Large Print Reviews
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
By J. K. Rowling
Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - June 22, 2001
When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ended, Harry was on his way 'home' to spend the summer school break with the Dursley's. The Dursley's are Harry's Aunt Petunia, his Uncle Vernon, and their obnoxious son Dudley. Harry was begrudgedly raised by the Dursley's after his parents where killed by the evil wizard Voldemort. The Dursley's hate anything to do with magic, and they torment Harry unmercifully for having committed the crime of having been born with magical powers.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in J. K. Rowling's imaginative Harry Potter series. And it opens toward the end of his summer holiday, shortly before Harry begins his second year of schooling at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
In this installment of the continuing Harry Potter saga, Harry is beset with problems from the outset. Before he can even return to school, a house-elf named Dobby shows up in his bedroom and mysteriously warns him that he will be in mortal danger if he returns to Hogwarts. But return he does, after all, what can be worse than staying with the Dursley's?
This year, Harry is twelve, and he is a little more self-assured upon his return to school. He has two good solid friends in Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, and he knows the measure of the school bully Draco Malfoy and his constant sidekicks Crabbe and Goyle. As well, he is now a star Quidditch player, which is a ball game played on broomsticks. He is even getting use to be stared at because of his lighting shaped scar on his forehead. A scar which he received when the evil Wizard Voldemort, tired, and failed, to kill Harry when he was a baby.
However, no matter how self-assured Harry is, there is always something new to test his mettle. To start, the new teacher for the 'Defense Against the Dark Arts' course is Gilderoy Lockhart, a vainglorious man who sees Harry as a kindred spirit - which he most defiantly is not. As well, Harry as been admonished by the Ministry of Magic for misusing his magic - a crime that he was not guilty of. But worst of all, he is hearing nasty voices that no one else can hear. Yet things only get worse after the slogan, "The Chamber of Secrets Has Been Opened" appears on one of the school's walls, and shortly afterwards students start turning into stone!
Harry, and his friend's Hermione and Ron set out to discover who, or what, is turning the students into stone. And along the way they also discover the mystery behind the Chamber of Secrets. Unhappily for Harry, this is a quest that makes him question if his friend Hagrid, the school's groundskeeper, is really a 'good guy' or if he is in league with the evil Voldemort?
This is a quick paced adventure. Along the way Harry gets to into untold scrapes, gets to engage in a sword fight, and meets many new 'people', such as Moaning Myrtle, a ghost who lives in one of the girl's bathrooms. This story also highlights Hermione's academic achievements. Although born of Muggle (non-magical) parents, Hermione is an excellent student, in part because she studies nonstop. She acts as a mediating factor, helping to keep Harry and Ron from getting into too much trouble.
Unfortunately, I do not feel that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is as well written as the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. In part this is because the plot of The Chamber of Secrets, at least at a very basic level, mimics the plot The Sorcerer's Stone. However, as this book is geared toward a juvenile audience, I do not feel that this is a major drawback. My other problem with The Chamber of Secrets is that Rowling spent a lot of space repeating the base facts introduced in the first novel. It is not until the middle of The Chamber of Secrets that you really started to get into the 'new' story. This repetition would be useful if you had not read the first novel, but I feel that it could have been accomplished with less verbosity.
Despite these drawbacks, The Chamber of Secrets is an enthralling tale, a tale which could easily turn a non-reader in a voracious consumer of the written word. Harry is an appealing hero that will go down in history with the likes of Huck Finn, Anne of Green Gables, and Peter Pan, as all time children's favorites. And as with the first book, The Chamber of Secrets ends with Harry trudging off to spend another summer with the Dursley's after having endured, and survived, a harrowing adventure. And, as with the first novel, Rowling leaves you eagerly awaiting the next installment in the continuing adventures of Harry Potter, Wizard-in-Training.
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