08 February 2013

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Rock On

Oh, PoA, 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:


  1. *puts on English hat* ACTually English schools don't finish for the summer until around the 20-something of July, and then go back at the start of September. It's usually around 6 weeks. So it's EVEN less than you thought! (Boarding schools do have longer holidays though.)

    Oh man, Ginny is CLEARLY much more of a BAMF than Harry. But I mean, your parents vs some kids you barely know..? Who didn't actually die? *Shrugs*

    I think it is out of character for Hermione to be rude to Trelawney, but at least that's acknowledged, you know? And we all know that Hermione is alllll about the logic :)

    1. true, the students didn't die, but hermione-as-riddle WANTED them to die. wouldn't almost killing your schoolmates against your own wishes be more traumatic than something that by all rights you should't be able to remember? maybe not.

      wait, y'all only get 6 weeks out of school for the summer? that seems wrong.

    2. Summer breaks are only 6 weeks in Britain? That is awesome. (American kids get WAYYYY too much time off of school).

  2. I.... okay. I read your posts and I nod and agree wiht almost everything you say and OMG JK definitely falls into the trap of using a word twice on the same page/in the same paragraph, although she does get better about it.

    And then you come up with these GIFs and I laugh OUT LOUD at my desk while I'm supposed to be emailing heads of state and doing important stuff and I forget everything I wanted to say because I'm trying desperately to keep my shit together so I don't get in trouble.


  3. My schools in NJ never let out for summer break until the end of June. Is that...is that not normally the case?

    So we find out Fudge was waiting for Harry at the Leaky Cauldron and he's not getting in trouble for the underaged magic because Sirius is coming after him. Which is nice and all but still seems like something someone a little lower on the wizarding political totem pole could have handled. Or the world does completely revolve around HP.

    I choose to believe Ginny is a super badass. Because yeah, her horrors are way fresher and why doesn't anyone remember this about her? Poor Ginny.

    1. i've lived in MS, WI, NC and MA and all of the schools are out no later than the first week of June or so. Public schools, anyway. Later if there have been lots of snowdays in WI or MA, though.

      Ginny, who started out as a bit of a Mary Sue for me, is now perhaps my favorite character second to Hermione. Or maybe Snape. From now on I'm going to look for signs of her BAMF-ness.

  4. I always love your posts because they give me so much to respond to. Today, I've essentially written a 2nd mini-post. Oops!

    Excellent questions about past efforts at disposing of magical folk. I've thought about the wand issue too, but the other questions didn't occur to me.

    Oh, Hedwig. She's so sweet and also reminds me of my cat (is this weird?). Also, it's very impressive that she knows dates. Also, she listens and responds appropriately to Harry at times, so it makes sense that Buckbeak does too.

    I AGREE about the Weasleys' trust in Dumbledore. SO UNFOUNDED.

    I partially agree about Hagrid, but he's not entirely to blame. For a new teacher, somebody should DEFINITELY be checking his lesson plans or at the very least casually asking him what he has planned. Also, LOL daleks. LOVE IT!

    WHATSA matter with Lupin, huh? No, really. I mean, he's kind of shitty in DH but I GET IT.

    Maybe the Ravenclaw who makes the comment about apparating is a Muggle-born and therefore does not know how common it is? Eh?

    AGREED about the info dump, and I'm so mad I forgot to mention it. Is that conversation not the most awkward thing ever? Not only does it make no sense to discuss it in a crowded bar, but why choose that moment to share that info with the proprietor?

    1. Oh, agreed! I don't blame Hagrid per se, but I do blame the system that drops him in front of a bunch of kids and expects him to teach, when he himself only has a third-year education. I think he could be a fine teacher for his subject but only after learning how to be one.

      Hedwig reminds me of my cat, too, so that is not weird AT ALL.

      Oh, that Fudge scene in the bar. Asking Rosmerta to cuddle up and chat. Whatevs.

      Maybe the ravenclaw in question was a muggle born. 's possible. but if you knew about apparating, wouldn't you also know how common it is? maybe not. i dunno.

  5. P.S. LOVE the expecto patronum gif.

  6. I ASKED and people said two parts. Two!!

    "Children as young as 7 or 8 could be tried and killed as a witch back in the day." Ooh, did you see ParaNorman?

    Also, I LOVE in DH when they do their pointless-but-not-pointless camping. But we will get to that later. And ALL THE GINNY LOVE. If nothing else comes out of this readalong, I hope Ginny gets much, much more appreciated.

    Omg the Dalek pic. **OMG**

    1. well, i think i didn't say two parts. but 's okay. i've got 3 others books/week i have to read for work, so it's actually hard for me to keep up with this readalong. but maybe i'm taking it too serioiusly and that's my problem, not anybody else.

      i didn't see ParaNorman. wot is it?

      Glad you liked Dalek.

  7. EXCELLENT POINT RE: THE STAMPED LETTERS AND WHY ARE THEY PEELING. We nitpick because we love (I mean, we love HP, but also we love the English language and also logic).

    I have tucked that scrotum gif away for later use.

    1. We do nitpick because we love. Because if we didn't love, we wouldn't bother.

      I fully expect everybody to use to the scrotum gif next week. It's too good to pass on, really.

  8. Who says Lupin hasn't taught before?

    Maybe he's taught at another school, or maybe he had the bag made and was then shunned and realised he couldn't teach but has kept the bag since finishing at Hogwarts which was 15 years a go and plenty of time to get all peeled and battered.

    1. well...I guess it's *possible* that he's taught elsewhere. but not another wizarding school because he cannot keep a job in the wizarding world. and it's not likely that he was able to be a professor in the muggle world, as I don't think he'd b qualified to teach anything at the level that would earn him the title of "professor."

      and yes, the bag can and should be quite shabby. but the letters shouldn't be peeling.

    2. Key phrase there was KEEP a job. We never find out what he did between school and teaching at Hogwarts other than a vague mention of keeping any job for long. So we have no proof that he never taught at Durmstrang etc nor do we know that he didn't go to a muggle university. If anything that would make sense, since no one would look at him being sick once a month and think werewolf.

  9. Ginny is a pretty awesome witch, just the trio keep thinking of her as a little sister. Slughorn saw it

    1. you're quite right. i started off on this readalong thinking that ginny was generally a mary sue, but i'm changing my tune now. consider me a membe rof the ginny-appreciation society!

  10. Your posts are amazing. I feel like I've missed so much after I read yours lol!

    We only get about 8 weeks summer vacation in Canada (school's out very end of June and back to school right after Labour day). Always seemed unfair when I was growing up.

    I totally didn't buy that George and Fred would let Harry keep the map for good. Borrow it, sure...but not keep it.

    1. i think it's just because i'm so obsessive and have read them so many times that i get nitpicky.

      re: school breaks. how long is the canadian easter break? maybe that explains why the summer break is shorter because most US schools don't get one. unless it's the equivalent of our spring break, so maybe I just don't know what i'm talking about...

    2. Depends if spring break falls over Easter...I remember growing up and feeling so ripped off if spring break fell over Easter - if it did, you got a week off, plus the Easter Monday (so 6 days total). BUT, if you had spring break during another week - you would get the 5 days off, and then a 4-day long weekend over Easter. To be honest, I'm not sure how it all works out here anymore (I'm old {not really} and I have no kids)...and I think it differs from province to province.

  11. I think the level of punishment for underage magic is expullsion from school, isn't it? Although I have no idea what the middle-ground punishment is for adults who break the law, I'm sure there probably is one but it never comes up.

    Maybe the letters on Lupin's case are of poor quality and that's why they're peeling already? Or did he teach at other places before Hogwarts? I feel like I remember him saying something about getting kicked out of other teaching gigs because of what he is, but I'm not sure. We'll see, I suppose.

    I love the Siriusly gif. I'm going to continue to use it long after this readalong is over.

    1. Poor quality letters? I guess that is definitely a possibility. i thought hogwarts was his first teaching gig, but i may be surprised when i get to the end of the book. (it's so hard not to read ahead!)

  12. I think Hagrid being such a bad teacher is the whole point. Dumbledore is loyal to a fault (as shall be played out so dramatically in later books) and this is just another instance of Dumbledore making the wrong decision.

    1. Dumbledore may be loyal to a fault, but not across the board and not to all people who are deserving of loyalty...

      the thing is, Hagrid could be a really terrific care of magical creatures teacher if he just had a bit of training in how to teach and someone looking over his lesson plans.

  13. I do love your posts! If you criticize because you love, then you must love these books more than I can comprehend. It brings up lots of talking points, which is excellent. So thank you for that.

    So much to respond to! I'm going to go with the double suddenly's. It all depends on how you read it - the rhythm, even. When they're so close together, the second seems to intentionally mirror the first. "The golden plates and goblets filled suddenly with food and drink. Harry, suddenly ravenous, helped himself..." His sudden hunger is a reaction to the sudden appearance of food. All this to say, it doesn't bother me, and it may even be intentional.

    Have I spent too much energy defending this one little thing? Probably, yes.

    1. TOuche. I'm definitely nitpicking here more than I would if I were reading this by myself. But if I hadn't read and/or listened to the books multiple times each (which = love), then i wouldn't be able to pay attention to these minor details, either. so maybe it all evens out?

      you could be right on the intentional "suddenly" duplication. i dunno. i do think it's safe to assume that harry's sudden reaction of hunger is a direct result of the sudden appearance oc the food. i just would've, personally, preferred no repetition.

    2. It totally evens out. And we put huge pressure on the things we love the most to be perfect, so those little things irk us more than they would otherwise. And the big things, well the big things get totally out of hand, haha.

  14. Suddenly I am filled with envy for your way with words.

    Suddenly I am asking myself, "How the heck does Emily do that with the photos?"

    Suddenly I feel that it is time to sign out.



  15. Suddenly I feel as if you might be poking fun at me. Suddenly I have a large grin on my face.


Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)