As I mentioned in my Harry Potter Tag post, I remember Prisoner of Azkaban being my favorite book in the series. And so far, I’d say that still sounds about right, though Sorcerer’s Stone is a close second!
Right off the bat, I loved how much groundwork for later in the book (and series) is laid in the opening pages, like the sneakoscope and Scabbers. And I completely forgot about the Monster Book of Monsters!
There are also so many iconic scenes to the series that take place at the beginning of this book, like Aunt Marge blowing up and the Knight Bus. Seriously, how horrible is Aunt Marge? Blowing her up is a bit extreme, but she definitely had something coming her way for how awful she is. And it was so fun getting our first glimpse of Sirius before the Knight Bus showed up, though technically we shouldn’t know yet that it’s Sirius! Sirius’ introduction as a character is one of my favorite parts of this book, because by the end Harry has a real guardian and a closer connection to his parents. Plus Lupin! It was so fun to see him introduced on the train.
Speaking of iconic parts of this book, what about the Marauder’s Map! I love the scene when Fred and George gift it to Harry, and it’s even more special knowing that the map was created by Harry’s father. And the time-turner?! I love seeing how so many parts of that night that we thought we knew, like Buckbeak’s execution and Harry being saved by his father, actually weren’t what we thought they were. Plus I loved that they were able to save both Buckbeak and Sirius!
Then there’s this amazing scene, when Malfoy overhears Hagrid telling Harry, Ron, and Hermione about Buckbeak’s execution:
“Look at him blubber!”
Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle had been standing just inside the castle doors, listening.
“Have you ever seen anything quite as pathetic?” said Malfoy. “And he’s supposed to be our teacher!”
Harry and Ron both made furious moves towards Malfoy, but Hermione got there first — SMACK!
She had slapped Malfoy around the face with all the strength she could muster. Malfoy staggered. Harry, Ron, Crabbe, and Goyle stood flabbergasted as Hermione raised her hand again.
“Don’t you dare call Hagrid pathetic, you foul — you evil —”
“Hermione!” said Ron weakly.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the boggart and the dementors! Seriously though, so many of my favorite parts of the series take place in Prisoner of Azkaban.
One thing that struck me numerous times throughout this book was how weird it was to see Sirius treated like the bad guy. He becomes such a beloved character in later books and I already know the full story about his wrongful imprisonment, so I kept thinking “Just you wait!” (sorry, but not to the tune of Hamilton) every time someone cautioned Harry to be careful. Oh, and the Firebolt! Another iconic part of the series, and Professor McGonagall taking it away really made me laugh at how wrong they all were.
Speaking of Quidditch, another one of my favorite parts about this book is that Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup! I was disappointed we missed the Sorting Hat again at the beginning of the book, but this more than made up for it. Plus it was great seeing Cedric and Cho introduced in this book. So much foreshadowing for Goblet of Fire!
One thing I noticed in Prisoner of Azkaban that I really disliked was Ron’s treatment of Hermione. He’s so dismissive about her talent and ambition. I mean, what difference does it make to him if she wants to learn as much as she can and take on a bunch of subjects? His only job as her friend is to support her and maybe caution her not to overwork herself too much. Plus, I feel like Harry and Ron should have been able to figure out about the time-turner at some point during the school year. How are they that dense? And I felt so terrible for Hermione about how Ron treated her between the Firebolt and Scabbers. Offering his owl to Crookshanks at the end of the book to ensure it’s actually an owl did not redeem him! Although I will admit it was a cute moment.
I also picked up on a few other nitpicky worldbuilding issues in this book. Like, why is Harry worrying about the Dursleys hearing his quill if he could just be using a ballpoint pen? And how on earth did the marauders manage to make the map? Plus, why didn’t Fred and George not see Peter Pettigrew hanging out in the Gryffindor dormitories? And shouldn’t the map have theoretically helped them find the Chamber of Secrets? Idk. I saw that Rowling elaborated on some of these issues on Pottermore, but my thoughts about Pottermore are a rant for another day.
Overall, though, this was an excellent addition to the series. I loved diving further and further into the wonderful world that Rowling created with this series, and which is a large part of the reason I love the Harry Potter books so much. I mean, really. Do you think these books would be as beloved as they were if it weren’t for Hogwarts and Quidditch and Hogsmeade?
And I love how Rowling concludes each book with something to horrify the Dursleys:
“Godfather?” spluttered Uncle Vernon. “You haven’t got a godfather!”
“Yes, I have,” said Harry brightly. “He was my mum and dad’s best friend. He’s a convicted murderer, but he’s broken out of wizard prison and he’s on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though…keep up with my news…check I’m happy…”
And grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off towards the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last.
Such a perfect way to end the book! Alright, now it’s your turn. Let me know in the comments what your favorite scene is from Prisoner of Azkaban!