Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

In my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I lamented what I perceived as a poorly paced plot progression. Thankfully, Rowling seems to have improved that flaw somewhat in her second novel. With readers already familiar with Harry and Hogwarts, Rowling was free to devote more time toward character development (though still not nearly as much as I’d like). However, I realize that Rowling was still writing mostly for children at this point and so can forgive her for not fleshing out her characters’ motivations more fully.

Unfortunately, while, stylistically, Chamber of Secretsis an improvement over its predecessor, it also happens to feature the majority of my most hated Harry Potter characters of all time. Dobby isn’t quite as insufferable as I remember finding him the first time around, but he still vies for one of the most annoying characters I’ve come across in fiction. Gilderoy Lockhart is probably my least favorite of the various professors

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

that Rowling introduces throughout the series (and yes, that is including Quirrell). Whereas Rowling tends to reveal import behind the presence of even the most insipid of characters for the most part, Lockhart’s buffoonery never plays a role in the grand scheme of things and is thus made even more tiresome. At least Moaning Myrtle helps Harry out a time or two, though her presence is never particularly welcome either.

On a positive note, Chamber of Secrets does see the introduction of Arthur Weasley and Lucius Malfoy, my two favorite Potter dads for entirely differing reasons. I’ve always been a bit charmed by Mr. Weasley’s fascination with all things Muggle. Rowling clearly intended for these two to act as foils for each other, one finding the possibilities inherent in study of foreign culture, the other scorning the necessity of acknowledging anything outside of his own world. It’s a tad disappointing that Lucius’s flowing locks were not actually Rowling’s idea (I believe I read that we have Jason Isaacs to thank for that wonderful detail). However, all of Lucius’s snarky disdain is present on the page, making his scenes some of my favorite in the book.

As it was the first time, so I believe Chamber of Secrets will wind up being my least favorite in the series on this second read-through. Still, it evidences the growth of Rowling’s skills to a degree and paves the way for fan-favorite Prisoner of Azkaban, which I will be tackling this coming weekend.

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It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life: Volume 1 by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Blink Once by Cylin Busby

Reading Now

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton

The Week Ahead

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Showcase Sunday

Showcase Sunday is a meme created by Vicky at Books, Biscuits, and Tea to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green Signed, with inscription to Daniel Wallace (author of Big Fish)
Gifted
  • Hounded by Kevin Hearne
  • Hexed by Kevin Hearne
  • Hammered by Kevin Hearne
  • Tricked by Kevin Hearne (all four are now signed)

For Review

  • The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White (from NetGalley)
  • On the Island by Tracy Garvis-Graves (from NetGalley)
  • Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (from NetGalley)
  • Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill (from NetGalley)

Won

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at Rose City Reader designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

It seems that I’ll be continuing a Friday trend for a while. Last week it was Sorcerer’s Stone, and this week, I’m about a hundred pages into J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

“Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

number four, Privet Drive.”

It’s a rather nice symmetry of sorts to the opening line of the first book, though it doesn’t draw you in quite as neatly.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

J. K. Rowling continues her phenomenally popular Harry Potter series with yet another tale of magic, mirth, and mayhem. Like its predecessor,Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is chock-full of fascinating characters, frightful events, and fun wizardry.p

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and WIzardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girl’s bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone – or something – starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects… Harry Potter himself?

Rowling packs this tale with plenty of adventure and action, keeping the pace fast and furious. There’s plenty of humor, too – both subtle and bold – as well as a few moral lessons. With overlapping themes that range from the simple to the sophisticated, Rowling’s Potter tales should appeal to readers of all ages – the young as well as the young at heart.

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

The first time I finally got around to reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a few years ago, the effort was made in the spirit of thoroughness more than anything else. I was just starting to get into urban fantasy and, as Harry Potter seemed to qualify, I figured it was about time that I experienced the story that had enraptured fans throughout the world. While the story itself was charming, I didn’t find much to recommend Rowling’s writing in terms of style. I’ve read many a children’s story told in terms plain enough for a child to understand, yet still sophisticated enough to interest an adult reader. I could easily see how the tale of Harry’s indoctrination into life in the wizarding world would appeal to an adult audience, yet I had more difficulty believing that adult readers would be as enamored of Rowling’s writing if it were describing something slightly less magical.

On this second go-around, I tried not to carry that bias into my reading experience,

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

and the payoff was better because of it. I’ll never know what it was like to first learn of Harry and Hogwarts, as I failed to read the books as a child before pop-culture saturation influenced how all readers view Rowling’s characters and locales in their minds. My vision is pretty much that shown in the movies, and I’m okay with that. Yet, it does make for a somewhat jarring experience when attempting to reconcile the books with the films. Reading about how Neville accompanied Harry and friends during their punishment in the Dark Forest is only one example of the numerous little changes made in the transition from page to screen, yet unlike most fans, I continually have to remind myself that Rowling’s version is the true story, no matter how familiar I am with the film’s depiction of events.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was undoubtedly a magical experience for young readers first venturing on a vicarious journey to Hogwarts, and I’m glad to say that I have even begun to appreciate Rowling’s writing style a bit more the second time around. Though I do feel that Rowling was pandering perhaps a bit too much to what she perceived as young readers’ comprehension abilities, I suspect that her writing is equally a reflection of the dry British humor that I’ve come to love so much in recent years. Given my preference for first-person narration over third-person perspective, it’s not surprising that I didn’t care too much for Sorcerer’s Stone when I first read it, yet as my reading horizons have expanded to explore, if not love, different avenues of storytelling, so has my appreciation for Sorcerer’s Stone grown.

Still, that’s not to say I don’t yet have serious quibbles with Rowling’s debut effort. The pacing seems curious at best, especially when (inevitably) compared to the film version. While I understand that it was necessary to establish Harry’s dismal life with the Durselys in order to contrast it with his overwhelming immersion into the wizarding world, when one considers that the entire story is just over 300 pages in length, I was shocked that it took nearly a hundred for Harry to get into the magical swing of things. I adored reading about Harry’s first encounters with Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express, yet as he began to acclimate to life at Hogwarts, I was once again surprised by Rowling’s pacing, as she spends a minimal amount of time on what wind up being crucial plot elements. Even her description of classes seems cursory, which is somewhat disappointing to this reader who sorely wishes that she had the opportunity to learn about Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a delightful introduction to Rowling’s magical world, yet it doesn’t deliver on all of its promises. I would be fascinated to see if Rowling stuck to the same format if given the chance for a rewrite after having gained the knowledge and experience from writing the rest of the series. Even so, I’m thoroughly looking forward to my second go-around with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this weekend.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Reading Now

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton

The Week Ahead

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at Rose City Reader designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

Alright, the next sentence is one I’m sure you’ve all heard before…wait for it…

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley ,of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

That’s right, this weekend I’m beginning my Harry Potter Readathon, starting with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  by J.K. Rowling.

Not sure this is quite needed this week, but for the sake of continuity, here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

Harry hates living with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and their

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

spoiled-rotten son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet beneath the stairs, and the entire family treats him with disdain. What’s more, Harry keeps getting into trouble for making strange things happen – things he seems to have no control over. But then Harry discovers the truth about himself when a determined messenger delivers an enlightening message. It turns out that Harry’s mother was a witch, his father a wizard. And not only is Harry also a wizard, he’s a famous one! His survival of the attack by the evil wizard who killed his parents has marked him as a legendary hero – as has the lightning-bolt-shaped scar on his forehead.

Soon Harry finds himself attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he receives training in some magic basics, masters riding a broomstick, and discovers his incredible talent for a game called Quidditch, which is played in the air on flying brooms. And for the first time in his life, Harry has friends who care about him: his fellow students Hermione and Ron and a giant named Hagrid. But all is not rosy when Harry discovers his true destiny and finds he must once again face the evil one who killed his parents. His survival will depend upon the help of his newfound friends, as well as his own wit and powers.

It’s easy to see why Harry Potter has caught the reading public’s fancy. Not only are his adventures an entertaining mix of fright, fantasy, and fun, his triumphs over everyday adversities offer a heartening lesson to kids everywhere.