"Harry Potter's third year at Hogwarts is full of new dangers. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has broken out of Azkaban prison, and it seems he's after Harry. Now Hogwarts is being patrolled by the dementors, the Azkaban guards who are hunting Sirius. But Harry can't imagine that Sirius or, for that matter, the evil Lord Voldemort could be more frightening than the dementors themselves, who have the terrible power to fill anyone they come across with aching loneliness and despair. Meanwhile, life continues as usual at Hogwarts. A top-of-the-line broom takes Harry's success at Quidditch, the sport of the Wizarding world, to new heights. A cute fourth-year student catches his eye. And he becomes close with the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, who was a childhood friend of his father. Yet despite the relative safety of life at Hogwarts and the best efforts of the dementors, the threat of Sirius Black grows ever closer. But if Harry has learned anything from his education in wizardry, it is that things are often not what they seem. Tragic revelations, heartwarming surprises, and high-stakes magical adventures await the boy wizard in this funny and poignant third installment of the beloved series."
For the longest time, this was as far as I could read in this series. I must have read it three, four times or even more in a row before I temporarily moved onto other books and finally onto Goblet of Fire. As I've been rereading this series, I've realized that this is actually one of my favorites of all the books. I'd say it's in my top three. Here's why:
1. I think it's nice that we get at least a little bit of a break from Voldemort. I know he's always a constant threat in Harry's world, but this is the one year where Harry doesn't have to face him directly. We can worry about other things for once.
2. Harry has some wins in this year that he doesn't get again, especially the further into the series we get. I mean, he gains a father figure who legitimately cares for him and doesn't try to use him to accomplish a task (ahem, Dumbledore). He is reunited with the better half of his father's friends which, because he was ripped away from his parents, I can only imagine is an incredibly positive connection to make.
3. We understand a little more about Harry's parents and the circumstances surrounding their death. While knowing these things doesn't change anything about what happened, it's nice to have the information if nothing else just so you know. In my experience, that has helped me a little bit. In mid-December last year, a friend of mine from college lost her life in an accident. As a way to get closure, especially since I wasn't able to go to the funeral, I tried to get as much information about what happened surrounding her death as I could find. It doesn't change the fact that she's gone forever, but just knowing that information is good for me to know. There are no mysteries around her death anymore. I can start finding closure in other ways.
I think this was J.K. Rowling's gift to Harry. Even though it's not an easy year, there is a certain amount of reprieve that comes with this year that Harry won't get for years now. If nothing else, this is a fantastic read just for that.
I give 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban':