First of all, poor, poor Aunt Marge. How the blazes was she to know Harry was a powerful wizard in training? Why did no one tell her before she made such a huge mistake. Such a horrible thing as being all blown up should never happen to such a kindly, good-natured soul. Kidding. Totally deserved it. Anyway, although I do wish there had been a much greater appearance by the ghosts, this was probably on par with the second book but not as good as the first. There were many other interesting new plot points, characters, and creatures. These are a few of my favorite things: Professor Lupin, time travel (I’m a sucker for time travel), and the Dementors.
For so many reasons my respect for Rowling’s creative genius has been bolstered by each of these three books. There were a lot of ingenious, creative touches in this current work. The Dementors as the embodiment of depression: Genius. I have read that as she was writing this book she began treatment for severe depression and that the Dementors were a direct inspiration of this. And the obvious cure to make you feel all better: Chocolate! Madame Pomphrey apparently keeps lots of it on hand, probably taking a nip now and then herself—for medicinal purposes, you understand.
Most of the dialogue in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is really good. However, there are two pretty sizeable dialogue wastelands in this one. Both are awkward portions of relating a lot of information. The first occurs in the middle of the book. Harry overhears Cornelius Fudge, Minerva McGonagall, Filius Flitwick, and Rubeus Hagrid while they are hanging out at a bar in Hogsmeade. First of all, maybe it’s just me but these four don’t seem like they would hang out at a bar with each other. It just seemed awkward. Second, the dialogue of this portion seemed longer than it really was because it was not that well written. Same thing for another overlong dialogue wasteland toward the end of the book when Lupin, Sirius, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have another overlong and awkward “information-relating” conversation. While the information related in both was crucial to the plot, I wish Rowling had done it less awkwardly. Rowling is a superior author in many ways, but she is not J.R.R. Tolkien who can get away with this (See “The Council of Elrond,” a chapter in Fellowship of the Ring which is almost entirely a long conversation of massive “information-relation).
Where Rowling particularly shines to me is the many small passing details like Harry’s mirror reflection talking back to him or the giant squid propelling itself dreamily across the surface of the lake or Dumbledore addressing Dereck, a first year student, at a Christmas party, causing him to turn bright red. These are only three examples of what Rowling does best: Imaginative and insightful detail. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is rife with them. And thus, Rowling achieves another timeless victory.