After the first two books of the Harry Potter series, I was excited to return to J. K. Rowling’s epic series again. She proved through the first two books to be an adroit storyteller with a knack for telling fun tales, and my return to the world of Harry Potter was filled with relish for the latest adventures of Harry and company.
Following on from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (see review), Harry has returned to live with the Dursleys, who are meaner than ever following Harry’s breakout from the last novel. Everything comes to a head as Aunt Marge comes to visit, and Harry, in a flare of anger, accidentally inflates her. Harry runs away, and his next set of adventures begins, first with a ride on the Knight Bus, and then with a stay at Diagon Alley, where Harry learns even more about the wizarding world, but even more importantly, learns about the escape of a prisoner from Azkaban, the wizard jail. This fugitive, Sirius Black, appears to be after Harry, and nothing is held back in an attempt to save Harry from the fate of his parents.
As Harry returns to Hogwarts, school is as hectic as ever, as dementors (the guards of Azkaban) now populate the gates, and a mysterious new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher arrives. Familiar faces return, Ron’s family the winners of the lottery, Hermione with a schedule so full that even a witch shouldn’t be able to catch up, and Hagrid makes his first appearance as the Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Stricter rules are set in place, as the entire school works to protect Harry from Black.
As with the first two books, the beginning is slow, and things don’t much build up until Harry’s departure from the Dursley’s, but this book seemed to lack a lot of the suspense from the first couple novels. While a good story still, it just seemed to lack that (bad pun time) magical x-factor that made the first two books so wonderful. True to form, the novel excels in its relationships between Harry and his friends, and Rowling continues to write exciting Quidditch scenes. All in all, an enjoyable book that leaves the reader wanting to return for the fourth adventure, but just not up to par with the first two.