J.K. Rowling


The Prisoner of Azkaban


Geez, I wonder if anyone’s ever analysed this series before?


Not quite as clever as the idea of the last one, but once it gets going it carries you along, particularly with the series of revelations in the latter chapters. It’s nice for Rowling to be able to throw in a Quidditch match randomly to give some (very thin) action and victory (well stone me if Harry hasn’t just grabbed the golden snitch)(ooo-er). The games are largely pathetic, utterly deus ex machina, but do the kids care? There are really no rules, she can play anything for a laugh or some action. It’s melodrama with kids, particularly private school kids, able to relate to the classroom contexts and figures.


I don’t like how lazy the writing is - particularly the opening ‘muggle’ bits - which read to me like a child would write with the random absurd punishments and the like - although, of course, that could be partly why it’s such a hit with that demographic. Maybe the very things that turn me off are integral to the appeal: why have character development for an age-group that’s barely self aware? Baddies are bad and will lose if they don’t cheat; goodies are good - and more talented and clever. I mean the very concept of ‘the sorting hat’ is morally objectionable. And odd notions of justice: it’s unfair for Malfoy to grab Harry’s broomstick to slow him down - but totally fair for Harry to win because he’s got rich connections who bought him better equipment. And why have consistent plotting when all the readers want is for you to set up some nasties for a fall, who cares how Harry wins, he just does, alright, and we feel good about that. I mean, she’s probably better off than anyone having time travel in there: as least she has no vague notions of trying to reconcile anomalies (by the way, has anyone ever got away with reconciling a time travel thing? None that I can think of - perhaps Wyndham came closest in his Consider Her Ways stories where people have no control and briefly stray. How you can have suspense when you’ve got the ability to travel in time (why are Dr. Who et. al always in such a hurry??) ... sorry).


At least she’s telling a different story each time, with some novel characters and ideas thrown in, rather than milking the exact same cow merely because it’s a successful series (ala Robert Jordan, David Eddings). She’s also set up some unifying series lines with the gradual move towards the showdown with Voldemort, with more pieces falling together to explain his parents’ murder. Nor has she lost her way - like Martin and Orson Scott Card can tend to do - Harry’s got 6 years at school, here’s a story for each of them, plus one big one running underneath we’ll finish in the last one. And we’re staying with the same central characters – minor characters are OK.


Hmmm, interesting, I was going to damn it more but have been nicer in this review than I expected to be.


August 2002