HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban

This is by far the most enjoyable book in the Harry Potter series for me — I’ve read Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets and POAthus far — hence this individual post on it. The copy I’ve got spots the Bloomsbury alternative cover, which in my opinion reflects more accurately the darker, slightly sinister mood and the tumultuous emotions that Harry experiences in his third year at Hogwarts.

HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban

After all, this is the pivotal instalment which propels the Harry Potter series forward, and saves it from being merely a children’s and YA fantasy story to a series that captivates the adults’ imagination and attention as well.  There’s teenage angst, self-doubts, as well as hints of budding relationships and crushes — themes that will resonate with the young adults, and the lessons learnt in discerning that sometimes there’s no clear line between good and bad. And that the difference between good and evil lies only in the choices we make. You can also sense the dark lord gaining his strength in preparation for his resurrection in the next book (ahh … the advantage of watching the movie first). Very adult lessons taught here, if you ask me.

POA not only marks the coming of age of Harry and his friends. IMO, it also shows a distinct sharpening and strengthening of the author’s story-telling skills. I thought the turning-back-the-clock sequence was a stroke of genius. The movie, however, is one of the most controversial; as many fans of the book thought it didn’t do justice to the book version.

HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I’m not going to go into details here, save that some of the great scenes have to be slashed and dialogues and lines given to another character in the movie in order that the story can be told in that rushed 2.5 hours, or less. I personally find that the movie version presents a different perspective of the story, and rather enjoyed it too.

Back to the book, I like the rather even pacing of the story and the deeper character development this book offers. Harry’s parents were fleshed out by the memories of his Godfather, Sirius Black (brilliantly portrayed in the movie by Gary Oldman) and Prof Remus Lupin. And it’s great to see the boy wizard maturing into the teen wizard, learning not just more spells, but to listen to his heart and overcome his fears of inadequacy, and of fear itself.

You also see Hermione loosening up a little more and breaking quite a few rules and openly defying her divination professor by walking out of the class. It takes guts for her, the star pupil whom everyone thinks will have no problem scoring, to admit that she has no talents in that field and to decide to drop it after realising that she has bitten off more than she could chew. How many of us would have clung on to ‘save face’? My other favourite scene in the book, as well as the movie, was when she gave a facer to dreadful bully Draco.  That drew even Ron’s admiration.

The set pieces used in the movie actually takes away a lot of the guesswork on the workings of a number of the wondrous stuff, such as the whomping willow. I had to read the final confrontation at this terrible tree slowly, so that I didn’t miss the sequence of events. There are some discrepancies in the movie version, as well as the parts where Hermione turned back the clock so Harry can redo/ undo some of the damage, save more than one innocent life and bring about a satisfactory ending.  You also sort of knew that Wormtail/ Peter Pettigrew was fated to escape so that the return of his master could take place the following year.

All in all, this book manages to build up the tension towards that confrontation between good and evil, by Harry and Voldemort, in the next instalment. And having watched the movie twice and the DVD twice, I’m looking forward to continuing my Harry Potter book quest.

Stay tuned for more on Harry.

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