Obviously, all of the Harry Potter books are amazing for different reasons, but Prisoner of Azkaban is definitely the best. And here’s why:
1. Firstly, while Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets are obviously great, they undeniably still feel like children’s books.
Which is fine, obviously. It’s largely acknowledged that the tone of the Harry Potter series matures with its characters. But Prisoner of Azkaban is where it starts to ~really~ mature and get more complex.
2. And it does it all without even a ~hint~ of the series’ main antagonist.
After the tragic loss of one of his Horcruxes at the end of the last book, Voldemort is laying low for a while. That means the major antagonist in Prisoner of Azkaban is Sirius, a man who not only turns out to be innocent, but also ends up being a father figure and confidante to Harry. And if that’s not a major plot twist, I don’t know what is.
3. Not to mention it introduces some of the best, most complex characters in the entire series.
Okay, so Sirius may have been a little bit of a dick sometimes, and Remus wasn’t really around much, but they’re still pretty damn excellent characters. Sirius was the closest thing to Harry’s father he ever had. Remus was the closest thing to a responsible father Harry ever had. They basically make the perfect pair.
4. And a potential subplot that literally everyone wants turned into a spin-off.
Seriously, if you’re not fascinated by the Marauders’ story, you should be. We at least get a taste of it in Prisoner of Azkaban, which is a lot more than we get for the rest of the series.
5. It explores more of the wizarding world than we’ve ever seen before.
The first two books are pretty much set entirely at Privet Drive or at Hogwarts, and while there’s no question that Hogwarts is an incredible setting for a story, it makes it even more fun when the characters can (literally) step outside of its boundaries and explore the wider world. Hogsmeade, the Three Broomsticks, and the Shrieking Shack are all places that become even more important – and more interesting – later in the series.
6. We finally get to scratch the surface of an incredibly complicated backstory.
Of course, the first novel gives us ~some~ information when it comes to backstory, but when it gets to Prisoner of Azkaban, JKR entrusts us with even more, and it’s mindblowing. This is the first hint we get of what’s to come in the next four books, and it proves that J.K. Rowling knew what she was doing right from the start – and that’s exciting.
7. Plus, it contains more plot twists than the first two books combined – and who doesn’t love a good plot twist?
Time travel! A werewolf! Wrongful conviction! A man who’s been posing as a rat for 12 years! The end of Prisoner of Azkaban is like a murder mystery story worthy of Agatha Christie. It’s so good it’s almost better the second (or third or fourth or fifth or-) time you read it, because you can catch all of the minute hints as to what’s coming.
8. It includes some of the best scenes of the entire series.
I still vividly remember the first time I read about Hermione punching Malfoy in the face (actually a more timid ~slap~ in the book, unfortunately), and that was about 15 years ago. There’s just some things you don’t forget in a hurry.
9. And it contains some pretty important moral lessons, too.
Remus Lupin was a werewolf; he was also trustworthy, honest, and incredibly kind. Lupin’s “condition” may or may not be an allegory for something a lot more real, but there’s no question that introducing a character who is altogether good despite being discriminated against makes readers infinitely more tolerant.
10. There’s some pretty major foreshadowing to one of the series’ main plot points, and that’s really fun to look back on.
“That brings her total of real predictions up to two. I should offer her a pay rise…” – Dumbledore, in Prisoner of Azkaban
Not only do we see Professor Trelawney make a very rare real prediction, but we also see Dumbledore mention the infamous prophecy without which the whole story wouldn’t exist. Yet another reason why re-reading Prisoner of Azkaban after you’ve finished the whole series is an incredibly rewarding experience.
11. And some of the series’ best quotes come from Prisoner of Azkaban.
12. While we’re here, the film’s totally the best one too.
The only thing wrong with it is that it’s missing Richard Harris’ Dumbledore. :(
13. And, most importantly, no one goddamn dies.
From Goblet of Fire onwards, there’s at least one death per book, and having all those feelings gets pretty exhausting. Not only does POA have no deaths, but it almost has A HAPPY ENDING. Which is practically unheard of in the Potterverse. So we embrace it, and we appreciate it, and we love it.