As Harry and friends enter the emotionally charged teen world, this third volume in the series has become one of my favourites. From tormented family memories to gruesome mass murder to infernal government corruption, our heroes face many problems beyond the typical for thirteen year olds. And they find ways to conquer these trials and emerge triumphant. Harry, Ron and Hermione fight the power!
So many topics and themes to cover in what could be described as the first truly adult book in the series. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling starts with our first real taste of the corruption inside the Ministry of Magic, since it is not spelled out in the text, but I firmly believe they are aware of Sirius Black’s innocence. Just a feeling, a vibe so to speak, I pick up from J.K. all along the way. But this is kept top level secret, hence even the Hogwart’s Professors not knowing the truth. Harry is treated like a child (to prevent him from finding the truth), lied to (once he starts getting pieces of the truth), and not listened to (when he speaks the truth). All these experience give him the courage and knowledge to speak back to the know nothing adults throughout the other tales to come. Sometimes it feels like Harry in the only honest man in a room full of liars. Good for him!
The central issue the Ministry of Magic is trying to scrub clean is another decidedly mature concept. Never shown, even by Pensieve, is the mass murder slash terrorist attack which Sirius Black was imprisoned for. Death has been apart of J.K.’s writings straight from the start, and the subject of parental demise is a common trope, but the destruction of so many unnamed innocents is slightly more rattling then the norm for a book aimed at young adults. And I give J.K. enormous credit for this. Once again, she redefines the genre.
Which brings me to the aforementioned parents, James and Lily. Previous books have had to deal with Harry’s grief, and learning more about them. But now, with the secret truth of the betrayal brought to life, Harry’s hatred of his parents murderer is far more tangible. While Voldemort may have cast the spell, he is simply formless either floating around unfound, the wretched Black on the other hand is very real and very physical. Someone who could be wrought vengeance upon. The interesting twist is how, when the ultimate truth is finally known, Harry shows mercy on the real killer. Let the courts decide. It may not work out well is this book, but this decision proves fruitful much later.
This entrance to maturity is great and much welcome. J.K. is not artificially holding her characters in some strange time loop, but letting them and the stories move forward. This first taste brings happiness galore. And with the promise of Voldemort’s return, this glee should last awhile.
P.S. Harry Potter is copyright 2012 to J.K. Rowling. Her newest book, The Casual Vacancy, is due out on Thursday, September 27th, 2012