Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: A Review

Given the furor the book “Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets” has already caused in the U.S., avid Potterists will read this installment with or without reviews being written. Harry’s exploits during his second year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry completely live up to the bewitching measure of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a Booklist Editors’ Choice, 1998.

What makes this series so successful? Maybe it’s the fact that J. K. Rowling doesn’t write children’s books, she writes children’s stories, more in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm than Dr. Seuss. The exploits of Harry and his friends captivate even those with the shortest attention spans by engaging the imagination with vivid characters and fast-moving action, instead of trying to merely catch the eye with colorful pictures or pop-up effects.

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort–the evil sorcerer who killed his parents–whom Harry encounters while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

In one of the most hotly anticipated sequels in memory, J. K. Rowling takes up where she left off with Harry’s second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Old friends and new torments abound, including a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girl’s bathroom, an outrageously conceited professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, and a mysterious force that turns Hogwarts students to stone.

For those who haven’t read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, Harry spent the first 10 years of his life unaware of his magical heritage, forced to live under the stairs in his Aunt and Uncle Dursley’s house.

Much to his shock (and their horror), he was accepted at Hogwarts School for Witches and Wizards the day he turned 11, where Harry’s life took a dramatic turn for the interesting. He went from being a poor outcast to a celebrity, and ended the first year in school by rescuing the Hogwarts from the evil wizard who killed his parents.

Which brings us to the present. On break after finishing his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Reluctantly spending the summer with the Dursleys, his mean relatives who fear and detest magic, Harry manages to get into trouble even before the school year begins and winds up a prisoner in his own home. He is soon rescued and whisked away by his friends Ron, Fred, and George Weasley, who appear at his window in a flying Ford Anglia to take him away to enjoy the rest of the holidays with their very wizardly family. However, disaster strikes on the first day of school itself.

Things don’t improve once classes get started. Something is stalking the students at Hogwarts, turning those who are from human families to stone. To top it all, the new teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart–author of “Magical Me” and five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award–keeps wreaking havoc all over the place.

As if dealing with monsters and preening poseurs weren’t enough, Harry finds himself suspected of the crimes. And high on the list of possible victims is his friend Hermione–the only student smart enough to figure out what is turning the school into a statuary. (In true fairytale fashion, most adults are either ineffectual or downright nasty; the few teachers who are nice are seldom around when they’re needed.)

The mystery, zany humor, sense of a traditional British school (albeit with its share of ghosts, including Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom), student rivalry, and eccentric faculty, all surrounded by the magical foundation so necessary in good fantasy, are as expertly crafted here as in the first book. Fans who have been thirsting for this sequel will definitely not feel any disappointment. In fact, once they have read it, they will be lusting for the next one.

Along with most of the teachers and students introduced in the previous book, Draco Malfoy has returned for his second year and is more despicable than ever. The novel is marked throughout by the same sly and sophisticated humor found in the first book, along with inventive, new, matter-of-fact uses of magic that will once again have readers longing to emulate Harry and his wizard friends.

Indeed, demand for her second children’s book–“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”–was so great that the publisher bumped up its US release from September to June.

Harry is so inevitably lovable and Rowling’s prose so eminently readable that adults have catapulted the tales onto bestseller lists.

In Britain, the books are printed with two different covers, so adults don’t have to be seen reading a children’s book in public. (How can any bibliophile be stuffy enough to be embarrassed by Mary GrandPr√©’s lovely illustrations is beyond me.)

Like C.S. Lewis, Rowling uses the mundane as a doorway to magic. Her second book is as stuffed with bric-a-brac as a Victorian spinster’s home–flying turquoise cars, diaries that write back, portraits of subjects who put their hair in curlers at night. In addition to bits of whimsy like clocks that tell you when you’re late, “Harry Potter” is also furnished with all the staples of fantasy adventure–secret passageways, swords, monsters, and of course, a hero.

Rowling’s sense of humor keeps things from getting too scary for young readers–you’ve got to love a battle where the hero literally pulls victory out of a hat. The end result is a charming tale that bears a strong resemblance to one of the enchanted objects in the story: “Some old witch in Bath had a book that you could never stop reading! You just had to wander around with your nose in it, trying to do everything one-handed.”

This book was exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat. It was impossible to put down and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, thrills, and a little bit of mystery all in one.

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