Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Harry Potter Books

Published: 1998
Author: J.K. Rowling

The difficult second novel – not quite up to par but still a great read


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book of JK Rowling’s massively successful Harry Potter series.  Second books are notoriously tricky and many authors just can’t seem to make it work.  If JK Rowling did feel that pressure it certainly didn’t show.  77 million copies have been sold, the novel received critical praise and a number of literary awards including the Scottish Arts Council’s first ever Children’s Book Award and the Smarties Book Prize.  (If I ever write a novel I want to win the Smarties Book Prize – probably because I hope the prize is a year’s supply of Smarties.)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets follows the same pattern as the first novel and covers an academic year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  We begin during the summer holidays with Harry having a dreadful time at the Dursleys.  After a brief interlude at the magical home of the Weasley family and a shopping trip to Diagon Alley, Harry and his friends head back to school.  Despite the dangers and challenges he faces at Hogwarts, Harry feels more at home and part of a family here than he ever has in Little Whinging with his relatives.  There’s the awkwardness of suddenly becoming unpopular after it is discovered that Harry, like Salazar Slytherin and Lord Voldemort, is a Parselmouth and can speak to snakes.  Many children will relate, if not to the snake talking, to the feeling of isolation and not fitting in at school.  Other dangers are more obvious – a monster has been unleashed from the eponymous Chamber of Secrets and is attacking students, particularly Mudbloods (students from non-magic/Muggle families) including Harry’s close friend Hermione Granger.  Harry finds out more about his past and his new skills – some of which come as an unpleasant surprise.

Despite the slightly darker atmosphere of Chamber of Secrets compared to Philosopher’s Stone this is still, at heart, a  light and amusing story.  From the flying Ford Anglia crashing into the Whomping Willow (seriously – try saying Whomping Willow without giggling) to the foppish, vain blowhard Professor Gilderoy Lockhart and the well meaning but blundering house-elf Dobby there is plenty to keep the book from becoming too scary.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a great book but – there’s always a but – I don’t love it.  To me it’s a functional book.  We’ve been introduced to the main characters and premise in Philosopher’s Stone.  Chamber of Secrets develops these.  We meet new, significant characters and it establishes themes which will run through the series (such as the discrimination faced by those who aren’t Pureblood wizards and witches).  Chamber of Secrets plays an important role and while I enjoy it more than the majority of books I read it is, for me, the weakest book of the series.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s StoneHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban >>
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