This was definitely my favorite of the Harry Potter series so far. There was an emotional depth to this book I had been missing in the first two. It is the darkest of them so far, but not too dark. I was actually thoroughly captivated and engrossed the whole time I was reading.
The story follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione during their third year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After the crazy two first years filled with trouble from multiple angles, Harry is looking forward to an uneventful year. An escaped prisoner is known to be heading for Hogwarts and Harry in particular. The terrifying Azkaban prison guards, Dementors, are roaming the school grounds and have a few terrifying encounters with Harry. Hagrid and his animals get in trouble after he takes over as instructor for the Care of Magical Creatures class. Professor is harsher on the students than usual and there are mysterious happenings in the castle – sightings of the prisoners and strange behavior from the new professor. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione finally piece together the true story behind the escaped prisoner and the death of Harry’s parents, their world is turned upside down. With the help of Dumbledore, they break several wizarding rules in order to make things right.
You really get a view into the characters and their emotional growth in this book. You get a feeling of closeness with the three friends and particularly Harry since the book is told from his point of view. The growth of the characters is seen in their behavior and actions. You start seeing the kind of people they will be turning into later (not that I actually know what they will be like, I haven’t watch those movies or read those books). The history supplied in this book really helps with where the story line is going. You learn more about Harry’s parents and get an idea of the atmosphere of the time when they died. The are two new important characters introduced in this book and you definitely get to know them quite well. I’m not going to explain much of that because I don’t want to give anything away, but their characters are well developed, their integration into Harry’s life is seamless, and their own personal stories solid.
The structure of the story, the development of the storyline and plot for this book are impeccable. I loved the way the story unfolded. You were pulled in to story and held in its twisting, turning, and surprising grip. The pursuit of the truth is a solid theme of this book, along with friendship, loyalty, and bravery. There are also some more elements of sneakiness and mischief as the boys grow into teenagers. Also, you see Hermione start to feel the hormones as she tries to be true to herself and grow in her friendships. She struggles a lot which is good to see in a way as it gives a good image of what it is really like for a girl growing up and trying to be herself. I think it is a great book for tweens and teens to read. There is a lot of action, but the hidden themes I mention are strong and good for children to learn. I thoroughly enjoyed it and there wasn’t anything in there I wouldn’t let a child of mine read. Well done!