So fun revisiting these!!!
Harry Potter is my all time favorite series, and I’ve read them all multiple times, but I memorize the films. The Prisoner of Azkaban is still quite similar to its film counterpart, though there are a few small sub-plots from the book that didn’t make it on-screen. It’s also the first book in the series that’s more plot than world-building and otherwise pointless episodes, though there are still a number of those as well. What strikes me most about the series in this read-through is how much time Rowling really spends in episodes that demonstrate character and build the world, but don’t do anything to advance the plot. I’m just in awe of her imagination, and I *love* her whimsical narrative voice. Unlike most books written for middle grade, none of her characters are annoying, either (or if they are, it’s because they’re intentional caricatures). Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all very relatable, even to adults. They feel their ages, and yet you don’t have to be a child to understand their emotions and reactions. This, I think, is part of the “magic” of the Wizarding World. When I’m immersed, I suddenly *become* a thirteen-year-old witch.
The third HP also introduces the character of Sirius Black, and there are plenty of twists and turns. If you’ve never read it before, Sirius definitely doesn’t turn out to be who you think he is. This is also the only book in the series in which the antagonist is not directly Lord Voldemort, but his supporter(s)–whose escape then sets the stage for his actual return in Book 4. This book in many ways is the bridge between the first two more childish stories, in which Voldemort makes weaker failed attempts to return, and the much darker rest of the series. ***Slight spoiler alert***: while the first two books in the series end with total victory, this one is mixed. There’s victory, but there is also a measure of defeat. From here on out, each book builds upon the next, gaining momentum and tension.
I do think the plot toward the end of this one feels just the tiniest bit contrived, though–Rowling has to introduce time travel to make it all work out, which nearly always feels like a device and creates a number of unresolvable paradoxes. Even so, the rest of the story is so engrossing that I can’t fault it more than half a star for that. Besides, the joy of rereading the HP stories (even when I know exactly how they turn out) is mostly about getting sucked in to the Wizarding World. LOVE.
My rating: **** 1/2
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