Book Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre/Audience: Fiction, fantasy; children
Rating: 8/10 (the same rating I gave Sorcerer’s Stone)
Worth the read?: Bet your best Zonko’s treasures, it is!
Here’s the thing: by the time I’ve gotten to writing this review, I’ve already finished rereading the third book in the series and nearly finished the fourth one again, too. You could say I am currently immersed in the vast ocean that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As such, I’m having a heck of a time trying to remember what I had wanted to say about Chamber of Secrets.
I’ve always quite liked Chamber of Secrets, and for many reasons. I love the use of Mr. Weasley’s enchanted Ford Anglia, the precious and well-intended antics of Dobby, Harry as a Parselmouth, Moaning Myrtle, Polyjuice Potion, Professor Lockhart, the dreadful Draco Malfoy, the brilliance of Tom Riddle’s diary, and the Chamber itself (oh, and Fawkes! I LOVE Fawkes!).
Chamber of Secrets celebrated 20 years this week!
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Chamber of Secrets, happy birthday to you!
Chamber of Secrets builds so well upon the first book when it comes to preparing us for what we do not know is coming. For example, that Harry imbues Gryffindor’s sword with the basilisk venom is such clear evidence of J.K. Rowling’s ability to plan each book long in advance.
It’s amazing, too, because what we don’t know at the time is that little Ginny Weasley spends the whole year sickly, absentminded, and emotional because she is under the influence of a Horcrux. And this isn’t just any old Horcrux, but the first Horcrux (and thus, some argue, the Horcrux that contains the biggest part of Voldemort’s soul. Do you buy into this theory? [It seems only logical to me, but then I don’t know how I like the implication that each Horcrux is, as a result, less and less powerful]).
Honestly, Ginny deserves an award for surviving nearly an entire school year with a giant piece of Voldemort’s soul sucking her dry. She isn’t really given a strong girl mantra in the series until she overcomes her crush on Harry (before then, she’s mostly described as being rather timid and quiet), but let’s be real—Ginny was always kicking butt. Also, can we just discuss how utterly traumatizing and simultaneously amazing it would be if your first-ever crush actually saved your life?!
That leaves me with one more question: what would have happened to Tom Riddle as a memory if Ginny had actually died? Would he have possessed her body and made way back to actual Tom Riddle, or would he have just flitted around as a really powerful nonentity? I wonder if J.K. Rowling has ever answered that…
Anyway, it should be noted that I had goosebumps pretty much the entire scene in the Chamber, and then, when they were leaving, Lockhart had me laughing out loud. I think possibly the most wonderful casting in the entire series was that of Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart. (Okay, and also pretty much every other character, too. Alan Rickman, anybody?)
As for why I’ve only given this book an 8/10, however:
First and foremost, it’s an 8/10 in light of the other books in the series. When it comes down to it, I can’t give them all 10s, especially when I consider how easily I can rank my favorites.
And, secondly, something that has bothered me tirelessly through each of the first four books thus far is the immense amount of exposition at the start of each novel. I keep telling myself that the exposition is so poignant due to the novels being intended for kids, but the problem with that explanation is two-fold: first, by the time you reach the fourth installment, the books are no longer really intended for such a young audience (yet the exposition continues to be heaped upon you almost all at once), and, secondly, it seems a disservice to a child audience to throw out every detail at once and expect them to remember it all.
I sound much more angry about this than I really am. Honestly, I simply wish that the exposition had been more carefully laid out, spread about the pages so that the first chapter(s) of the book didn’t feel like a CliffsNotes version of the book(s) before. I think the kids could’ve handled expository details in smaller, less conspicuous doses.
To end things on a happier, slightly embarrassing note, I must admit something. Until I reread the books over winter break last year, I had always thought the bookshop was “Flourish and Botts,” not “Flourish and Blotts.” A simple mistake, yes, but how I missed that “l” my whole life is beyond me…See you soon with Prisoner of Azkaban!