Canon discussion / Essays

Why is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban so popular?


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Why is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban so popular?

Google the phrase “favourite harry potter book poll” and many of the listed results have the third book as the winner. This has set me thinking about why Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favourite of the seven books. I have come to the conclusion that it is mainly for two reasons: (1) Harry acquires a family of his own and (2) there are no actual or Voldemort-inspired killings, battles or deaths. It is the deep breath before plunging into the angst of next four books.

Our editor-in-chief, Steve, pointed out on the Lexicon’s Patreon Discord that the book is

“the most tightly plotted of the entire series with every detail, every situation, every set piece woven integrally into the story, no matter how whimsical or wild….”

He also notes the absolute brilliance of the Peter Pettigrew surprise reveal at the end of the book.

While I agree with him (of course I do Steve!), I also want to note some of the other situations that make the book so enjoyable for readers.

Uncle VernonVernon Dursley tries to make a deal after Harry endures a second awful school holiday stay in their house. If Harry will “behave” while Vernon’s sister Marge is visiting, Mr Dursley will sign the Hogsmeade permission form for him to be able to visit the village during the coming school term. When Marge Dursley, who has been told that Harry attends the “St Brutus’s Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys“, makes nasty remarks about his parents, Harry – in anger – accidentally blows her up like a balloon and then runs away. I know someone I wouldn’t mind floating up to the ceiling.

The Knight Bus – Also, wouldn’t everyone want to be rescued by a purple multi-deckered bus with other stranded witches and wizards on board? There are the brass beds and ability to purchase extras like a chocolate drink or a hot water bottle with toothbrush.

Diagon Alley – We get to see witches and wizards doing their shopping, gossiping and relaxing in the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley. These are scenes taking place every day in the real wizarding world. Harry fits in here and he is relaxed and happy.

Magic classes and teachers – More is revealed about each one of Harry’s classes and also the subjects that Hermione has taken on. Defence Against the Dark Arts is shown to be an extremely interesting and important class. There are several fascinating curriculum details that can be gleaned from what is tested in their end of year exams. Every piece of information whets the appetite – if only we could have those books and papers to look at!

The Marauder’s Map – A map that shows where everyone is located (and secret passages)? Yes please!

Harry’s family – Our hearts are lifted by Harry’s discovery of his godfather’s innocence, and then are dashed by the appearance of the full moon and the Dementors. Sirius Black is saved and Professor Snape outwitted but, in the end, Harry is still going to be stuck with the Dursleys for the summer.

So why is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a favourite? It is a book with lots of details and interest, especially once Harry returns to the wizarding world. There are emotional ups and downs. And the book ends with hope. Harry hopes that the Weasleys will invite him to the Quidditch World Cup in the summer. He hopes that the threat of his godfather will keep Mr Dursley in check. And he hopes that he and Sirius Black will be able to meet again someday.


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