Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Rereading a book is always an interesting experience, isn't it? Especially if you're doing so with a group of friends. During this reread, I found out that this book seems to be widely considered as the worst in the series. Which is odd, for as it happens, if I have to pick my two favorites in the entire series this would easily be one of them.

It's Harry's second year at Hogwarts, and strange things are stirring. A mysterious message scrawled on a wall on Halloween signals the beginning of a reign of terror as the Heir of Salazar Slytherin hunts the halls of Hogwarts, Petrifying students who have a Muggle for a parent. As the school is slowly subsumed in an atmosphere of tension and fear, the attacks escalate, and one of their own is taken captive, Harry has no choice but to enter the Chamber of Secrets and face Slytherin's Monster within.

Like I said, this is easily one of my favorites of the Harry Potter books. In Rowling's second foray, we get a taste of new weapon in her literary arsenal, that pervades every book to come.


This book on a general level is much darker than Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Almost as soon as the school year begins, we're confronted with a plethora of situations and imagery that contribute to a horrific element of the story. Plants with babies for roots who we later learnt will be stewed. A sense of tension and unease that descends on the castle. A social bias reveals itself against Muggle-born witches and wizards, commonly called Mudbloods throughout the length of the book. Ron reveals a fear of spiders, and we all know how that plays out.

And then there's the biggest: the nature of Harry Potter's survival. What if the reason Voldemort tried to kill Harry is because he's a Dark Wizard in the making? An innate skill hinted at in the first book takes on a much darker meaning in this when he learns it's the mark of a Dark Wizard. All of this just brings to mind the moment in the first book, when the Sorting Hat wanted to place Harry in Slytherin, a house infamous for the inordinate amount of Dark Wizards it has produced......

It's not an element of the story she uses well, for the most part the horrific element is completely wrecked by Rowling's insistence of keeping things light and cheery at times. She tries to create gravity and darkness whilst at the same time keeping it very much a children's story, and for the most part it drastically dilutes the horrifying element of the story. But it's there. And I enjoyed it.

Naturally, the wizarding world expands a little. We meet quite a handful of recurring characters for the first time, the two most significant being Lucius Malfoy and Dobby. We also get a thick layer of history being applied to the world; not only to the school, but even to Voldemort. As always, Rowling starts to plant seeds which she may or may not use in forthcoming books. Not only does she plant the question of why would Voldemort attack Harry Potter in the first place, she also begins to paint the parallel paths that Harry and Voldemort followed, at least to a certain point. For as Dumbledore said it at the end of the book, it is our choices and not our abilities that show who we are.

In general, I found the story every bit as tightly written as the previous was. Hermione completely sheds her obnoxious tenacity where it comes to school rules, and then there's Gilderoy Lockhart, an absolutely groan-worthy character that does his job wonderfully well. For the most part during the re-read he felt like a caricature to me; it was events in the Chamber of Secrets when his veneer gets broken that we see the real person he is. Maybe it's because I know how Dobby's story plays out, but whereas most of my friends in the reread seemed to hate him, it was a bit heart warming to read how Harry and Dobby became friends again.

All in all, like I said, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is one of my favorites for the series. Growing up, I loved the darkness and the mystery surrounding the Chamber of Secrets and Slytherin's Monster, and rereading it again that definitely hasn't changed; the only difference this time is that I know how to articulate the feeling it gives me. In many ways this book is the true beginning the series; a strange relationship emerges between Harry and Voldemort, questions are presented that aren't even known until much later in the series, and the book takes a much darker twist than the opening to the series, that continues to pervade throughout and enhances the gravity and seriousness of the tale in general.

Rereading these books is every bit as much fun as I thought it would be, and I've been having a blast picking them apart and looking at how Rowling handles the story. Inconsistencies crop up from time to time, but you know what? I'm enjoying reading these books now more than I ever have before.