So here's one other reason I didn't want to re-read "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone": there's probably a good chunk of Dursley (think of that as a collective noun) in the first few chapters, and I just don't think I'd want to put myself through that again. I say this as I look back at the beginning of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" — which I finished the other day — and remember how happy I was to get past chapter two ("Aunt Marge's Big Mistake").
Tell me book number four keeps its Dursley to a minimum?
Where to start with this one though? I'll tell you the first thing that comes to mind: Quidditch, Quidditch, Quidditch, and some more Quidditch.
There was seemingly a lot of Quidditch coverage in book number three. I think we get a front row seat to Gryffindor versus every other House at Hogwarts during the course of "Azkaban." Rowling never lets the writing get stale though, so it's perfectly okay! Plus, Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup for the first time in eons, or something like that, so what's to be upset about? Unless you personally identify with another of the Houses. (I actually think I'd be put in Ravenclaw (huge Edgar Allan Poe fan, don't'cha know?) I know it's not related, shut it)).)
Speaking of things dark and grim, the shift toward even darker parts of Harry's story in this book were very welcome — and I know I will only grow more delighted as the series carries on and Ralph Fiennes, minus his nose, rises again to seek his revenge.
If you just sit and think about Azkaban, about what it really is and what happens there, it kind of has to give you chills. The prisoners sit in their dark cells and slowly but surely have their souls sucked from their beings until they are empty shells. I love it! And the Dementors — the very embodiment of the Grim Reaper, basically — are simply "wicked," to adopt the Ronald Weasley vernacular. The fact that they bring cold air, like death, with them wherever they go is a really nice touch too. I remember seeing the film version of this book for the first time and being totally enraptured by them.
That's enough gushing, I suppose. Let's move onto a couple of bothersome items (I promise you, I'll always find something to critique).
The first of those would be a scene that plays out at the Three Broomsticks pub in Hogsmeade. This is in chapter ten ("The Marauder's Map"), when Harry, Ron, and Hermoine go into the Three Broomsticks to get out of the cold and have a round of butterbeer. Practically just as they sit down, Professors McGonagall and Flitwick, as well as Hagrid and the Minister of Magic, come into the pub and pop a squat at the table directly adjacent to the three young Gryffindors.
Now, of course, Harry doesn't have permission to be in Hogsmeade as Papa Dursley didn't sign his form, so his friends shove him underneath the table and Hermoine directs a Christmas tree in front of their table with her wand to hide them all from view completely (though it doesn't seem like this would be foolproof).
The ensuing conversation between the Minister, the professors and Madam Rosmerta, the barkeep, is where I take issue. The reader — and Harry — learns a lot from this conversation about Harry's parents and their relationship to Sirius Black, who, at this point in the book, is still believed to be a cold blooded killer by everyone. It is a very expository conversation, that is, which is why I wanted to point it out: it just doesn't seem realistic. The Minister explains in detail how Black desired to be the Potters' "Secret-Keeper" (an idea that seems full of holes, by the way), how he betrayed his best friends and came out in support of Ralph Fiennes, minus his nose — and all this in a public place where plenty of people could probably listen in.
And it's not that the information shared would be detrimental were it known to the wider wizarding world; it just seems like the Minister would have preferred a more secure location to discuss any matters concerning a supposed serial killer on the loose. The fact that this is all elucidated for Madam Rosmerta, whom the Minister invited to sit down, does not add to the believability of the episode either.
I don't know, man. The amount of explanation infused into the dialogue of that scene just bothered me. I guess it's better than trying to have Sirius explain it all in a short period of time near the end of the book, but egad (<--- a real word).
Sirius, the character, is the other bothersome item I wanted to mention, by the way. When we finally meet him inside the Shrieking Shack, it's hard to kind of peg who he is really.
Let's think about this through the eyes of someone who has neither read the book nor seen the movie. With that in mind, recall that we are led to believe Sirius Black is a deranged and dangerous man throughout the book. Then, come to find, that depiction of him is shattered and we have to figure out what we really believe about him. There are the facts — that he didn't actually betray James and Lily, that he was never in cahoots with Ralph Fiennes, minus his nose — but I found it was hard to really get a beat on him outside of that. I don't know if I'm making sense, and maybe it's just me, but I had a hard time believing his character, that he would say the things he said or act the way he did. It all felt kind of bizarre, though I could just be reading too much into it.
I shall leave you there to ponder as you will. I didn't (Buckbeak) miss (Professor Trelawney) anything (where did the Fat Lady go?), right?
Nah (Professor Lupin!), didn't think so.
While Peter Pettigrew gets zero out of 10 for being a slimy rat, "The Prisoner of Azkaban" earned itself a very respectable 8.5.*
*Note: This is the second post in what I am dubbing my "Finally Reading HP" series, which will chronicle the journey of my virgin eyes through the entirety of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" novels, with the exception of book numero uno, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."