Wednesday, 9 August 2000

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)

Edition: Bloomsbury, 2000
Review number: 569

The third Harry Potter novel, describing his third year at Hogwarts school for wizards, continues in the same vein as the previous stories. Driven beyond his tolerance by a visit to the awful uncle and aunt who look after him from an even more awful aunt, Harry flees home in the last weeks of the summer holidays after inflating her like a balloon. (Of course, he is forbidden to practice magic in the holidays, and to reveal magic to a Muggle - non-magical person - is a serious crime.) Travelling to London, he stays in the magic market area of Diagon Alley, relieved that he is not being expelled from school or even arrested. He discovers that this is because a mass murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the magical prison of Azkaban and is thought to be trying to track down and kill Harry, and the authorities are more interested in protecting his life than anything else.

Returning to school, Harry not only has this to worry about, but he is also extremely sensitive to the Dementors, monster guardians of Azkaban designed to protect the school from Black, and his is depressed because alone of the third years he has been unable to persuade his guardian to sign a permission form allowing him to spend time in the nearby, purely wizarding, village of Hogsmeade. (The effect of the Dementors on people is in fact distinctly similar to the symptoms of medical depression.)

Once again, the combination of humour, excellent writing and an interesting plot make for a delightful read for children and adults alike. (There are certain small elements, like the Dementors' similarity to depression, which are unlikely to be picked up by children, but they add to the enjoyment of adults.) All the Harry Potter novels rank among the most enjoyable I have read for some time.

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