Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Azkaban is an infamous prison that holds wizards and witches that have committed unspeakable acts. For twelve long years, Sirius Black has been confined in Azkaban for killing 13 people with a single curse. Black was the heir apparent of the Dark Lord, Voldemort who killed Harry’s parents 12 years ago.
Now Black has escaped from Azkaban and cannot be found. However, prior to making his getaway, the guards heard Black muttering “He’s at Hogwarts… he’s at Hogwarts.” And since Voldemort’s downfall, when he failed to kill Harry Potter, was also the downfall of Black, the Ministry of Magic thinks he is likely to come after Harry when he returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after summer vacation.
Despite the danger, Harry is anxious to return to school after spending another miserable summer with his Aunt and Uncle and their spoiled son, Dudley. Dealing with his archenemy Draco Malfoy on the Quidditch (a game played while riding broomsticks) pitch would be enough to keep him occupied. But this year, he might also have to protect himself and his friends from falling afoul of Sirius Black’s revenge. But is a thirteen-year-old student wizard up to dealing with a dangerous wizard like Black?
This third installment in the Harry Potter series is similar to the first two books. Harry and his friends have some mysterious stranger trying to cause grave mischief at Hogwarts and they need to uncover the plot and save the day. However, there are a few differences between this book and the others.
First of all, it is over 100 pages longer than the first two. This is most likely due to the publisher prodding Rowling to stretch out the story to produce a longer book that can better justify the price. However, the additional pages give Rowling plenty of room to reveal more of the mysterious events surrounding the attack on Harry’s parents by Voldemort. I’m assuming that only in the 7th book in the series (Harry’s last year at school) will all the events surroundings Harry’s parents’ demise be revealed — most likely in Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort (just speculation… Ms. Rowling hasn’t revealed anything to me).
The story was entertaining without requiring any deep thought from an adult reader. Personally, I enjoy the entire premise of a wizard world existing alongside of the regular Muggle (non-magic user) world. This is nice, light reading for adults while continuing to be solid young adult fiction. When I was young, I used to read the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and Tom Corbett. I’m sure I would have found Harry Potter enjoyable also. There is nothing here that parents should find offensive. Of course, Harry will be 14 years old in the next volume so he might finally start developing an eye for the ladies. But I’m sure, given the young adult audience, Ms. Rowling will handle that innocently and tastefully.
I expect the next volume will follow the same formula as the first three. As my grandfather always said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Given the wild popularity of these books worldwide, Rowling certainly has hit on a winning formula that young and old readers alike can enjoy. So if you need a break from some “serious” fantasy novels, be sure to give Harry Potter a try.