Why “Prisoner of Azkaban” Is the Worst Book in the Series
It seems that about half of the Potterheads I meet claim Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to be their favorite in the series. Every time I hear that, I have to bite my tongue because it has always been my least favorite. Let me preface this post by shouting from the rooftops that I STILL LOVE PRISONER OF AZKABAN! It is a great part of Harry Potter, and I adore it for many reasons, but if I were forced to rank the stories from 1 to 7, best to worst, Book 3 would easily fall in the last place for me. Here are four reasons why:
It has little to add to Harry’s story.
If someone had never read (or seen) the series before and skipped Prisoner of Azkaban, they wouldn’t be that confused jumping into Goblet of Fire. Yes, we are introduced to Remus and Sirius (and ultimately Peter Pettigrew), but JKR always does a good job of explaining important plotlines from previous books that might leave someone confused if they joined us in the thick of things. There are a few things that we learn about – mainly the Patronus – that come back again, but ultimately, Prisoner of Azkaban doesn’t add much to Harry’s story that the audience needs. Yes, we all loved being introduced to James, and of course, I too would love to hear more of the Marauders, but in the fight against Voldemort, Book 3 leaves something to be desired.
Time travel is a plot hole waiting to happen.
Am I the only one who can’t wrap my brain around time travel? Whether it’s Doctor Who, Star Trek, or Harry Potter, I just can’t make sense of people changing what has already happened. Time paradoxes and “actual” science cannot be reconciled. Harry and Hermione seemingly only changed the fate of Sirius and Buckbeak, but how was literally nobody else affected? What if Hagrid was intended to go into a deep depression and leave Hogwarts? Who would have saved Harry in Deathly Hallows? Just like little moments can affect us in big ways, there is no way that time travel wouldn’t affect everyone in these stories. And I absolutely do not understand how it would work if multiple people in the wizarding world had Time-Turners being used at the same time. My brain hurts just writing this.
Ron and Harry make me cringe.
My annoyance is not necessarily at the fact that Ron and Harry were terrible friends to Hermione (although yes, that too), but that we all seem to forget that they were. The boys essentially spent the entire school year being mad at her because she was concerned when Harry was mysteriously gifted the Firebolt and because her cat was… acting like a cat. Yes, Hermione was hiding the fact that she was, y’know, traveling through time in order to take more classes than anyone should ever even want to, but if anything, she needed their friendship that year more than ever. I want to give Ron and Harry the benefit of the doubt since they were 13-year-old boys, but they already demonstrated impressive emotional intelligence in previous years. In Prisoner of Azkaban, they dropped the ball both with Hermione and Hagrid, who deserved to be treated much, much better.
Enough with “Mischief managed!”
Overall, I’d say that Book 3 is the least quotable of all the Harry Potter books. We don’t even get much wisdom from Dumbledore, who is arguably the most quotable literary character to ever exist in the history of ever. I’m therefore not sure how “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” and “Mischief managed” (PoA, ch. 10) became the staples to represent Harry Potter fans worldwide. What about “Constant vigilance” (GoF, ch. 14) or even “Have a biscuit” (OotP, ch. 12)? Yeah, the Marauder’s Map is cool and all, but as a low-key Hermione who in fact causes little to no mischief, I can’t relate to “Mischief managed,” but I do indeed eat lots of biscuits. Consider this my formal vote to change all the HP merch with Marauder’s Map lines to biscuit-related quotes.
Maybe this all stems from the sibling rivalry between my sister and me circa 2002 (since Prisoner of Azkaban was always her favorite), but even if I’m not the #1 fan of Book 3, I do still love Prisoner of Azkaban. Despite what I feel it’s lacking, I hold it near and dear to my heart. And not to be dramatic or anything, but I would die for Buckbeak.