“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling

11 Nov

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling (251p)

The follow up to J.K. Rowling’s successful debut in the Harry Potter series is 1998’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This second in the seven-part series takes Harry to his second year at Hogwarts where he learns more secrets, finds new enemies and reacquaints himself with old ones, and has another run in with the spirit of the dark wizard Lord Voldemort.

Like the year before, Harry is back at the Dursley house with his acidic relatives, gloomy and bored because his family have barred any contact with the magical world, confiscating his broom and textbooks and locking Hedwig, his owl, outside. On his twelfth birthday Dobby, a strange house-elf appears and warns Harry that returning to Hogwarts could put his life in danger. Dobby, determined to prevent Harry from returning to school, causes such a rukus that, when magic is performed, Harry is blamed by the Ministry and warned of expulsion. The Dursley’s lock him in his room and fit bars on the bedroom window. To his relief, he is rescued by pal Ron and his twin older brothers Fred and George and spends the rest of the summer at Ron’s house, before leaving for another school year.

At King’s Cross, Ron and Harry are unable to pass through the magical passage to the wizards platform, meaning the train has left without them. Desperate to get back to Hogwarts they steal their fathers enchanted Ford Anglia and fly the car to school, but crash into the Whomping Willow, breaking Ron’s wand.

Things start going badly at Hogwarts, too, when the mystery shrouded Chamber of Secrets is open and an unknown monster roams the castle, paralysing everything that meets its gaze. The founder of Slytherin house, Salazar Slytherin, was believed to have built the chamber to purge Hogwarts of those unworthy to study magic, and only be opened by his heir. Students and teachers alike start to suspect it may be Harry when it is discovered he speaks parseltounge, the language of snakes. But Harry, Ron and Hermione think it is their enemy from first year, Draco Malfoy, who is Slytherin’s real heir. So to reveal Malfoy’s true identity they conceal themselves with Polyjuice Potion, which transforms a person into someone else for a short time, but they find nothing and realise Malfoy is not the heir of Slytherin.

As the school year rumbles on, the attacks continue at random, claiming various students and people in the castle. All activities are banned and students are required to stay in their dorms. Hagrid, blamed the last time the chamber was opened, is sent to the wizard prison of Azkaban. The trio spend their free time working to discover what the real monster is after learning that Hagrid’s huge pet spider was not it, and they find out that is a basilisk (a giant snake) just in time for Ginny, Ron’s sister, to be taken into the chamber. Harry vows to save Ginny and through a few more clues, they find out how to open the chamber in the abandoned girls bathroom Hermione had taken refuge from in the first book.

Charging into the chamber, Harry goes alone and confronts Slytherin’s real heir – Tom Marvolo Riddle, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort (which is an acronym). Ginner, under Riddle’s control, had inadvertently opened the chamber. Riddle’s basilisk attacks Harry only for Dumbledore’s pet phoenix, Fawkes, to drop the Sorting Hat and Gryffindor’s sword into Harry’s lap. Fawkes blinds the snake and Harry slays it with the sword, and Harry destroys Riddle’s lecherous diary. As a reward Dumbledore gives he and Ron two hundred house points, winning the House Cup for Gryffindor again, and cancels exams.

Whenever the question is posed “what is your favourite Harry Potter book?” I usually put this one second last, because in comparison with some of the others I didn’t like it nearly as much. Granted, I did read this when I was twelve and have only re-read it the once, but it never grabbed me like the others. With the series over I can look back, though, and see all those clues about Voldemort’s destruction as a smack right in the face. Blimey, they’re obvious now!

As it is, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is an all right enough of a book. It is nothing special, though, and I feel it is a bit of a case of second book syndrome. It kind of plodded a little in the middle part with the search for the identity of the basilisk, like it need not have required so much dialogue to get to their discovery. Aside from that, though, there is nothing really wrong with the second in the series, but compared to the others? Well, it’s just not as good. Good, but not as good as them.

6.5/10.

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2 Responses to ““Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling”

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  1. Draco Malfoy Updates » “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by JK Rowling - November 11, 2008

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  2. Draco Malfoy Updates » “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling « Stuff … - November 12, 2008

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