Fantastic Beasts was released this month and so my heart began to thunder with Potterish anticipation. I could not concentrate; intelligible conversation had become a bore to me. Hedwig’s theme song filled my head with a deafening noise. I was again waiting at the door for my Hogwarts letter, even though I am many years past that expiry. All the signs pointed to one thing and so I knew… I just knew I had to read Harry Potter again.
Even though I severely missed the word count for NaNoWriMo I am far from sorry, because after two weeks of writing I noticed something was missing. It was my reading. I wasn’t reading. So here enters Potter, flying in on his broomstick.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
I took this book off my shelf one day to take a photo of it. The photo can be found on my new ‘Bookstagram’ account, if you remember the three D’s, you will be able to click here and magically apparate there. After I had taken my photograph of Prisoner I accidently read the whole thing. As it turns out, that was a very good mistake to make.
As soon as you start reading Prisoner you realise that it is superior to its predecessors in nearly every way. As well as Order of the Pheonix, Prisoner is one of the smartest in the series. That is to say, it works wonderfully as a novel on its own as well as a book that contributes to the other six in the series.
Prisoner is also one of the very few in the series to end in a conflict that does not directly involve Voldemort and this is a serious advantage. The plot does not reach a plateau, instead it accelerates and it is a sprint to the end in the most delightful way possible. It is not a showdown but rather our protagonists, all of them this time, are constantly required to keep active and keep thinking when each revelation is becoming undressed in front of them.
The thing that excites me most, like any Potter fan, is that on re-reading you are able to revisit the side scenes once more, and Prisoner is not only an abundant character study, but a book of beautiful magic. Among Harry’s long strolls through Diagon Alley, his Butterbeer with Lupin on their private Defence lessons or sneaking through the secret passage to Hogsmeade, we are given some of the most extraordinary pieces of magic! Namely, Dementors, Patronuses, Bogarts, Time-turners, the Marauder’s Map and Firebolts! Not only that, but every new piece of magic acts as a subplot and purposefully enlightens every bit of information revealed to us by the end.
I can almost certainly say that Prisoner is the greatest book in the series. It does so many things, not the least of which being that it certainly pleased this reader for the day.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Deathly Hallows is my personal favourite in the Potter series simply because it is not disappointing. It is a completely satiable end to an extraordinary series and is therefore one of the best conclusions of a series that I have ever read.
The final book is as succinct as it can be and does not loom or linger on anything that is ineffective. Each character feels true to where they have founded from. It is not surprising that the book starts with an obituary by Elphias Doge. This is what the novel is; an obituary (or so we thought). It is a last hurrah and we get to say a heartfelt goodbye to each of the characters. Characters that we have loved, characters that we have hated, but no matter how agreeable, we now have to leave.
I have always felt Malfoy Manor to be a bit of an anticlimax. It is an unpolished necessity that the trio should end up at Malfoy Manor and does not arise naturally from what has come before. For instance, if Harry had not been captured by the Snatchers and sent precisely to Malfoy Manor he would not have found out the location of Hufflepuff’s cup and he would not have become the true master of the Elder wand. The plot seems to pivot on this static, unadaptable setting.
Another small fault of the book is that Tom Riddle becomes incredibly one-dimensional after he thinks he has killed Harry. For instance, he dictates to the remainder of the fighters in the Battle of Hogwarts that there will no longer be a need for the Sorting Hat as the banner of Slytherin will suffice for everyone. This seems hard to believe, especially as it has come from someone who was enthralled with the founders so much as to make horcruxes out of their heirlooms. Inclusions of things like this make it remarkably easy to remember that what you are reading is a children’s book.
The Battle of Hogwarts is epically paced and there is a real sense of danger- a type of danger that we have not encountered before. More than anything Deathly Hallows stands to be read again and again without losing any of its shine or importance or feeling.