WARNING: THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES
I know it’s a bold statement. But it’s one I’m prepared to stand behind. And if you don’t believe me, look on Amazon. Prisoner of Azkaban is only one of two Potter books to have a full five star rating. And okay, all the others have a 4.5 rating but still. And I have read all the books so many times that I think I am a good authority on which is the best. See the photo below to see how much loving I’ve given to POA over the years:
Prisoner is my favorite book because it’s the turning point of the series. Most would argue that Goblet of Fire is when the series takes the turn from lighthearted children’s fare to an epic battle between good and evil, but Prisoner of Azkaban starts the path in motion for the events of Voldemort’s return to life and to power. Had Sirius not escaped to from Azkaban with the purpose of murdering Peter Pettigrew then it is quite possible that Voldemort would never have risen.
This book also introduces more background information about Harry’s parents, something that I have always thought there wasn’t enough of. Learning about James and Lily Potter allows the reader to more fully understand the tragedy of what Harry went through at such a young age. Hearing Lily’s screams as Voldemort prepares to kill her and meeting James’ school friends makes them tangible to the reader rather than them just being two people who were dead before the first book begins. Rowling slowly expands on this knowledge throughout the series, the culmination of which is one of the best chapters in book 7 (think Snape).
I think what excited me the most about book 3, however, was that unlike the first two books there were two climatic scenes and some very big jaw-dropping reveals. Sirius and Lupin are friends! Lupin is a werewolf! The two of them plus James and their fried Peter Pettigrew made the Marauder’s Map and were animagi! Scabbers is really Peter Pettigrew! Pettigrew is the reason James and Lily died! And after all of that shock wears off there is still more adventure to be had because Hermione has been time traveling the entire book with what is the best necklace in the world and now they are going to go back in time and save Buckbeak and Sirius! THAT IS SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!
I beg of you, if you found the first Potter book boring, go ahead and pick up Prisoner of Azkaban. Rowling provides enough background info in the first chapter that you shouldn’t be too lost. I promise you it’s worth the read and if not you can set a dementor on me.