Before I get into my thoughts and reactions, let’s recap for those who have no idea what’s going on. The short version is that I am a YA/MG reviewer and book-lover who has never read Harry Potter, which makes me the rare and elusive unicorn of the blogging world. Last year, I gave you all the scoop on what I already knew about the books from the internet and then wrote a free-form reaction to my first Harry Potter experience with The Sorcerer’s Stone. Then this January I read Chamber of Secrets and wrote about my reaction here. And now it’s Prisoner of Azkaban‘s turn.
That’s right, friends and foes! After a (fairly painful) two-month gap, I finally read the third Harry Potter book!
You are about to enter my stream of consciousness in three… two… one…
I was a little scared going in, because EVERYONE says this is their favorite book. What if I don’t like it as much? Or what if I DO like it as much? That means everything else is downhill from here! Oh bother.
Also, this reading experience was a bit of a different one for me when it came to edition. Both SS and CoS were in blissfully worn paperback copies I received from Brandy. They were her kids’ books, and it was such an enjoyable experience to read with the pages and cover worn soft and malleable. But my PoA copy is the brand-new redesign that I won from Gillian, so it was in perfect, pristine condition. Between the knowledge that I was the first person ever to read this particular copy and the slippery-clingy texture of the matte cover, it was a different reading experience but still cool. (My coworker is a Potter fan and kept touching my cover while I was reading the book. NOT COOL.)
Okay, so the story itself. Yay, no unwieldy morass of an info dump at the beginning of this one! That’s a good start. An even better start is Harry getting a letter from the Weasleys in Egypt, because who doesn’t love Egypt? That’s so exciting, and I’m happy they had something nice happen to them.
Really, the Durstleys are horrible people, and I’m tiring of them awfully quickly. They were kind of fun in a bad way in the first two books, but does every book have to open with them being disgusting human beings? At least the letters balance it all out. I’m glad everyone remembered Harry’s birthday, and I giggled when Hermoine fretted about her essay being two scrolls too long. You and me both, girl. Minimum page limits are for weenies. Maximum page limit worries are where it’s at.
Extremely unusual thought he was, at that moment Harry Potter felt just like everyone else—glad, for the first time in his life, that it was his birthday.
THIS IS THE SWEETEST, MOST HEARTBREAKING THING.
Also, I can’t be the only person who wants a copy of The Monster Book of Monsters. I don’t like the idea of a book biting me (papercuts are bad enough), but I adore my copy of The Wildlife of Star Wars (HIGHLY recommended) and I have a feeling this book would be just as good. In the same way, the Magical Menagerie sounds amazing. What are the odds that they’ll make one of these at Wizarding World?
“We tried to shut him in a pyramid,” [George] told Harry [regarding Percy]. “But Mum spotted us.”
Ha! Too bad. Percy is annoying. Will he go dark side? He seems like the type who would go dark side. And how interesting would that be, Percy fighting against his baby brothers? Go for it, JK!
Okay, at this point, we’ve at least hard of both Sirius Black AND Remus Lupin, and I’m trying to remember what I know. Lupin is a werewolf, because duh, his last name is Lupin. I’m pretty sure Sirius is a good guy, because Tumblr likes him, and he seems too obviously a bad guy. Is he also a werewolf? His name is Sirius, like the Dog Star, so maybe. I’m pretty sure he’s that big black dog that keeps following Harry. But is Remus a good guy? I don’t know yet. I have a feeling there’s something tricky about him, but maybe I’m remembering someone else. And are Sirius and Remus brothers or something?
Hogesmeade! I’ve heard of that! Had no idea it was a place, but now I know.
DEMENTORS! I’ve heard of those! Those are the things that look like a ripoff of the Nazgul, yeah? And JK wrote them as an allegory for depression, yeah? And… oh crap, they’re scary. Nope nope nope, do not like.
However, as a fainter, I am totally down with chocolate being the cure for fainting. But what do lactose intolerant fainters do?
HAGRID’S A PROFESSOR! That’s adorable and makes me so happy. You’re an annoying man, but good on ya, Hagrid. Ohhh, the students gave him a rousing reception, and now he’s crying. TOO ADORABLE FOR WORDS.
Guys, Professor Trelawney just appeared on page, and I literally almost gasped out loud. I can tell by the description who this is! It’s Emma Thompson! I’ve seen pictures and always wondered who the heck she was, and wow! Now I’m reading everything with her voice. Excellent.
Hippogriffsssssssssss. I love a good hippogriff. Sadly underutilized creature.
Oh finally, Defense Against the Dark Arts became semi-useful. It’s about time. Also, Lupin seems like an awesome professor. I just wish I could remember whether he’s a good guy or not.
Okay, Black is scary. I’m still holding tight to my half-remembered knowledge that he’s good, but wow. Slashing up Ron’s curtains? Not cool. On the plus side, now everyone gets to have a massive slumber party in the Great Hall on giant purple cushions under a starry ceiling, so that’s a win.
CEDRIC DIGGORY. Oh gosh. All I can see is Patterson and I want him out out out. Does he die in this book? It’s this book, right?
The Marauders’ Map! I’ve heard of this thing but had no idea what it really was. I’m kind of glad, because it’s so much cooler than it would sound out of context. And OH! THIS is what the whole “mischief managed” thing is from. Who knew. Also, someone please make Honeydukes a thing. It’s like Willy Wonka’s factory, but with candy that can make you breathe fire like a dragon. I want to breathe fire like a dragon.
Peter Pettigrew? I have never heard of this person. I don’t trust him. He sounds annoying.
But dudes, Sirius betraying his best friends, killing an entire street of people, Peter leaving behind only a finger, and Sirius laughing about it all? Totally dark.
Also dark is Harry being able to hear the dying cries of his parents. WHAT.
This is one of those times where I wonder what the reading experience was like for the original readers. Do kids think the James and Lily parts are sad? Not a “poor kid lost his parents” kind of sad, but a “these two young people who were totally in love were screwed over by their best friend and murdered while trying to protect their child” kind of sad. Does that make me a grownup?
A PATRONUS! I KNOW WHAT THAT IS! Sort of. Okay, no, the fine details are still a bit muddled, but I know what Harry’s is, so there.
“Er—shall I make him a cup of tea?” said Ron.
Harry stared at him.
“It’s what my mum does whenever someone’s upset,” Ron muttered, shrugging.
That’s right, Ron. That is EXACTLY the right response. Whenever in doubt, DO WHAT YOUR MOTHER DOES. You’re a good boy.
I blame Tumblr for making me notice how many times people say “seriously” in this book. Do you think JK did it on purpose?
I wonder if Draco has a bit of a crush on Hermoine. I mean, he’s awful to her, but she slaps him and he seems stunned. (Also, hi, Cho Chang! I’ve heard of you!)
OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS THE QUIDDITCH MATCH. I’m dying. Lee’s biased announcing is killing me. This is hilarious and so freaking spot-on to every football and soccer fan I’ve ever met. “Poke him in the eye, Angelina! It was a joke, Professor, it was a joke.” Oh oh oh. Please someone tell me this is all in the movie.
“YOU CHEATING SCUM!” Lee Jordan was howling into the megaphone, dancing out of Professor McGonagall’s reach. “YOU FILTH, CHEATING B—”
BUT SHE’S THERE WAGGING HER FINGER, TOO! This has got to be my favorite scene in the entire series. It’s HILARIOUS. I’m giggling as I write this. Oh my word. Oh my gosh. And then Harry wins it and it’s pandemonium and McGonagall is crying and oh geez…
But wow, serious side note here. Does no one like the Slytherins? Really, no one? I mean, I know they’re one massive lump of nastiness, but that’s JK’s fault, not theirs. I can’t imagine being in a house that THREE-FOURTHS OF THE SCHOOL, professors included, despises. Totally not fair.
Okay, Hermoine is usually my girl, but what’s up with not apologizing for Scabbers? If MY pet that’s been around since I was a baby was eaten by a friend’s pet even AFTER I repeatedly told my friend that her pet was a danger to mine, I’d be ticked, too. None of this “your friendship is worth more than a rat” kumbaya crap.
IT’S GOING DOWN! The wolf/dog/thing just dragged Ron into the Whomping Willow! Holy cow, Ron just snapped his own leg in two. That’s sick. Not as sick as the bloody snake eye sockets from the last book, but still. (Really, the leg bit and Buckbeak being beheaded were the only twisted parts in this book. Step it up, JK.)
Oh my word, everyone is fighting and screaming at each other. It’s bedlam. Ron and Hermoine want to protect Harry, HARRY FREAKING WANTS TO KILL SIRIUS (you go boy, tap that dark side), and Sirius is looking at the three of them and seeing the friendship he had with James and oh there’s something in my eye.
What. That annoying rat is actually that annoying Peter guy? Well. That fits. And Lupin is here! And they’re telling the whole backstory, and YAY BOTH SIRIUS AND LUPIN ARE GOOD GUYS! But wow, I had no idea the Willow (whose name still curdles my stomach a bit) was there for Lupin. Huh.
Side note: Why oh why is there not a Marauders prequel? JK clearly thinks about them a lot and has a whole host of backstory she’s never going to have space to share. I want hijinks and adventure and fun all tinged with an undercurrent of melancholy because you know they all die!
I hate Snape. HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE. He’s rude and condescending and calls Hermoine names and NO. I don’t care what he does in the later books. I don’t care that he was a creeper who crushed on Harry’s mom. DO NOT CARE. I will never like or appreciate Severus Snape.
I also question the plausibility of McGonagall giving Hermoine a Time-Turner. (So happy to know what that is now, though.) That’s a dangerous tool to give to a 13-year-old student to use unsupervised. And what about the fact that Hermoine continues to age with each use? You don’t screw with time travel!
I’m so sad now. Why can’t Sirius be free? Harry the unwanted puppy almost had a forever home. Sirius is going to die unexonerated and unloved, isn’t he? THEY COULD HAVE HAD LIGHTHEARTED ADVENTURES TOGETHER. Gosh, this sucks.
Also, did the whole talk with Dumbledore about it being good that Harry didn’t kill Peter seem very Gandalf-Frodo-Gollum to anyone else? “‘Twas pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over.”
Okay, so, TL;DR version?
1) Snape is a jerk and must die and remain unmourned.
2) The reading experience is TOTALLY changed when seen through the lens of pop culture knowledge. It was way tense for me not being able to remember who was good, who was bad, and who was supposed to die when. I was so stressed.
3) For the first time ever, I am DYING to watch the movies. This book was so cinematic.
4) For the first time ever, I am also DYING to visit Wizarding World. I want to visit Hogesmeade! However, as with the movies, I refuse to indulge until I’ve finished the series.
5) JK is the best when writing about sports.
6) It’s so much fun to see names I recognize in context.
7) JK owes Tolkien a thank-you note or high-five or something.
8) There was not enough Ron in this book.