There’s a reason why the third book in the series, Prisoner of Azkaban, is considered one of the best Rowling as ever produced. It is perhaps the most enchanting, delightful, heart-warming and captivating instalments yet. And whilst a clunky first third retraces old stories and mechanically drops hints and clues throughout an otherwise engaging narrative, the final third is a bombastic and unruly affair that celebrates magic and imagination.
I have a few problems with this book but they all seem like necessary evils. Indeed, Rowling’s decision to weave the tapestry with odd threads that jot and poke out at rebellious angles serves the revelations and changes made in the third act but they could have been done with a softer hand. At times dialogue and clues are so ear screechingly obvious that it feels like Rowling forgets her audience is as smart as Hermione. She forgets that she can drops the clues and her as usual signature mysteries in without having to highlight it with a pen and flashing lights and her readership will seek it out nonetheless. But, as I’ve stated, you can’t really blame her if the end product benefits as a result of all the bells and whistles.
What truly grabbed me about Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets was the mystery and the intrigue surrounding the nefarious narrative and the jovial world building but Azkaban goes another route. Of course it still expands the world with more talk and appearance of Azkaban and the Dementors but it is actually the growth and the maturity that strikes a real resonating chord. It is a difficult thing that Rowling achieves: subtly altering the tone and the mood of the books one after another as her readership grows and expands whilst still retaining all the heart Harry Potter is known and loved for.
The foundation of this now iconic world is still very apparent even as this creepy and twisty narrative unfolds. I’ve seen and experienced this story so many times but the way Rowling talks of this world with wondrous and glistening eyes adds another element. It heightens the experience and she helps you create a world you just want to escape to. I adore world-building exercises – it’s why I love Ready Player One despite all its faults and flaws – and Rowling is a master in that particular game.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best book in the franchise yet. It manages to nail the fusion between being subtly and eerily frightening like a dark shadow lurking in an alley but bright and bustling like a colourful market. It’s a fusion of worlds that catapults our heroes forward extremely efficiently with growth and maturity the foundations of this particular tale.
Score: ★★★★ ½