Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

(Originally posted in 2010 via Booksessed)

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K Rowling 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 0-439-13635-0
Format: Hardback
Vendors: You can get this at pretty much any bookstore or library.

Today’s book is the third installment in the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While there are minute differences between the European and American versions of the novels, I chose the British cover art because I thought it was a vastly better depiction of Buckbeack.

For those who have never read the Harry Potter series, you seriously don’t know what you’re missing. J.K. Rowling has to be one of the greatest writers around the turn of this new century. The series are called children’s books, but the elements of the books that are childish are simply the whymsical aspects. The series is filled with real drama, and, beginning with this, the third installment, a lot of depth and emotional intensity.

The first two Harry Potter novels are light reads. They’re fun, they’re cute, and they’re adventurous. This book makes a flawless transition to a more adult feel, the emotions really run high in this novel. I especially love how easily Rowling can make me feel completely enraged by a character (such as Harry’s Aunt Marge in the beginning of the novel). Harry standing up for himself against his abusive aunt and uncle, kicking open his trunk, pointing his wand threateningly at his uncle and saying “I’ve had enough” is surely a memorable, and basically just badass moment.

This novel not only revs up the emotional intensity, but it’s actually quite action-packed, and peppered with just the right amount of eavesdropped conversations not only to keep a reader consistently befuddled by the ever-twisting plot-line, but also a great deal of light is shed on the story of Harry’s parents, and how their murder by Lord Voldemort came about. The penultimate confrontation between Harry and the men who all knew his father at school keeps a reader completely on their toes, and for the last few chapters, the book is just impossible to put down.

Prisoner of Azkaban is a very nice transition into a more mature kind of literature for the Harry Potter series. It’s sequel, the Goblet of Fire, is when, essentially, all hell breaks loose, and this novel bridges the gap between the childlike adventure of Chamber of Secrets and the emotional depth of Goblet of Fire. While every book in the Harry Potter series is it’s own masterpiece, this is definitely a must-read, and should not be glazed over.

With that in mind, I’d like to make a comment about the film. Having finished the book last night, I was delighted when my sister happened to come across a DVD of Prisoner of Azkaban while cleaning out her room and gave it to me to watch. I was severely dissapointed. I understand that there is a lot to fit in if you want to get all the integral information, and I didn’t even mind some of the corner-cutting, but it was the ridiculous pacing of the film that bugged me so much. I felt like if I hadn’t read the novel, I would have no clue what was going on in the movie. In fact, the novel is so much better than the film that about a quarter of the way through, I just gave up and started skipping scenes to get to the good parts, and even they seemed rushed.

All in all, I have to say the film pales in comparison to the book in almost every way, and not the least of which is the new Dumbledore. I know, I know, a lot of people have really grown to like the new actor who portrays Dumbledore, but both the writing of the film and the acting is a little shabby to me. Dumbledore now switches instantly from cooky old man to angry, super-powerful wizard. He’s all business now. And on top of that, the screenwriters gave him a bunch of ridiculous lines that weren’t in the book at all, that have nothing to do with the movie, going on a rant about how “in dreams we may soar above the highest cloud, swim the deepest ocean,” and how “adults forget to listen to the voice of a child.” What the hell?

But as I said, the book itself is tremendous, and it’s a fan favorite for a reason. I give it 3 out of 5 dog-eared pages, certainly a great read, and a prelude to the intensity that is to follow in the latter portion of the Harry Potter series.

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