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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Paperback – September 11, 2001 by J.K. Rowling (Author)

It’s hard to write a review for a book in a series that you’ve read more times than you can remember, and seen the movie more times than you could count. From that statement alone it should be obvious that I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter series. Do I write my review based upon my first time reading it, or the everlasting impression this book has left me with? I think that fact that this book has made me think and ponder certain ideas over the years, I think the everlasting impression should be the topic of my review. After encountering Dolores Umbridge, I was left pondering the question "What is evil?" Voldemort is obviously the Villian of the series, however I feel Umbridge is a much more sinister and evil Villian than even Voldemort. Voldemort’s actions and evil deeds are really very simple to understand. What motivates him is power and greed and he is willing to go to any lengths to achieve those goals. While evil in itself, his motives and actions are very straight forward and easy to understand. It is easy to see Voldemort for the evil that he is, which therefore keeps him in hiding only surrounded by his Death Eaters. Dolores Umbridge is a very different type of evil. Dolores Umbridge is the type of evil that we, the muggles that we are, encounter on a daily basis. They are the people who enjoy the hurt, pain, chaos and distrust they cause through their manipulations and lies. The enjoy the devastation they cause in their wake. The fact that she can create the heartache she relishes so much with a false smile, sweet sanguine falsetto, and splashes of whimsy to give the impression of naveté and an innocent childlike behavior which puts one off initially of comprehending the true evil she inflicts to hide the monster she is, and the fact that through these false tactics she has risen to a position of power to inflict heartache unto others, shows she is a master at hiding her true psychopathic personality. This sick personality trait is shown most clearly when she makes Harry write lines in detention. She knows Harry is telling the truth, yet she lies and manipulates him until she is in a position of power directly over him in detention at which point she not only continues her lies causing mental anguish to Harry, she continues her evil machinations by causing him physical pain by forcing him to use her quill which scratches and ultimately scars Harry for the rest of his life. Umbridge enjoys Harry’s suffering. She even inspects his hand at the end of each detention to make sure he is being cut and that his hand is bleeding and then in a well satisfied way compliments Harry on completing his detention. Her only praise is when Harry does something to cause hurt and pain and twists what he knows is the truth into something false. This is standard textbook psychopathic behavior in domestic abusers. The fact that Doloros Umbridge can navigate society in such a way as to gain a position if importance in the Minisrptry of Magic and flourish in normal wizarding society while hiding her insidious psychopathic tendencies leaves her in an excellent position of power to inflict hurt to others. Her brand if evil is subtle and is not so obvious at a first glance which gives her the ability to "blend in" with others and yet she victimizes many in her wake, as she navigates through life. In Voldemort’s case, his brand of evil is so obvious to everyone that he is an outcast of the wizarding community, which ultimately lessens the number of his potential victims to those simply standing in his way of power, while in Umbridge’s case her victim pool is limitless die to her access to the community and all those she comes across. So here is the moral question I have pondered for many years since reading this book for the first time. "Which Behavior Is More Evil?" Personally, I feel Dolores Umbridge is the much more evil of the two characters based upon the reasons given in the prior paragraph. Whether you agree or disagree with me is not the point. The point is to make you think and ponder for yourself. The fact that this book makes you think long after you’ve turned the last page, is a mark of literacy success. Whiter you’ve read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix once, or a hundred times, it is always a great novel to read again and again, and question what constitutes as evil. Check it out!

Amazon.com Review For most children, summer vacation is something to look forward to. But not for our 13-year-old hero, who’s forced to spend his summers with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who detest him. The third book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series catapults into action when the young wizard “accidentally” causes the Dursleys’ dreadful visitor Aunt Marge to inflate like a monstrous balloon and drift up to the ceiling. Fearing punishment from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon (and from officials at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who strictly forbid students to cast spells in the nonmagic world of Muggles), Harry lunges out into the darkness with his heavy trunk and his owl Hedwig. As it turns out, Harry isn’t punished at all for his errant wizardry. Instead he is mysteriously rescued from his Muggle neighborhood and whisked off in a triple-decker, violently purple bus to spend the remaining weeks of summer in a friendly inn called the Leaky Cauldron. What Harry has to face as he begins his third year at Hogwarts explains why the officials let him off easily. It seems that Sirius Black–an escaped convict from the prison of Azkaban–is on the loose. Not only that, but he’s after Harry Potter. But why? And why do the Dementors, the guards hired to protect him, chill Harry’s very heart when others are unaffected? Once again, Rowling has created a mystery that will have children and adults cheering, not to mention standing in line for her next book. Fortunately, there are four more in the works. (Ages 9 and older) –Karin Snelson –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Paperback – September 11, 2001 by J.K. Rowling (Author) Review

With all of the reprints of the Harry Potter series (paperback, new cover art, movie pictures, etc), we were trying to complete our collection of the original hard back books. We didn’t start buying these for our collection until book #5 when the series had gained such a huge following. We were so glad we could find these individually here on Amazon to get the missing ones. The Prisoner of Azkaban continues a fascinating and engaging series. Book one of the series was very lighthearted as the world and characters were introduced. There was indeed a conflict and a villain, but the focus was on the world itself and the magic we could find in it. Book two continued in that world but had a noticeably darker tone (as did many of the later books). However, Book three returned us to a lighter tone while creating a self-encased conflict and villain with some really neat time-travelling plot twists (think of Bill and Ted or Back to the Future). The last four books tell more of a continuous narrative while I feel that each of the first three is more standalone. Yes, they end with an explanation of how the self-contained events fit into the overarching conflict of the series. But the individual plot elements of the books seem to lend themselves to the story at hand rather than the overall conflict. It seems that this changes with Book four when many parts of the book focus more on the overall plot rather than the individual book plot. Even if you’ve seen the movies, the books are deserving of a read. The cliche that the books are always better than the movies holds very true here. We hope that JK Rowling continues to write for many years and that she can create other worlds that are equally as imaginative and engaging as this one. Thanks for a great ride! -Read Reviews-

Harry Potter Part II: The Good and the Not So Good A good way to evaluate Harry Potter is to compare it to Tolkiens Lord of the Rings trilogy. Taking into account the facts that Tolkiens masterpiece is the standard for fantasy literature and that Rowling is writing a slightly different genre and for a different audience, Harry Potter holds up fairly well. Nevertheless, Rowling falls short at a crucial point. That shortcoming, however, is one that much Christian thinking about God and evil shares. We desperately need to hear Tolkien in order to avoid the errors of moralism and a simplistic faith that cannot withstand the tidal waves of disappointment in the face of the hiddenness of God. The similarities between Tolkiens and Rowlings works are obvious. They are both fantasy literature, have a deep concern with the dangers of power, and share a typically British appreciation for normal life. The differences are just as important. Harry Potter is also a coming of age story and shows a marked preoccupation with death. The Lord of the Rings is an epic tale and so more in tune with the tragic dimension of life. As a coming of age story, Harry Potter is necessarily geared to a younger audience than Tolkien, and, at least in the earlier volumes, is at the level of intelligent older children. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione grow up, the story becomes more appropriate for adolescents and young adults. I think this is why Rowling has so much more humor than does Tolkien. Her marvelous gift for invention is used to entertain children and teens. Howlers, disgusting jelly bean flavors, and quidditch are great fun. She also includes a wonderful collection of queer beasts and odd ball characters. Tolkien is the better stylist. As an epic author his prose has a gravitas that is lacking in Rowling, and his landscape descriptions carry the reader into a world of sweeping grandeur. At times Rowlings writing contains some painful lapses. Rowling does avoid the trap of simplistic characterization, a failing of many childrens and cosmic conflict stories. Her characters are not mere cartoon figures of pure good and evil. There is internal conflict and failure by the good. Hermione can be a prig. In addition to Rons adolescent addiction to snogging (which is Rowlings fault not his), he is subject to juvenile jealousy, and Harry can feel real hatred. Harry also has to come to grips with the fact that his father had mistreated Snape, and, as a young wizard, even Dumbledore had lusted for power. Also, some of the bad characters are not purely evil. The Malfoy family is a case in point. Lucius Malfoy, a nasty bigoted man, in the end is a weak person. His wife Narcissa is too, but at the same time she is strongly devoted to her son Draco, a devotion that leads her to lie to Voldemort and save Harry Potter. Draco, the bad boy bully in all the earlier stories, still has enough decency not to want to kill Dumbledore and in the end, if not reconciled to Harry, at least has become a husband and a father who is no longer actively hostile to Potter. Both Rowling and Tolkien finish their tales in the typically British fashion in which the great cosmic battle for evil results in the reestablishment of normal life. In Tolkien the Shire is restored, and Sam becomes happily married. In Harry Potter the main characters are married and send their children to Hogwarts. Yet this return to the normal points to the most serious shortcoming of Harry Potter. Rowlings portrayal of evil lacks the depth of Tolkiens. Harrys loss of his parents and friends poignantly portrays the human desire to escape the tragic consequences of death. Voldemorts quest for immortality shows how that desire can be perverted to very evil ends. In the end, however, Harry can go on to live a normal life, having matured from his combat with evil but not being permanently marred by it. He can live a normal life even though he has a scar. The effect of evil upon Frodo is lasting, symbolized by his loss of a finger and the injury received on Weathertop that never completely heals. Frodo does not just have battle wounds. He is a wounded person. He cannot return to a normal life in the Shire and is granted passage to Valinor where he will find peace. As I watched Harry snap the Elder Wand and cast it into an abyss in the movie version of The Deathly Hallows (in the book he returns it to Dumbledores grave) so that it could never be used for evil purposes again, I couldnt help but think of the contrast with Frodo and the ring of power. Harry, the true hero, resists the temptation to abuse power. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo fails. He cannot resist the temptation to keep the ring and use its power for himself. The ring is only destroyed because Gollum wants it for himself, takes it from Frodo, and then falls into the fires of Mount Doom. In Tolkien evil is not defeated by the heroic efforts of an individual. Evil defeats itself in what he calls a eucatastrophe (See his On Fairy-Stories in Essays Presented to Charles Williams edited by C. S. Lewis. ). Tolkiens eucatastrophe is undoubtedly derived from the biblical notion of evil defeating itself, especially in the cross of Christ where the forces of evil do their worst and unwittingly trigger the means of saving the world. The theme of evil defeating itself is present in Harry Potter. The killing curse that Voldemort uses upon Harry is his own undoing, but in the final analysis it is Harrys heroic action that saves the day. We Christians often present the Bible as a collection of tales about heroes from whom we can learn moral lessons and ways to live victoriously. We look for evident victories. Sadly our quest for evident victories means that we will seek power to win them. In so doing we walk by sight and thus succumb to powers hidden capacity for evil. We forget that God has chosen to reveal the biblical characters as sinners and frequently as failures. The hero of the biblical narrative is God, and his ways are not only higher than ours they are often hidden from us. In the darkest hour, at the moment of testing, the Christian will often fail. Yet even then the unseen hand of Gods providence is working to overcome evil. Indeed, the very victories of evil, such as the cross, are the moments of its greatest downfalls. By trusting in the hidden God, we learn to walk by faith and not by sight and overcome the temptations of power. As the Lord told Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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