Nov 23, 2012

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (book 3), by J. K. Rowling

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Intended Age-Group: 9+
Issues of Violence: action violence, bullying, threats of murder, frightening scenes.
Intimacy Level: none
Swearing: d**n, usage of the word "hell" in expressions, b*****d
Recommendation: yes, 4 out of 5 stars (see end of entry) 

Read my reviews for:
book 1 Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone)
book 2 (Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets)
book 4 (Goblet of Fire)
book 7 (Deathly Hallows)

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.
Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his slee, "He's at Hogwarts...he's at Hogwarts."
Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst. 
New Factors:
In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and his classmates are introduced to many new lessons, magical items, and creatures. The first is  a new subject: divination (aka. fortune-telling). It's one of my favorite classes to read about because something funny happens almost every time with the quirky professor whom J. K. Rowling makes out to be an obvious old fraud. I enjoy how the text makes light of fortune-telling and "divination" especially because I don't believe fortune-telling is real or accurate (especially through crystal gazing, tea-leaf reading, or dream interpretation). 
Harry is also introduced to creatures called dementors: guards of Azkaban who keep the convicts complacent by sucking the happiness right out of them and forcing them to relive horrible memories. When Harry encounters a dementor we see into the hidden recesses of his memory. We follow his struggle to understand and defeat the weight of his memories.

Plot: *****
The rest of the story converges around the escaped convict, Sirius Black. Harry, believed to be Black's target, pushes through a stressful year of over-protection from teachers, harsh discovery of his past, and daily death predictions. His friends put forth enormous effort to help pull Harry through this dark time and to pursue answers with him. I admire Harry's determination to master his fears in this book. He goes to teachers for help, practices necessary spells, and runs head on into the mayhem instead of fleeing from it.

The readers delve into a new realm of Harry's backstory, particularly revolving around his father and his father's friends (Lupin, Pettigrew, and Black) and enemies (Snape). Their relationships are crucial for understanding and following the rest of the novels. It also leads into a new understanding of Harry's struggle and longing for a connection with his father and a true father-figure. We follow Harry through the turmoil of hope and despair for a better future and real family.

Characters: *****
This book carries a lot of focus around family. Harry is trying to find a father-figure and also has to tackle the acceptance that his parents were murdered. He struggles through the understanding of vengeance, forgiveness, and anger. It's very powerful and touching -- especially when the truth behind everything is revealed.

On a different note, the rule-breaking of the students reaches a new level in this book, especially when Harry goes against what is safe and advised from professors. He puts himself in harm's way for the sake of "not being left out". This is very understandable for thirteen-year-olds and I can see how it is hard for him to stay behind. Consequences inevitably come from his disobedient actions.

This book has a decent amount of appropriate violence. Most violence is spoken of after the event, for example, the characters talking about an attack or talking about a killing many years ago. The scenes themselves don't enter a lot of violence until the climax at the end where some spells are exchanged, but mostly answers are revealed. A few intense moments where lives are in danger from being soul-sucked or beheaded, nothing graphic is described.

There are frequent mentions of intoxication, particularly from Hagrid. This is a common occurrence through the books until he's knocked back to his senses by some firm words from Dumbledore or Hermione. In this book, when a class he teaches goes badly he indulges in strong spirits. It's not encouraged and he cleans up good with some common sense. :)

Spiritual Content: *****
From a Christian stand-point, I address the issue of "magic" here. No spiritual entities are mentioned.  

Overall Recommendation:
The Prisoner of Azkaban is a very clean and engaging book. It takes the Harry Potter readers to a new level of depth and adventure. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the series (read in order, of course!).

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, released September 2014 from Enclave Publishing. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at

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