Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban|
by Jonathan Dupont
< >I first heard about Harry Potter on some children's TV program on Saturdays, but all I remembered from the short interview they had with the author was that Harry Potter was saved by an owl (or something like that), and then taken to a wizard's school. After that I heard small things about it a few times, so when I was ill in October '98 and my Mum offered to buy me a book I asked for 'Philosopher's Stone'. I read the first chapter and found it terribly boring. I wasn't in the best condition anyway and so I nearly gave up. However I read the next chapter and the book started to get rapidly better. I finished the book early the next morning, and just for curiosity read through the first chapter again to see if it was any better this time. I didn't bother to stop and had soon read the book again.
< >A few weeks later I went into a book shop and asked if they had any sequels to the book (I was roughly aware that there was one). The assistant however thought that they had a copy in the shop somewhere, and on closer inspection I found one copy left hidden among some other books. I thought for a while about whether it was worth paying the more expensive price to get the hardback, or to wait for the paperback. In the end I decided to get it then and there. I read it on and off that night and finished it at around One AM the next morning.
< >While watching Teletext one afternoon I suddenly noticed that another children's TV programme had the cover of 'Philosopher's Stone' in it's credits. Next came 'Chamber of Secrets' and then I saw a cover that I had never seen before and a new name that I quickly memorised, 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'.
< >I looked the book up on Amazon.co.uk and decided to reserve it. It soon became one of the things I was most looking forward to in the summer (along with Episode 1). A few days before its release (which I think was in mid-July) the newspapers were all running stories about how the shops would only start selling it at 4:30 to stop children skipping school. The excitement was definitely building up as J. K. Rowling featured in several radio interviews explaining who the characters were based on and how she came up with Quidditch. She also read out a new section that I had never heard before (I had read twice the first two chapters which were printed in a newspaper a few weeks before its release).
< >I however did not have to queue up at 4:30 as Amazon delivered it to my door that very morning. I took it into school to read a few chapters as I had promised my friends that they could read my copy after me, and they were not very patient!
< >I actually got a stranger approaching me on the train on my way to school as they saw that I had the new book. I read through the two chapters that I had already read quickly and then continued. At first I was bit disappointed, especially with the 'Knight Bus' section, which I found stupid. From there it got a lot better, although to be honest I really dislike the Crookshanks character and the continuing evolution of broomsticks is getting a bit boring. I had no homework that night so I read it for a few hours continuously, not stopping until I'd finished it.
< >And for the most part I enjoyed it. I had two problems with it though. The way Gryffindor won the Quidditch didn't seem very realistic to me, and I didn't quite figure out how the managed to it. I also found the ending and the way they rescue everyone to be a 'cheat'. I'm sorry, but time travel is quite impossible. However there were a few things that I liked: The way that the characters are growing up (although why is Hermione always left out? Last time the snake paralysed her, and this time she doesn't talk to Harry and Ron), the fact that Voldemort wasn't the baddy this time, the two 'twists' (I didn't foresee them, but then again I was reading so fast that I didn't have much thinking time), learning more about James Potter and that the ending isn't a complete victory. I have read some minor complaints which I think are pretty silly. One person complained that the last quarter was too 'plot oriented'. They wanted more characters like Dobby and Moaning Myrtle (personally I absolutely hated those characters). I really enjoyed the ending when the truth comes out. Another person said that there is too much swearing in it. If it was realistic it would be a lot worse than South Park. Some minor dislikes: the Marauder's Map (I didn't like to think that Fred and George were cheating), the fact that Gryffindor win the house championship yet again. First book, it was good, this book it seems just like an obligation. And I also thought that Sirius Black was a bit too bloodthirsty, and it would be nice if Harry didn't seem to think nothing wrong of lying all the time.
< >One thing that I really like though was the prediction of Professor Trelawney about Voldemort coming back. According to J K Rowling this will take place in the next book. This all bodes extremely well for the future of Harry Potter. My only hope is that it doesn't all end like Book 1 (they defeat Voldemort quickly and easily), instead that it is a mixed good and bad ending like in Book 3.
< >So overall, unlike something else I was looking forward to, 'Prisoner of Azkaban' easily meets up to my expectations, and nearly beats my favourite of the series, the original. In my opinion, easily the best book of the year (yet).
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