** spoiler alert **
Reviewing the Harry Potter series without sounding redundant is going to be difficult, as virtually everyone in the world has done it before me. I've decided that my first step in completing this daunting task should be to review my favorite book in the series. I've read Prisoner of Azkaban countless times, and it has constantly remained my firm favorite.
POA is perfect, or close enough to count. As I have heard many say before, the pacing is spot on. It has the feel of a nice, fleshed-out novel; the story isn't rushed, but nor does it drag. Everything flows together seamlessly, without bogging us down in unnecessary details or skimming over important plot points. As a result it's easy to read and it will hold your attention right to the end.
There is a lot of back story in POA, yet it is so well integrated into the storyline that it doesn't break the flow at all. Once again, we're given all the information that we need without being laden with trivialities.
Time travel plays a part in the story, and JK Rowling pulls it off remarkably well. It's something which few authors would dare touch on and which no one properly understands, yet JK manages to keep this part of the story coherent and without including complications which could confuse younger readers.
We are introduced to two of the most immensely likable characters I have so far encountered in fiction within the pages of this book. Remus Lupin, our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, is the first competent teacher we've actually seen (or will see) in that position. He knows what he's talking about and he treats the students with respect. He's generous with chocolate, he's a damned good wizard, and he teaches Harry one of the most important spells in the series. He also falls ill rather often, the poor dear.
Then there's Sirius Black. The looming, lurking, evil presence for the majority of the book, it turns out that he's innocent of the crime he was sent to prison for, he hasn't done anything wrong and in actual fact he's on the good side. Oh, and he happened to be best friends with Harry's dad in school and is Harry's godfather. Amazingly, JK Rowling manages to pull this all off without sounding cheesy. The reason being is that Sirius is far from perfect. He's ready to commit murder once he gets out, despite its being what he was wrongly imprisoned for, and as the following books will show, his time in prison has made him rather immature and reckless. But at the same time his heart is in the right place and you'll have a hard time not falling in love with him.
When I first read this book at the age of 11, I simply let the story tell itself. I didn't try to over-analyze or work out what was going to happen next. As a result, all the twists and turns came as surprises to me. I loved it. The chapter in which Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup left me with the hugest grin on my face for ages afterwards, which is something I've never forgotten.
Of course, the Harry Potter series isn't for everyone. But even if you didn't enjoy the first two books in the series, I would urge you to try this one anyway. It is, let's say, the quintessential Harry Potter novel.