Wednesday, July 15, 2015

“Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways.”

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There is a character in every successful series that pulls at your heartstrings in a way that no other character does.  That character will have the love, admiration, and adoration of the readers.  There are several of these characters in the Harry Potter series, but none quite wooed the audience like Sirius Black.  A bad boy with a heart of gold, a dog with unending loyalty, and the fortitude to stand up for what's right no matter the consequences to himself; this is Sirius Black and readers met him for the first time in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  The third book in the series, Prisoner is, without a doubt, one of the two best books in the series (the other being Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which we will be reading about soon!)  Prisoner introduces us to new characters, new magic, new places, and begins to crack open the larger story line arc of the series.  It gives us a history that had been previously just a blank slate to both Harry and the reader; these revelations start the turn the machine that will propel the rest of the series.

Prisoner finds our now 13 year old hero counting down the days until he can return to Hogwarts.  However, a magical disaster shortens the countdown, and Harry finds himself staying in Diagon Alley while people whisper about the prisoner breakout from the wizarding prison, Azkaban.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione's third year at Hogwarts is marked by Firebolts, hippogriffs, crystal balls, a dying rat, and the infamous Sirius Black.  Sirius Black is a criminal on the run, accused of blowing up a street full of Muggles, killing the heroic Peter Pettigrew, is now on the hunt for Harry... and was Harry's parents' dearest friend.  Harry struggles with this knowledge throughout, only to be startled by the revealing of a more sinister plot at hand.  Readers are finally treated to a more concrete backstory of what happened during those last weeks before Voldemort's fall; this backstory makes all the difference for the story and sets the stage for the ultimate showdown to begin.

It is evident that Rowling had finally found her definite writing style by this book.  Her descriptions still remain vivid and concise; yet, the development of the story and the flow of the events are much, much better.  She departs from the formulaic story line of the past two books.  Rowling takes the reader away from the everyday classrooms and Great Hall that the majority of the last two novels took place in; Prisoner is jammed packed with Quidditch matches, intrigue, wanderings throughout Hogwarts, and a new location (Hogsmeade).  The dialogue is much more realistic and the emotions of the characters seem more engaging and, perhaps, indicates more maturity on their part.  Prisoner also sees Rowling blossom with magical ideas of her own.  Before, we had seen new ideas mingled with cliche ideas of wizards and witches.  Now that the story has moved past those introductions to wands, brooms, spells, etc., the reader is shown new aspects of magic.  There is a
great deal of magical creatures, many Rowling borrowed from lore and made her own.  However, what makes this book not only just a great story, but also a great showcase of Rowling's talent, is the flawless weaving in of the past with the present.  She does this without using flashbacks, a literary device that (in my opinion) is vastly overused.  Not only is the idea of past and present clashing rarely used in children's literature, but to be done so well is unprecedented.  She introduces characters that turn on a dime; Sirius Black goes from being vilified to glorified in a masterful (and heartbreaking) chapter.  Rowling manages to create a hero out of someone who she spent the entire book making terrifying.  The introduction of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin now ties the reader to the past; they are living remnants of Harry's past, and that alone romanticizes them and their interactions with others.  The reader is now confronted with just how deep the terror and tyranny of Voldemort ran, foreshadowing how future books will grow darker and darker as Voldemort's rise gains traction.

This is by far my favorite book.  I was in love with the series before Prisoner.  However, after Prisoner, I was properly bewitched (pun totally intended.)  The writing was captivating and the characters were seemed more realistic.  The action was enthralling and the history of before Voldemort's fall was breath taking.  As a history major, I cannot help but love a good back story.  Rowling provided just this.  Things are starting to slowly fall in place and, for the first time, it becomes obvious to the reader that Voldemort is not going to be a thing of the past.  The novel has a dark tint and that alone lures the reader to continue on.  I cannot sing enough praise for this novel.  I have went through three paperback versions (my hardbacks are untouched of course) of this book; it is always my go to.  Prisoner is the gateway for the real story and is a wonderful example of what yet is to come.

"And, grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off toward the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last."
Can't get enough?  Check out Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, coming soon!

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