Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

By: J. K. Rowling

Review By: Alex Frank

This book review contains spoilers. I can’t really imagine anyone being later on the draw than myself in reading the Harry Potter series. But if you have yet to read these books or watch any of the movies, don’t read this. However, if you are already a huge fan and would like to view the opinions of someone who, up until now, had only seen the movies, please feel free to read my book review. Thank you.


         Harry Potter leaves Privet Drive after a fit of rage that accidentally causes his aunt to swell up like a balloon. He has no idea where he is going to go for the last couple weeks of summer vacation, but he also knows that’s not the only problem. A mass murderer is on the loose, and his name is Sirius Black. There is also another problem. He seems to be coming after Harry.

Now the Azkaban guards are said to be coming to Hogwarts, and Harry is supposed to remain within the confines of the school. But what happens when the school is where Sirius Black is hiding?

I have enjoyed, in the two previous books, how Rowling seamlessly fits in clues throughout her writing so that the reader stays interested not only in the everyday lives of the students but also the main plot. She especially did well with this in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. But I had a bit of an issue with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because I felt that what was going on in the main plot with Sirius Black was more of a side note until the ending of the book.

The third book was more focused on the students’ schoolwork and Hermione taking too many classes than it was about Harry and Sirius. Some people might disagree with this and say that Sirius Black was the whole issue of the story. That’s fine of course; I just felt that Rowling talked more about Quidditch, classes, Harry traveling outside Hogwarts, and the dementors then she did about Black.

Also, in previous books Harry was always able to beat his final challenge in a matter of a couple of pages. In other words, everything he faced that was at the climax of the book was too easy for him to beat. What was really nice about the third book was how Rowling expounded on a large amount of information. We get to learn about Black and how he was imprisoned, we learn Lupin’s secret, we meet Peter Pettigrew, and Harry and Hermione have to go back in time to save Buckbeak and Sirius. That is a lot of information at the end that made Harry’s final challenge much more interesting. I was just disappointed that this level of detail about the main plot wasn’t scattered throughout the whole book. It was all saved for the last 80 pages or so.

I didn’t really feel that Harry was ever in true peril. Yes, Black was seen by the Fat Lady and tore her painting. Yes, Black was inside Harry and Ron’s bedroom with a knife. No, no one got stabbed. The student populace was never really in any danger. It was just made to seem like they were. Whereas in the second book, people were getting petrified, a huge Basilisk was roaming around Hogwarts, and huge spiders nearly ate Harry and Ron. Even Ginny Weasley almost died. That seems like a real threat to me rather than a perceived one.

This is not to say that the book wasn’t good. It most certainly was, and I enjoyed it greatly. I just wish that Rowling could find that happy medium between giving a lot of clues and hints of danger in the beginning and middle of the book while simultaneously giving the reader a satisfying ending where Harry faces a real challenge.


Overall Rating: 5

1 Comment

  1. I could not agree more. Black is introduced as “the threat”, but he quickly gets overshadowed by the “guards” dispatched to find him. They menace more regularly, and consistently create more danger than Black himself.
    More often Black feels like an excuse to throw more everyday obstacles in Harry’s path, creating more mini-adventures, though they don’t quite have the same relevance as the first two books did.
    It also feels like the social daily life becomes a bit overly dominant, making the whole story feel very cavalier, while the final “day/night” is heavily divorced from the rest, as all sorts of things smash together.
    I did like how they handled the reveal at the 10th hour, how what was said and done was cast in a new light.
    The story definitely does an admirable job of disguising “the truth”, but in many ways it feels like the whole story can be summed up when Harry remarks that “After facing Voldemort himself, twice, how bad can a lieutenant be?”


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