection. (He’s a film nerd, and it’s partly because Alfonso Cuaron directed it.) During this re-read, this is the only one so far where I remembered exactly what was going to happen, and I could even picture the movie scenes as I read the words on the page.

Maybe it’s because of this familiarity or maybe it’s because it’s just that good, but so far, I definitely think this is the strongest in the series…and while I hesitate to say it’s the best overall, that may very well be true as well. This is when Harry Potter, to me, becomes Harry Potter. This is when it gets real, when we start down that road of what’s going to be a long adventure for Harry and his friends towards the big picture. And so much of what is introduced here carries through the rest of the series. Here is where we meet the Dementors and Professor Lupin and Sirius Black, and learn about Azkaban, and frequent Diagon Alley, and uncover the mystery about Harry’s parents’ deaths.

In the briefest of brief plot summaries, the new year at Hogwarts begins under the threat that one of Voldemort’s inner circle, a murderer named Sirius Black, has escaped from Azkaban. And no one ever escapes Azkaban. The wizarding world is under lock-down, and to make matters worse, Harry overhears a conversation that blames Black for his parents’ death and surely he’s out and looking for Harry to finish the job.

Everything in this book takes the Harry Potter world to a new level. History is revealed as it paves the path for the future. We’re learning to settle in for a long, nuanced story that takes time to reveal. These are no longer brief action-adventure books; there’s more to the stories than that, and we’ll learn as we go. Not only that, these characters are maturing, and their issues are getting more relatable to their adolescent audience. Hermione, for example, spends half the book snubbed by Ron and Harry. Throw on family stress, peer pressure, and academic anxiety, and this Harry Potter is essentially a guide to the life of a 15-year-old.

I feel with this one like we’re really into it now. Goblet of Fire is the first qualified chunkster of a novel, and it doesn’t get any simpler from here on out.

In closing, with the wise words of Albus Dumbledore:

“But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” 

(I cheated—this line is only in the movie and not the book. But it’s the best quote of “wise words” from either telling of Azkaban.)

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