This year, a few of my best friends from college and I decided to buddy read the entire Harry Potter series together. Thus began The Great Harry Potter Reread of 2015. Each month, we read one book and discuss it (admittedly, we’ve already strayed from our intended schedule, but that’s life when you’re all either in grad school or work full time). I didn’t share the first two books on this blog, because…well frankly Sorcerer’s Stone isn’t much to write about and Chamber of Secrets is my least favorite, so content quality would have been very low. However, Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA) was the reread for July, and oh do I have feelings about this book.
Prisoner of Azkaban has always been one of my favorite Harry Potter books, but it wasn’t until rereading it in July that I realized it’s tied for first place in my heart (alongside Order of the Phoenix, my eternal fave but we’ll get to that in September). This book perhaps best symbolizes one of my favorite themes in this entire series: friendship. We follow two parallel friendships in this book – the Golden Trio and the Marauders. As we see Harry, Hermione, and Ron struggle with moments of tension (Crookshanks vs. Scabbers, the Firebolt incident, etc.), we also see their connection its strongest yet, and they come to rely upon and respect each other in a manner that will carry through the rest of the series. On the other hand, the reader is also introduced to the Marauders, both in their idealized form via the Marauder’s Map and the actuality of their current lives. James is dead, Sirius was blamed and put in Azkaban, Peter is assumed dead but lives as a rat, and Remus was left behind. This parallel really stuck with me as I reread Prisoner of Azkaban, and it’s obviously one that we see again (Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix, anyone?).
Hermione Granger is by far my favorite character, and she really shines in PoA. Not only is she a total badass for slapping Draco Malfoy (cough Dramione cough), she also takes none of Trelawney’s crap and drops Divination. The storyline with her Time Turner provides a great insight into Hermione’s character. It’s also a good reminder of how erudite Hermione is: she wants to learn as much as possible, to be better than her classmates who grew up in this world, and she’ll do whatever she thinks is necessary – including time travel. Her character is so much more complex that the bookish girl in the first two installments, and we finally start to see that in PoA.
PoA also introduces some excellent world building elements in what feels like a very natural way to the reader. Harry experiences the Knight Bus and stays in Diagon Alley, so you learn much more about the daily goings-on of the British wizarding world. Third years can visit Hogsmeade on certain weekends, which honestly sounds like the greatest place ever (BUTTERBEER!).
In this third book, we get the first instances of Harry being trained to become the Chosen One. Admittedly he’s learning how to conjure a Patronus in order to repel Dementors, but “Expecto Pantronum!” becomes Harry’s war cry after this book. This is the first of many scenes in which Harry is (often unknowingly) prepared for what is to come.
At the same time, part of why I enjoy this book so much is that Voldemort isn’t in it. Seven books total, and this is the only one where Harry doesn’t “fight” Voldemort. It’s a refreshing and needed break.
AMANDA: “PoA is most probably my favorite HP book – it’s the one that I’ve read more than any of the others, and I never get tired of how clever it is. I honestly feel like PoA is the bonus book in the bunch – it isn’t “Harry goes to school, discovers something sinister about Voldemort, decides to fight Voldemort, beats Voldemort.” Rather, it’s an incredible loop of a story that makes you slowly realize how much care JK puts into her details, plot, characters, and foreshadowing. I also have a deep love for the new characters met in PoA – Remus and Sirius, of course – and the character development of the main trio. (Especially Hermione – there are few things I relate to more than Hermione being crazy about school to the point where it affects your physical/mental health. I also have have strong feelings about unsatisfactory teachers – I would have walked out of Divination too. Oh, and she punches Draco Malfoy. Few things beat that.)
ARIEL: “PoA is one of my favorites of the HP series. I really like the entire plot with Sirius Black, he’s one of my favorite characters. I also like that it’s before she [Rowling] just got too long. I know you [Jane] love world building, but I’m less interested in that stuff.”
EMILY: “I like watching Harry’s relationship with Hogwarts change when he gets the map, like he’s more in tune with it and it becomes even more like his home. I also love that Harry finally gets a family in this one, in Sirius. And I think it’s so great for him that he finally gets to know what his parents, especially his dad, were like as youths. I still struggle with the Time Turner because it’s just SO impossible. I do however appreciate Rowling’s effort to note several times during the novel that something seemed off about her suddenly dis/reappearing. I also love the amount of Quidditch in this book, and experiencing Hogsmeade where we learn more about wizarding brands and stores. That’s always really fun for me.”