Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First a quick note for when this appears outside of Goodreads (on my blog, for example): This review will have SPOILERS and outside of Goodreads I don’t think the spoiler tag is going to work to shield you from the spoilers. You have been warned!
In my last review I (rhetorically) asked Ms Rowling to surprise me – to make Harry lose sometimes and perhaps have the kids not always succeed at saving the day. Ms Rowling gave me that and so much more. As I noted before, she delights in Red Herrings (these books being something like Teen Wizard Noir), so my attention was on high alert this time around. Looking back at my status updates I was right or almost right about the following (will be in a spoiler tag):
-At 33% I predicted that Hermione’s cat was Black or worked for Black. The latter proved to be true and the former showed I was on the right track for the climax – the Animagi reveal. (I restated this around 68%)
-At 36% I thought Lupin might be a Vampire or Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde type. This was due to the potion he had to drink. I was on the right path with the fact that he’s a werewolf, but completely missed the name clue – Lupin. I think I might have been more keen to that clue (lupus=dog in latin) had I not known of Lupin III and thought maybe Ms Rowling was an anime fan.
Yet, even though I’d somewhat guessed a lot of the reveals, I was wholly unprepared for the twist. (view spoiler)[The reveal that the rat was Peter and that HE was the real traitor! (hide spoiler)].
It’s also funny that the saying be careful what you wish for came to pass with Harry. I wanted a more realistic ending and, (view spoiler)[ He loses his chance to have his godfather as his guardian and also has no proof of his godfather’s innocence. (hide spoiler)].
This is one of the darkest books yet – the Dementors are pure nightmare fuel and the ending is pretty dark to match.
Of course, Rowling is quite aware of Chekov’s Gun (look it up on TV Tropes if you don’t know what that means) so Hermione’s method of attending class became a key part of the resolution of the climax. I was a lot quicker on the uptake than Harry and Ron that Hermione was clearly attending more than one class at the same time. I’m surprised that, as characters in a magical world they couldn’t figure that out, even if they didn’t know the mechanism by which it worked. That also caught me by surprise, but I was happy, having recently discussed (view spoiler)[the Time Traveler Paradoxes (hide spoiler)] with my wife that Ms Rowling is quite consistent and nothing about the narrative (view spoiler)[ we see the first time around before they time travel (hide spoiler)] needs to be retconned.
This appears to be the book in which Rowling begins the transition from middle grade book to young adult book. With the exception of a very subtle attraction between Harry and another girl betraying the fact that these kids are pretty unhorny for 13 year olds, the book definitely marks an uptick in the maturity of both the characters and the situations she puts them into. Again, once the full extent of the Dementor’s powers and methods are revealed, it’s pretty clear the Wizarding world is much more dangerous than we were led to believe in the first couple books where the evil was of a more cartoonish nature. In fact, if you consider what (view spoiler)[was supposed to happen to the Hippogriff (hide spoiler)] and how this book reveals that justice does not always prevail over at least two different occasions with life and death on the line, this book presents a very realistic view of how the world can be disappointing and not even the Great Dumbledore can magic people out of every situation. (view spoiler)[Except he kind of does with the Hermione reveal. Still, it was only by trickery and neither his powers nor his reputation that he is able to help them save the day (hide spoiler)]