Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This book was probably my least favourite entry in the series when I was younger and I’m sad to say, much of my ambivalence towards it remains. For whatever reason, the story in this book just doesn’t grab me the way the others do.
The book sees Harry return to Hogwarts for his second year, having spent the summer in the company of the Dursleys. Once back at school, mysterious events begin to unfold, students are being attacked in the hallways by an unseen monster, there are rumours of a mysterious Chamber of Secrets hidden beneath the school where the monster resides and many suspect Harry of setting the beast free.
The main problem I have with this book, is that it just feels a little formulaic. There’s nothing really to differentiate it from the first instalment. Harry goes to school, something mysterious happens and it’s up to him and his friends to save the day, this isn’t helped by the fact that the creature in the Chamber and the story behind it, simply don’t feel as crucial to the plot as the other adventures Harry goes through.
A warning here, I’m going to talk about the ending of the novel so there are spoilers ahead….I don’t know who I could possibly be spoiling the book for at this point but…better safe than sorry…so yes…spoilers…
The final reveal of the villain feels a little weak. It is revealed that the creature, a giant snake, has been unleashed by Tom Riddle, the schoolboy version of Lord Voldermort. The spirit of Riddle is possessing his old school diary which falls into the hands of Ron’s sister Ginny.
While this reveal has some ramifications towards the end of the series, here, it just feels a little desperate. It feels like, in lieu of another villain, Voldermort is crammed into the final battle when he would really be better left out.
Had the real Voldermort found a way back into the castle it would have perhaps worked a little better but having the ghost of his childhood self be the villain is just…weak, it just doesn’t quite work.
The reveal does offer the reader the chance to learn a little more about Voldermort’s backstory, but even that feels a little out of place. It feels like information that might be better left to later on in the series, here, without the looming presence of the real Voldermort, it feels a little inconsequential.
Another thing I missed was the glimpses into the Wizarding world. Aside from a brief stay at the Weasley’s house and a trip to Diagon alley, Harry jumps from home to school and stays there for the duration of the novel. There’s no new information or sights from the Wizarding world and, as seeing this impressive creation being fleshed out is one of the most enjoyable things about this series, Rowling’s decision to offer little expansion of the world she has built is a real shame.
Criticisms aside, there’s still a lot of entertaining stuff here. The plot, while not offering up much of any real consequence, does provide a decent mystery and you are least interested in knowing where it goes. The characters are fantastic and the new editions to the cast, the vain Professor Lockheart especially, are all wonderful.
Rowling’s style is as on point as ever as is her knack for dialogue.
This is by no means a bad book, it’s just one that, in the grand scheme, feels like filler. It’s an adventure that Harry really doesn’t need to be subjected to and there’s the sense running throughout that Rowling still isn’t a hundred percent certain where the rest of the series is going.
It’s still worth a read; it’s just not as engaging as the rest of the series.
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