, how long I've awaited thee. Slugging through the first two books of the series to get to you. Only to discover that you, too, are slower than what I remember. Join me as I hash and rehash pointless bits of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in order to earn house point for Slytherin in the Harry Potter Readalong, sponsored by Alice at Reading Rambo
. Maybe we can agree at this point that all of the books end with a bang, but they mostly are a slower build (with the exception of DH
, which starts with bang but then you have to wade through hundreds of pages of pointless camping).
Also, I think this book should have been broken up into three parts--it's a little too chunky for two and not quite chunky enough for an entire month.
Chapter One, page 2. Burning witches & wizards at the stake: but what happened when magical folk were caught without their wand? Surely many were actually burned instead of just tickled. And what about the muggles who preferred to drown witches? I'm pretty sure that they didn't all have a pocketful of gillyweed handy. What about all of the underage magical kids? Children as young as 7 or 8 could be tried and killed as a witch back in the day. So I'm not sure that Bathilda Bagshot was writing a particularly accurate history. (I've been thinking about this ever since reading a fanfiction that prompted these questions--I didn't come to these conclusions on my own.)
Chapter 1, p. 5. Straight up inquiry, no snark: do most British schools not let out for summer holiday until the start of the 4th week in June? Because it's Harry's birthday (July 31) when the book opens and he says that it's been five long weeks since the end of term. If that's the case, then Brits have a much shorter summer break than I thought.
Chapter 1, p. 11. Hermione's letter, which informs Harry that Hedwig showed up in time to get a present to Harry for his birthday. Made my heart swell a little bit. I'd forgotten that detail. Makes that early moment in DH
(you know what I mean) all the more poignant.
Chapter 3: The whole Knight Bus thing. The more I think about it, the more I think this is just one big inexcusable deus ex machina
. Even within the wizarding world it doesn't make sense. First of all, how can muggle trees and houses and things just move out of the way when it comes through? It would be far more believable if the Knight Bus itself just split into pieces to go around otherwise immoveable objects. And why does it take forever to actually travel anywhere on
the Knight Bus if, the moment a magical person raises their wand arm, the Knight Bus appears immediately--why can't it just appear that quickly at the person's destination, too? And why doesn't it show up when people are casting magic by raising their wand arms--how can it tell the difference between a wand arm trying to flag a ride and a wand arm trying to cast magic? I'm sorry, I'm just not buying it.
Same chapter but later, when Harry and Fudge are talking: Harry's worried about getting expelled for blowing up his aunt and Fudge assures him that they don't send people to Azkaban just for accidental magic. Okay, that's good. But in the wizarding world, is there no level of punishment between getting sent to prison and...nothing?
Chapter Four: The Leaky Cauldron. Curious thing that Harry overhears Arthur and Molly talking about: "I don't think anything could hurt Harry at Hogwarts while Dumbledore's headmaster." Did Molly just happen to forget that Ron was grievously hurt in an animated chess match a little over a year ago and that her daughter almost died a few months ago, all while under Dumbledore's watch? I get that they trust Dumbledore, but that seems a little extreme to me.
Chapter Five: The Dementor. I'd love to know if Lupin is recovering from a full moon change here and that's why he's sleeping so soundly on the train, or if he's merely pretending to sleep on the way to Hogwarts.
Also, he's never taught before, so why should the letters stamped into his "small, battered case" be peeling already. Sure, most of stuff should be shabby and threadbare. But he just got this teaching gig, so if "Professor R J Lupin" is stamped on his bag, then the letters shouldn't be peeling already. Dear me, what are
they paying copy and line editors for these days?
Later in the same chapter: it makes no logical sense to me that Harry faints in the presence of the Dementors and Ginny does not. Harry saw his parents killed when he was one year old; Ginny almost killed many of her schoolmates and almost died, all whilst being possessed by the spirit of an evil wizard, but she huddles in a corner and lets out a sob. I dunno, but it seems to me that either JKR got things a little mixed up here, or Ginny is one serious BAMF and made of sterner stuff than anybody else in the series. I present these as evidence:
Later in the same chapter: "The golden plates and goblets filled suddenly
with food and drink. Harry, suddenly
ravenous, helped himself..." It's too bad there aren't any words or phrases in the English language that could have replaced "suddenly" in one of those sentences. Oh, wait, there are about a dozen of them. Never mind.
Chapter Six: Talons and Tea Leaves. I generally like Hagrid (I don't love him, but I'm not one of those readers who has no use for him, either), but I really cannot condone his appointment as teacher. Not without some pedagogical training at least. Starting 13-year-olds with powerful and dangerous creatures? Not making sure that the class was paying attention to his instructions before sending them into the arena where the outcome could be mauling or death? I'm sorry, but that's just terrible. I wouldn't want to take classes from Hagrid (unless it were a directed study, one-on-one) and I sure as hell wouldn't want children in my care to be taking classes, either. I don't agree with Draco's attitude here, but I sure agree when he says his father will have a fit when he hears about Hagrid.
Same chapter: do you reckon that Hippogriffs can understand insults in any language, or just English? Or maybe they just understand human tone and can interpret when they're being insulted? I dunno, but this seems a little odd to me.
Okay, couldn't find any "bad teacher" gifs that didn't involve Cameron Diaz or naughtiness, but I ran across this and thought, what the hell? It might make Alice laugh, and that's worth something:
Chapter Seven: The Boggart. Okay, I cheerfully admit it. I like this chapter. I love Snape as a character but I don't love the way he bullies children and cultivates their fear of him, so I think it's a great come-uppance.
Chapter Eight: Flight of the Fat Lady. I used to think that JKR meant something when she used surnames vs given names vs full names in the text. Now I am not so sure. How many characters named Pansy or George are flitting about the books? Why would she feel she needs to name their full name, then? And with George it's not constant. It's like duck, duck, goose, the way JKR names him in the text, but instead it's George, George, George Weasley.
Later in the same chapter: Harry and Lupin have their first one on one moment, and I love it. I don't love the Marauders, and I don't always respect Lupin in the later books, but in this book I love him. Perhaps not least because he seems to be the only Gryffindor (besides, perhaps, McGonagall) who respects Snape and doesn't show anti-Slytherin bias.
Chapter Nine: Grim Defeat. Okay, I should probably admit here that if I weren't participating in this readalong I'd probably be less critical. But then I run across something like this, where the students are debating how Sirius Black broke into Hogwarts and I just laugh: "'Maybe he knows how to Apparate,' said a Ravenclaw." I can easily forgive a student, even a Ravenclaw, for not reading Howarts: A History
and therefore not knowing that you cannot Apparate into Hogwarts. No, my criticism lies elsewhere for that comment. One of the brightest students at Hogwarts suggests that being able to apparate is something special, as if nearly everybody over the age of 17 couldn't do it. It would be like a muggle student saying, "maybe he knows how to drive"
when it's the opposite that should be noteworthy.
Chapter Ten: The Marauders' Map. That is one nifty piece of magic, I have to say, and quite clever of those four boys to create it. And not significantly less clever for Fred & George to figure out how to work that map, though I don't believe for a moment that the twins would have given it to Harry for keeps.
Further exasperation: I get that Harry needs his info-dump to learn about Sirius Black, but if, in Fudge's own words, that "not many people are aware" of what he's about to say, why is he gossiping about it in a crowded bar, to a bartender, and why doesn't McGonagall know the whole story when Draco Malfoy does? I would have much preferred for Dumbledore to have taken Harry aside and shared this information with him than to put it out there in that way.
Argh, must finish soon. I only had read through chapter 8 by the time I woke up this morning. I'm reading & blogging, blogging & reading.
What else? Trelawney: I don't love her, but I also don't think it's very much in character for Hermione to mouth off to her. And as for McGonagall, I'm not sure that I believe she would lose her professional veneer enough to insult a fellow professor.
I'm a little sorry that we didn't get to the next chapter on this post, but I'm going to end with an Expecto Patronum gif anyway. I expect most of us will use one next week in our post!
Okay, seriously, I've already spent too much time on this and haven't made any serious/Sirious puns. Here's one for the road: