This review was originally published on Pol Culture.
With Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban, the third book in the series, author J. K. Rowling appears to be striving for a more cohesive and intricate narrative than she attempted in the first two outings. Unlike its predecessors, it doesn’t feel broken into distinct sections. The day-in-day-out of Harry Potter’s third year at the Hogwarts School feels all of a piece with the climactic adventure passages. There are multiple narrative threads: the search for the fugitive Sirius Black; the misadventures with the Dementor prison guards seeking him; the fate of the maligned hippogriff creature; the secret of the new Dark Arts professor; the travails of Ron’s pet rat Scabbers; and the mystery of how Hermione handles her impossible course load. Rowling does a fine job of weaving them all together. One wishes she was able to create more resonance out of her efforts at narrative doubling. The Sirius Black and hippogriff story arcs have similar thematic elements. Although they come together plot-wise, they don’t play off each other as well as one might hope. But through it all, Rowling keeps the characters firmly etched and the reader turning the pages. It’s hard to ask for more from a storyteller.