Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 3/26/03 w/ Additional Re-Edits.
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets continues the story of young Harry Potter as he just came off from a fresh first year at Hogwarts School of Wizardry & Witchcraft. After meeting Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed his parents, in the body of a teach who was trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone in the previous story, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone, Potter defeated Voldemort for the second time as he learned of the secrets behind his parents murder as well as finding friends in fellow young wizards Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger as well as the school’s large gamekeeper Hagrid. In The Chamber of Secrets, Harry returns to Hogwarts where something mysterious is lurking in the school as students get attacked and Harry discovers more things about himself and the secrets of the school as well as a few people.
The Chamber of Secrets in comparison to the previous story, The Sorcerer’s Stone is a much darker, funnier, and more developed story in the series as Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts as he learns more about himself and some secrets about other people. Rowling brings in new subjects to the series including one about prejudice. Now in the Muggle world, there's disputes over skin, religion, and all other such. In the wizarding world, it’s blood that becomes the centerpiece behind some of the prejudices in the wizarding world, particularly one of the stories main villains, Potter’s rival Draco Malfoy who prides himself and his family as being “pure-blood” since his parents come from a long line of witches and wizards that spans generations and his family considers those with Muggle-parentage to be second class.
Rowling again, brings a sense of innocence and intelligence to the series as Harry Potter and his gang grows up a little bit and discover more secrets about the school. The readers also get introduced to new characters in the story that were briefly mentioned in The Sorcerer’s Stone as well as a vain, egotistical wizard named Gilderoy Lockhart who claims to be a great wizard but he isn’t everything as some people see. The Chamber of Secrets is also filled with new creatures and dark overtones that is chilling enough to give kids nightmares but with a sense of hilarity that kids and adults can enjoy. While The Sorcerer’s Stone is an excellent introduction to the phenomenon known as Harry Potter, it’s The Chamber of Secrets that helps makes Harry Potter become the literary icon to children.
The book begins with Harry back at Privet Drive where he's treated much worse by his aunt and uncle, who despise magic. While being shut into his room, so that his uncle can entertain some guests. Harry gets a warning from a house-elf named Dobby about something happening at Hogwarts. After being broken out of Privet Drive by Ron and his twin brothers, Fred and George. Harry returns to the magical world where he is introduced by Ron's Muggle-loving father Arthur as well as Draco Malfoy's Muggle-hating father Lucius. When Harry and Ron are blocked to enter platform 9 3/4, they use the Weasleys car to fly to Hogwarts where some mishaps occur.
During Harry's second year where his new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is a vain, egotistical novelist named Gilderoy Lockhart. Harry hears voices inside the school where it is believed that the Chamber of Secrets has been re-opened. Harry, Ron, and Hermione begin to suspect Draco, due to his anti-Muggle stance as he had called Hermione a "Mudblood". Harry also suspects that it all have to do with Lord Voldemort, who is currently in hiding following their last confrontation. Another suspect is Hagrid, the friendly groundskeeper as Harry learned why he was expelled in Hogwarts during his third year.
While the trio are trying to find out who opened the Chamber of Secrets, Harry also learns more about how he is able to hear voices inside the school as he becomes a suspect. With Dumbledore wanting to know about the Chamber of Secrets, he is suddenly taken out of school by Lucius Malfoy over some incidents that involved Muggle-born students being petrified. Even Hagrid is taken out of school because he was previously involved when the Chamber of Secrets was last opened 50 years ago when he was caught by a student named Tom Riddle. During Harry's investigation, he finds the mysterious diary of Tom Riddle that revealed what happened as Harry later learned some truths relating to what he had seen.
Chamber of Secrets would be the first book where not only Harry learned about some of the powers he had over his scar and how he was able to hear voices inside the school. It's also about how much he was willing to go further to discover the truth. At one point, he and Ron drink Polyjuice Potion to disguise themselves as Draco's friends Crabbe and Goyle to learn what Draco knew. Even as they also go further into the Forbidden Forest to find out more about Hagrid's involvement with the Chamber.
While the book also has an additional subplot of Ron's little sister Ginny in her first year at Hogwarts where she tries to get the attention of Harry. Her subplot would also play a role into the discovery of who opened the Chamber as the diary of Tom Riddle would become a much greater source of importance in the sixth book, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. One of the key reasons for Chamber of Secrets' success isn't just the storytelling but also the complexity of its characters. Harry becomes a more determined character in terms of just wanting to find truth and be into the magical world that he's embraced. New characters in Dobby, Arthur Weasley, Lucius Malfoy, Gilderoy Lockhart, and the first appearance of Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge make great impressions. Notably Lucius Malfoy, who is a school governor that is very rich and powerful as he was also one of Voldemort's former associates.
Gilderoy Lockhart, meanwhile, is a comical character that is more concerned with getting attention, being close to Harry to boost his fame, and boast his so-called heroics, rather than teach kids how to defend themselves. In one scene where he hosts a dueling club with Professor Snape, it is clear that Lockhart doesn't know anything while Snape would end up providing Harry with a spell that would become his trademark. When the story develops, it is becomes evident of what Lockhart really is as he wouldn't be seen again until the fifth book.
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets is easily the darkest book in the Harry Potter series and it’s also one of the most brilliant in J.K. Rowling’s classic series. It would later be trumped by it its next book, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban but it’s still a masterpiece in its equality. In the end, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets is a successful sophomore effort from J.K. Rowling.
Harry Potter Reviews: The Films: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
The Novels: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallow
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