Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban details Harry’s third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and it brings the story to a whole new level of intrigue, treachery, and page-turning excitement. Why? Because this year at Hogwarts, it’s not all riding broomsticks and casting spells: a notorious mass murderer has just broken out of wizarding prison Azkaban to finish what he started 13 years ago. His target? You guessed it: Harry Potter. Here are just a few ways Prisoner of Azkaban is a series turning point.
The Marauders. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have a friendship to end all friendships, but before they ever set foot on the grounds of Hogwarts, there was another group of goodhearted troublemakers running the school: the Marauders. The foursome may be gone from Hogwarts, but their legacy lives magically on. The overarching storyline of the Marauders—codenamed Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs—is one of the best in the entire series, and it all begins in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
New enchanted objects. Harry’s trusty Invisibility Cloak is back, and with it a bunch of brand-new items—like biting textbooks, crystal balls, and the Marauder’s Map, a magical mischief-maker’s guide to every secret passageway in Hogwarts castle, courtesy of the mysterious Marauders themselves. When it winds up in Harry’s possession, shenanigans ensue.
More magical classes. In addition to Potions, Transfiguration, Charms, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, Prisoner of Azkaban gives us a more in-depth peek at the various Hogwarts classes we’d exchange for algebra in a heartbeat—including Divination and Care of Magical Creatures, also known as “trying not to get your hand bitten off by a creature that’s half-horse, half-eagle.”
Professor Lupin. Remus Lupin is Hogwarts’ savvy new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. He quickly locks in his reputation as the cool teacher who’s class actually studies practical applications, but beyond that, he’s a fascinating character well-versed in the art of compassion. He genuinely cares about his students, and he’s widely adored by both the characters in Harry’s world and its fans alike. There’s just one hitch: he may or may not be guarding a dark and dangerous secret.
Hogsmeade. Prisoner of Azkaban introduces us to Hogsmeade, a nearby village that Hogwarts students are allowed to visit on weekends. Whether you’re touring the real-life model at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, or simply reading about it at home, Hogsmeade is a testament to J.K. Rowling’ superb world-building. Not only does it evoke a vivid mind portrait of every quaint British hamlet you’ve ever seen in movies, but it’s home to some of our very favorite places in the wizarding world, chief among them the Three Broomsticks pub, sweet shop Honeydukes, and Zonko’s Joke Shop.
Dementors. We learn about a whole slew of magical creatures, but the most notable (and terrifying) is the Dementors. They’re hooded creatures that feed on despair, fear, and doubt, and they serve as a metaphor for all things terrible. But a well-learned wizard can fight Dementors using the Patronus Charm (it’s like a spirit guardian fueled by hope and happy memories), and the existence of the Patronus speaks to one of the larger thematic elements of the novel—namely that despair, fear, and doubt can be overcome.
It’s J.K. Rowling’s favorite book. Okay, so she said it’s “one of” her favorites, but she had seven brilliantly penned, life-changing novels to choose from, so that’s saying something.