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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Full Review
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Lupin nodded grimly. "The fortress is set on a tiny island way out to sea. But they don't need walls and water to keep the prisoners in. Not when they're all trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most of them go mad within weeks."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Full Review

by JK Rowling

The third book in the Harry Potter series is read once again by Stephen Fry who puts in his usual excellent performance, reading the first of the Potter books to feature truly dark themes.

This is a gripping novel which holds the reader's attention from start to finish with a constant air of lurking threat and impending confrontation.

This novel makes good use of the magical inventions - inventions that Rowling is so good at dreaming up - to create a plot which is strongly dependent on magical tools and techniques in its resolution, but which is nonetheless remarkably easy to follow once these magical ideas are understood. Reader's are introduced to the Marauder's Map, the Knight Bus and the Dementor's Kiss, and other such magical ideas without which the Potter series would be incomplete.

Unusually in Azkaban, it is Rowling's characters who are not entirely convincing - particularly the terrifying Sirius Black and the even more daunting Dementors. These archetypal beings give the impression of being less well thought through than the more human, and more mundane new characters who first make their appearance in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Professor Lupin - reticent, enigmatic, and with an air about him of a wounded, but determined hound - is altogether more accessible. But he is in some ways quite as formidable as Black. The bespectacled Professor Trelawney is another interesting new character. A curious mixture of the insecure and the outrageous, she doesn't really fit in at Hogwarts, but nonetheless she seems to have some sort of role to play in the overall scheme of things. It is not immediately apparent when reading Prisoner of Azkaban, but Trelawney's storyline is quite as fascinating as the other aspects of the novel.

The problem with the Dementors and Black is hard to pin down, but there isn't quite the same powerful underlying logic to these creations as to the other characters in the series. It is a curious thing about Rowling's character's that the darker the forces propelling their actions, the less convincing the character.

Of the three main characters - Potter himself, Ron and Hermione - it is with the last that problems of characterization begin to creep in at this stage in the series. With Hermione, it is as though Rowling attempts to create a sort of supergirl with flaws.

The result is Hermione works very well in moving the story forward. but alas, too frequently, Hermione is aware of details in the story that only she and the author seem to know. Too frequently she appears more of a narrative device than a real character. Her actions seem to derive from a need for something to be said or done or experienced for the sake of the plot, rather than from the motivation of a consistent character with a consistent personality. This is again a disappointment given Rowling's very real talent in creating characters.

Prisoner of Azkaban raises in the mind of the reader some questions about how the wizarding world goes about policing itself and dispensing justice. This theme is clearly not incidental to the storyline. The question was hinted at - perhaps more than merely hinted at - in Chamber of Secrets and the theme is further developed here.

Looking more deeply at the story there clearly are other themes waiting to be discovered, not least in the actions and attitudes of the story's most accessible characters as they try to engage with their not always ideal situations.

Bloomsbury Publishing

Unabridged Audio CD Edition – 2006

Read by Stephen Fry

Litrev Rating

Overall 5______

Suspense 5______
Characters 5______
Plot 5______
Audio 5______
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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