Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Harry Potter and the Review of Unnecessarily In-Depth Analysis

Pris of Azkaban cover

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling*

Source:  My little brother for the book; the library for the audiobook (I alternated between the two).

I've had issues with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ever since I first read it.  I know it is some people's (coughsandycough) favorite Harry Potter book, but I didn't like it.  Unfortunately, I wasn't blogging when I first read it, so for the life of me I can't remember why.  I mean, two of the smexiest men in the entire series, Sirius Black and Severus Snape, have major roles in this one; and then there's Lupin, who is just lovable like a little puppy.  The storytelling brilliant; and despite the fact that this isn't the middle book, it is book upon which the entire series seems to hinge.  So why didn't I like it?  And would a reread change my mind?

By the third Harry Potter book, the formula for the series has already been established:  Harry goes to Hogwarts and Voldemort finds some sneaky way to attack him; but in the end Harry escapes and Voldy is defeated.  Yet Prisoner doesn't follow this formula at all.  Of all the books, this is the only one where Voldemort isn't a direct threat.  Furthermore, Harry doesn't defeat or conquer anything in this book--we expect him to, and we certainly want him to, but in the end he only does what he can.  And that isn't enough to stop Voldy from gaining power and becoming a major pain in everyone's rear end.  In fact, one could argue it's because of Harry that Voldemort can return to his physical form (although we don't know that until the later books).

So that was one source of my discontent:  my expectations were unmet.  I never really felt Harry was in much danger from Sirius, and there wasn't a big smack-down scene at the end.  But I think my reaction to Prisoner went a little deeper than that due to the two themes running through the novel.

The first is that nothing is as it seems.  That's not unique to Prisoner, of course--how could you even have a wizarding world where things were just as they appeared, after all?--but I think it runs the strongest through Prisoner out of the seven books.  It all starts when Harry goes to Hogwarts, expecting a safe haven, but instead finds it riddled with Dementors.  Enemies turn out to be friends, friends to out to be enemies; the all-powerful Snape turns out to be nothing more than a bitter nerd; and Harry gets the first hint that his parents, his father in particular, might not have been what he imagines.  There were so many change-ups and fake-outs in this book that it made me wonder if anything can be trusted in these books.  The wizarding world is no longer a comforting--if occasionally hazardous, but always quaint--place to be anymore.

Then there's the issue of time.  I didn't even realize this could be considered a theme of the book until I reread it, because we don't know about Hermione's secret until the very end.  But it's definitely spread out through the entire novel--Lupin, Sirius, Peter Pettigrew, and Snape all have the past coming back to haunt them; the "threat" to Harry is one based entirely upon the past as opposed to anything that's happened in the present; and because of the Dementors, Harry relives something he experienced but can't even remember!  The frustrating thing is, even though Harry and Hermione can go back in time, they still can't seem to change the past, even if said past needs to be righted--they can't restore Sirius' good name or give him his life back.  I supposed even in the wizarding world there is an expiration date on do-overs.

I must take a moment to gush about how much I love Harry.  I've mentioned this before, but the majority of heroes are so white-bread--I know this is because they need to be an "every man" type, but as a result they have no personality.  Harry, on the other hand, does appeal to practically everyone, but has his own complete personality.  There are times that I really bleed for him (metaphorically speaking, of course) in these books, but most especially in this one.  Can you imagine listening to your parents be killed over and over?  And the scene where Harry chases the Dementors off of Sirius and himself and then realizes that he's his dad, makes me cry every time.  Like, I'm seriously getting teary-eyed right now thinking about it.  So obviously it's time to move on.

After rereading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I still can't say it's my favorite Harry Potter.  But neither can I remember exactly what I disliked about on the first reading, either.  This is the book where everything changes--when you suddenly realize this isn't just a series of children's books, and there's a whole mess of stuff going on in this world that you don't know about.  Yet.  In other words, this book is deep, man.

Random things I find suspicious:

Dumbledore:  A secret--I usually find Dumbledore suspicious.  Maybe it connects to my Santa aversion because of his long, white beard, but there's a moment in every single Harry Potter book where I become convinced he's colluding with Voldemort.  In this book, I have to wonder how exactly Dumbledore knew Harry and Hermione should turn back time to save Buckbeak and Sirius.  It's like he knew what was happening before it even happened--while it was happening!  HOW DID HE KNOW????  And why did he expressly tell Harry not to interfere with the whole losing-of-Peter-Pettigrew debacle, hmmmmmmmm?

Crookshanks:  The cat can freaking READ.  That is not right.  That cat has got to be more than cat, I'm telling you.

harry potter challenge button

I read this book as part of The Harry Potter Reading Challenge hosted by GalleySmith, which is turning out to be the greatest challenge OF MY LIFE. 

I'm curious... how many people out there consider Prisoner of Azkaban their favorite Harry Potter?

*The bad news: this is an Amazon Associates link.  The good news: well, there is no good news.

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