Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: J.K. Rowling, April 25—May 8, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦♦♦
A new year, a new nightmare for the world’s unluckiest wizard. The Harry Potter series matures with Azkaban and it’s the best instalment yet.
The world’s most dangerous wizard has escaped from the world’s most fortified prison and is believed to have his sights set on Harry. It’s a story of superlatives, but it works. Rowling’s world is so believable that all of these extremities are credible, and they’re managed in a dramatic way. Motorcades of Ministry of Magic cars and the intervention of Cornelius Fudge sets a serious and dramatic tone.
Following two previous crises, it’s remarkable that the level of threat can be seen in Hogwarts, but there’s no doubt that the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets were child’s play by comparison. The behaviour of the paintings, flitting between comic relief and dramatic foils, is expertly done.
In a format that coincides with school years, beginning as they do with summer misery with the Dursleys and climaxing at the end of term, Potter presents a challenge to Rowling in avoiding a formulaic repetition. She does this marvellously, adding new elements like the Knight Bus and Azkaban to the mix to keep things fresh. Voldemort is wisely absent; an oft-defeated foe can go a bit Dalek on us and lose all threat. Instead, the backstory of Sirius Black is woven masterfully into the complex mythology of the Potters and You Know Who, developing the wider narrative.
Professors Lupin and Treelawny add their own colourful presence, the former engaging with the revolving door of Professors of Dark Arts. And our old faithfuls still have plenty to do: Hermione has a seemingly impossible timetable, Ron has a rat problem, and Hagrid falls foul of more Malfoy mayhem. Perhaps the only underdeveloped storyline is Harry’s brief but instantly forgotten crush on [NAME]. Rarely was there a weaker character introduction; it’s a big ask to remember her next year after a miserly few seconds of page time.
Harry Potter gets into its stride with Azkaban, firing on all cylinders. The world is immersive, the characters are complex and relatable and the story is mesmerising. It’s one of those ones you almost can’t bear to read because you don’t want it to end. You’ll be hooked; a prisoner of Azkaban.