I always have a hard time ranking the book in the series. It’s like trying to pick a favorite kid. You just can’t do it. Despite that POA almost always tends to end up on the top of my list (usually tying with Deathly Hallows). I’m not sure exactly why I like it so much but I suspect it’s because some of my favorite aspects of the series are introduced in this book. The Marauder’s map, Lupin, and Sirius. The Marauder’s map is definitely one of the cooler objects in this world. Between it and the invisibility cloak the trio is almost unstoppable. Lupin is awesome. He’s my favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And then there’s Sirius. I love how in 300 pages Rowling can make us go from hating the guy to making him an awesome godfather.The series has always been bit dark but it’s around here (and Goblet of Fire) that I think the series starts to shift from the lightheartedness of the first two books to the much darker tone that continues for the rest of the series. It’s the first time we’ve really learned about the circumstances of Harry’s parent’s deaths. Obviously that’s dark. It’s made worse by the fact that their deaths were a result of a betrayal of a ‘friend’.To me one of the more darker and scarier aspect of the series is Azkaban and the Dementors. Prison should be a scary idea. That’s why it’s a punishment. Wizarding prison seems so much worse than ‘normal’ prison because of the environment. Being in solitude is enough to drive most people a little crazy but to have guards that literally feast on your happiness/soul? That is downright terrifying.Hermione shines in this book. I love her interaction with Malfoy! It’s about time someone did that to him. We know that girls tend to mature faster than boys do but it’s pretty clear to see it when you compare Hermione to Harry and Ron in this book. She takes on more than she can literally do, she’s willing to risk her friendship with Harry in order to assure his safety, and on top of her endless loads of homework she takes on research to help Hagrid save Buckbeak. That’s pretty impressive for a 13 year old.I was a bit impressed with Harry in the book. He has a nasty habit of acting first and thinking later which always gets him into trouble. He was able to control his temper (with in reason) for the book. Most people would have acted very stupidly if they found out that their parents’ murder was because of their best friends betrayal. Yes he did hate Sirius and want to kill Sirius for most of the book but he didn’t go out and act on that impulse. That’s a step up for him!The bottom line? Very, very enjoyable.