________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 9 . . . . January 7, 2000

cover Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

J.K. Rowling.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 1999.
317 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55192-246-0.

Subject Headings:
Wizards-Juvenile fiction.
Magic-Juvenile fiction.
Schools-Juvenile fiction.
Fantasy fiction.

Grades 5-11 / Ages 10-16.
Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4


Exam week began and an unnatural hush fell over the castle. The third-years emerged from Transfiguration at lunchtime on Monday limp and ashen-faced, comparing results and bemoaning the difficulty of the tasks they had been set, which had included turning a teapot into a tortoise. Hermione irritated the rest by fussing about how her tortoise had looked more like a turtle, which was the least of everyone else's worries.
"Mine still had a spout for a tail, what a nightmare..."
"Were the tortoises supposed to breathe steam?"
"It still had a willow-patterned shell, d'you think that'll count against me?"
Then after a hasty lunch, it was straight back upstairs for the Charms exam. Hermione had been right; Professor Flitwick did indeed test them on the Cheering Charms. Harry slightly overdid his out of nerves and Ron, who was partnering him, ended up in fits of hysterical laughter and had to be led away to a quiet room for an hour before he was ready to perform the Charm himself.
Harry Potter is now in his third year at Hogwarts, the school for wizards and witches. (Since the normal stay at the school is seven years, it appears that J.K.Rowling is planning a heptology - hurrah!) Both Muggle (i.e., human) and wizard worlds are upset by the escape of a mass murderer from a particularly nasty and impregnable prison. Since there is reason to expect that this person will turn up at Hogwarts, security there is very tight, with all entrances being guarded by Dementors, horrible beings who suck the joy out of existence, leaving only horror and despair. In spite of this situation, school continues to be interesting. Ron has a new wand, and Hermione appears to be taking more courses than are physically possible, but there is a new master of Defense Against the Dark Arts who is both nice and competent, almost compensating for Professor Snape's continued antagonism. Strange things happen, however - things that, when the mystery is finally resolved, all make sense. The "murderer" was, in fact, innocent; Harry's sneakoscope, which kept indicating the presence of someone who couldn't be trusted, was not broken, and, as usual, all comes out right in the end with Gryffindor, Harry's house, winning both the Quidditch cup and the house championship. In the course of the action, Harry learns a lot more about his parents, his own escape from You-Know-Who, and his wizardly powers.

As a story, this volume is more satisfactory than the previous book. The mystery and its clues are well disguised, but loose ends are nicely tied off at the end without too much obvious use of unnecessary coincidence. (After all, who needs coincidence when you can go back in time and live a few hours over again, thus being in two places at once!) Although Harry's main betes noirs at school (the student Malfoy and Snape, professor of potions) continue to be stereotypically unpleasant, they get their come-uppances in an amusing way, and Harry's friendships develop real depth and compassion in parallel with the development of the various characters. All in all, a fine continuation of the series, and I look forward to Number Four.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas, who works in two Winnipeg elementary school libraries, is wondering how to ration out her few copies of the Harry Potter books.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364