In the third installment of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, things get really scary and personal for Harry and his friends. A fun fact from the movie franchise (thanks to the Harry Potter wiki): when Alfonso Cuaron became the director for the movie adaptation, he asked each of the leads to write an essay about their characters from a first-person perspective. Emma Watson wrote a 16-page essay about Hermione, Daniel Radcliffe wrote a one-page summary on Harry Potter and Rupert Grint never turned his essay on his character Ron Weasley in.
The previous book ends with Harry Potter returning home and we pick the story up again in the school break over summer near Harry’s thirteenth birthday. He gets great gifts from his friends which really cheer him up but the next day ruins his summer break. His uncle’s sister Marge comes to visit and she is very cruel and mean to Harry, berating his parents and belittling him. He can’t take it any more and the magic, quite literally, explodes out of him. Marge swells up like a balloon and is drifting out the window, when Harry, all packed up, flees out of the house. He discovers how to use the Knight Bus, by accident and takes up a room in the Leaky Cauldron on Diagon Alley for the duration of the summer. It is also there that he learns about the escape of Sirius Black from the magical prison Azkaban.
Just after he’s arrived at the Leaky Cauldron, he is visited by the Minister of Magic who seems greatly relieved to find him there with no harm done (which is later explained). Just before leaving for school, he finds out why people were so worried: apparently Sirius Black escaped only to kill Harry. He puts this behind him and promises not to go looking for Black and the gang settles in for another school year.
However, this is not a year like any other. The school is guarded by Dementors, the guardians of the prison of Azkaban who are looking for Sirius Black. But Sirius still manages to get in the school, because he is sighted at different locations, causing mayhem everywhere he goes. During the school year, Harry learns more about his father’s time at Hogwarts from professor Lupin who used to be a friend of him. That is also how he hears about Sirius Black’s story: he was one of his father’s best friends, but betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort, resulting in their death.
All this tension comes to a climax when Harry learns Peter Pettigrew (who is supposed to be dead) and Sirius Black are holed up on the castle grounds and he sets out to find them with Ron and Hermione. They find Black and Pettigrew and learn that it was Pettigrew that betrayed Harry’s parents and that he set Sirius Black up to take the fall. As they are about to take the two men towards the castle to have them clear Sirius’s name, Pettigrew manages to escape. Now, Sirius Black has lost all hope of redemption and knows he will be forced to stay hidden and on the run for the rest of his life. He and Harry have a sweet moment when he reveals he is Harry’s godfather. Harry is over the moon, because this means he has a family and is no longer alone in the world.
Harry and his friends help Sirius escape from the Dementors and all is well again at Hogwarts. They finish out their year without any problems and Harry is actually glad to go home to his aunt and uncle for once. He makes them treat him better by saying he has “a godfather who escaped from wizard prison and likes to check up on [him]”. The book ends with Harry, Ron and Hermione saying goodbye at the station and precluding to the next book’s beginning: the Quidditch World Cup.
This book is definitely a lot darker than the two previous ones. The scene in the Shrieking Shack where Harry and Sirius come face to face was seriously nerve-wracking. I was super nervous and really couldn’t put the book down before knowing it ended well. The story is definitely a lot scarier and has a lot more suspense than the predecessors. Paradoxically, this is also the only book where nobody dies. Another fun fact about this book: it’s the only one where Voldemort is not seen in some form or other, only mentioned.
It was first published in July 1999 and was number 1 on the adult hardback bestseller charts.
What do you think? Did you appreciate the building suspense and the darker subjects?
Happy reading as always,