Saturday, 26 September 2015

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. By J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

J.K. Rowling

Bloomsbury. First published 1999

The third book in the series, which now starts to change, not-so-slowly, from addressing a pre-teen audience to late-teens and young adults. I will just briefly summarize here the forward movement of the plot. In the end, after I finish re-reading all the seven books, I shall 'analyse' them in greater detail - '...make poor Alice do her lessons', in the words of G.K. Chesterton.

In '...Azkaban', Sirius Black is the homicidal and dangerous prisoner who escapes from the maximum security maximum wizard prison of Azkaban. His escape has particular relevance for Harry, and everyone (in the magical world) believe Sirius is coming to kill him. After a set of adventures, jokes, set pieces (such as a scene in Privet Drive, one on Hogwarts express, and a quidditch match), there is a final showdown at spots in and around Hogwarts. Unlike the last two books, though, in which Harry's adversary in this climactic fight (climactic for each book) was Voldemort, albeit in a highly weakened form, in this book Harry fights and defeats (incompletely though) a devoted servant of the Dark Lord. This servant rushes back to his master, and is shown in later books to play a crucial role in the comeback of the Dark One. 

As the story moves from Privet Drive to the Shrieking Shack, we are introduced to the Knight Bus, Stan Shunpike, Dementors, Hogsmeade village, hippogriffs, time turners, the marauders' map, and a hundred other such joyously entertaining and inventive details. The book is darker than the first two, also more serious. I think it's about this time that J.K. Rowling more or less settled on the full plot line, and decided also what tone the other books would take. She must also probably have started to believe in the enormous success of the series, and would be receiving and using a whole lot of editorial advice from not only the publishers, but also marketing men and such like, and others in the entertainment business. And of course, all the fan mail would surely have influenced her ideas. Knowing what her readers particularly liked about the first two books would surely have induced to dish out more of the same. There is however no sign of her inventiveness and freshness flagging, and that is probably the mark of her genius - to listen to everyone, and yet come up with something totally new, and fascinating.