Declared the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year for 1999.
The third book in the Harry Potter series is as readable as the first two. J.K.Rowling has every ingredient that makes a book engrossing; characters we can relate to; characters we can hate; events that turn suddenly funny, suddenly terrifying; narration that does not preach or judge; an unpredictable climax that leaves us feeling both drained and happy, as if we’ve just got off a giant roller-coaster. Can we ask for more?
Harry is now thirteen, and has entered the third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Though a celebrity in school for his skills in Quidditch, and for the adventures that seem to come his way, Harry has to pretend that he goes to a school for incurable criminal boys, to everybody who comes home. For, the Dursleys, his guardians, hate anything to do with magic, and wish to retain their ‘respectability’ in society.
The third year promises to be exciting, right away, as everybody is talking about an escaped mass-murderer. The dreaded Dementors, the guards of the wizarding prison, Azkaban, are everywhere, even on the train to Hogwarts, looking for him. This year, Harry and his friends would be able to visit Hogsmeade, a wizarding village, for the first time. There are the Quidditch tournaments to look forward to, and a new teacher to teach Defence against the Dark Arts.
But nothing seems to work out the expected way. The Dementors have a terrible effect on Harry, much to the scorn of Malfoy and gang. Harry soon learns that the escaped convict Sirius Black was the one who betrayed his parents to the dark wizard Voldemort, and that he was at Hogwarts to get Harry now. The result, no Hogsmeade weekends for him, as a security measure. To top it all, his friends Ron and Hermione are fighting all the time about Crookshanks, Hermione’s new pet cat who seems to have it in for Ron’s old mouse, Scabbers.
The three friends break a few school rules from time to time, but find themselves deeper and deeper in trouble. On one such secret jaunts a shaggy black dog that seems to be a friend of Crookshanks drags Ron off, and Harry and Hermione follow it through some secret underground passages. Then, face to face with the escaped convict himself, Harry hears for the first time how his parents were betrayed, and how they were killed, and how he himself was saved miraculously.
The book is packed with action, and amidst the daily routine of classes and homework, matches and rivalry, the events race on, faster than the Hogwarts Express. How did Hermione manage to attend so many classes? What happened to Sirius Black? Was he captured? What about Ron’s mouse? Did it escape from Crookshanks? Why does Professor Lupin, the new teacher of Defence against the Dark Arts have to leave school? Did Buckbeak, the hippogriff, Hagrid’s pet, (part eagle, part horse) escape execution? Does the Divination Professor’s prediction that one of Voldemort’s trusted servants would rejoin him shortly, come true? All these questions, and more, are answered satisfactorily. Harry acquires a Godfather and guardian he can love. We also have the thrill of seeing him win the Quidditch cup for his house.
The third book is more complex in structure as it brings together the past and the present. It gives us a deeper understanding of why Harry is so special, and prepares us for his future exploits. The climax is deeply magical, and totally unpredictable.
The Prisoner of Azkaban will goad the reader to find the next book in the series.
Suitable read for 12 years and above.