Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J. K. Rowling
Review: This was my second reading of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I also had recently re-watched the movie version which made it even fresher in my mind, but I discovered that by watching the movie first and then reading the book, I got a fascinating look inside the mind of a screen-writer. By doing things this way, I gained a whole new appreciation for the movies, and for how difficult it must be for a writer to translate a book to the screen. I know this is a bit of a caveat from my book review, but I thought it worth mentioning for those who are critics of the movies like I have been in the past. Now on to my thoughts about the book.
In the second book we begin to gain an insight into Voldemort, as Harry, without realizing it, drifts into the memories of his nemesis through an enchanted diary. Harry is not the first person to possess Voldemort’s memories however, in fact Ron’s younger sister Ginny, who is in her first year at Hogwarts, has been pouring her heart out into the pages of the diary for months and the diary, disguised as a caring ear to Ginny, has been using her life to become more and more powerful himself. As Voldemort’s power has grown he has used Ginny to unleash a deadly terror upon Hogwarts, an unknown killer that seems untraceable and leaves his victim’s paralyzed by fear.
Together, Harry, Ron and Hermione begin to investigate, trying to discover what the Chamber of Secrets is, and what could possibly be attacking the students. Whilst in one of the memories locked in the diary Harry learns that his part giant teacher and friend, Rubius Hagrid, was expelled from Hogwarts as a child for keeping a dangerous animal on the grounds. To Ron’s horror the two boys discover that the monster was a giant, man-eating spider, but even worse that he is not the one who has been attacking the students. Eventually Hermione is found paralyzed on her way back from the library and a student is dragged into the Chamber of Secrets as one final sacrifice to the monster before Voldemort can finally be returned to full strength. Harry finds himself, separated from Ron and their brain-washed Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who had accompanied him, in the caverns beneath the school and facing a huge, deadly snake, with nothing but his wand and a tattered old hat.
As always, I absolutely love the characters and how complex and well-written they are. I’m not sure that there could be three better and closer friends that Harry, Ron, and Hermione. In my opinion, they epitomize the true meaning of friendship. I noticed throughout this book that Ron has a tendency to frequently be Hermione’s defender, but J. K. Rowling has a way of presenting it in a very subtle way. I can’t help but like the Weasley family.
The author has taken care to give each one their own individual personality, but all are completely lovable in their own way. Also they may not be wealthy, but they’re never lacking in warmth and generosity. Additionally, I find Arthur Weasley’s fascination with all things Muggle to be charming and funny. Professor Dumbledore, with his gentle, knowing ways, continues to be one of my favorite characters from the series. Dobby, the house-elf, was a new addition in this book, and I found him to be rather cute. What I really liked about him was that his heart was always in the right place even if his methods were somewhat questionable. Two other new characters in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets who I found to be extremely interesting were Professor Lockhart and Colin Creevy. Both seem to be satirical representations of the madness of fame. Colin didn’t play a huge part, but he did make an impression on me in that he is symbolic of the stereotypical crazed fan or paparazzi who just can’t seem to leave Harry alone. Gilderoy Lockhart is a character I loved to hate right from the beginning. He is someone who has let fame go to his head in a completely different way. Lockhart is a puffed-up peacock of a celebrity, who in reality, is completely incompetent, but still has lots of people, particularly females, completely snowed by his vacuous charm. I loved how Harry and Ron saw through Lockhart right from the start, and I thought he ended up getting a very just punishment for his conceit.
This book is more of a mystery than its predecessor; with a real air of intrigue and uncertainty about it. Yet it finds itself in a slightly awkward position, somewhere between childhood innocence and naivety and darker teenage horror. In many places it seems a bit obvious and ham-fisted, Rowling seems to have opted for stereotypes rather than originality in these monsters and it makes it all a little contrived.
Unfortunately this is inescapable and dulls the intrigue and interest of the book, in many ways this book came too soon, when the dark side of the magical world was still too undefined for readers for it to truly be explored to the extent that it needs to be for this story. Yet it is a necessary part of the series and must be read in order to understand the following five books. In many ways the Chamber of Secrets opens doors to aspects of the Harry Potter series that will become hugely important later on, ideas about Voldermort’s past and his soul and even his choice to hunt Harry begin to take shape and future relationships are hinted at. However, when it comes down to it The Chamber of Secrets is most definitely the weakest of all the Potter books, the story line is predictable and the newly introduced characters are pretty stereotypical and just add to the aforementioned predictability.
Despite this being the weakest book in the series in my opinion there are so many more things that I’m anxiously waiting to find out as I continue reading the series. I love how Dumbledore always seems to know exactly what’s going on, and it makes me wonder if he truly is the greatest wizard in the world. I’m dying to know why Hogwarts runs through so many Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers. I also wonder at all the similarities between Harry and Voldemort. At least one of the similarities was explained by Dumbledore, and perhaps these two are simply meant to be the yin and yang of the wizarding world, but I have a feeling that it is quite possibly something more profound. All in all, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was another fabulous addition to the series, and I am eagerly looking forward to continuing it to find out the answers to these and many other questions.
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