Completed 5/28/2015, Reviewed 5/30/2015
My reread of the second Harry Potter novel was not as satisfying as Sorcerer’s Stone. Rowling spent a lot of time world building in the first novel. Part of the joy of the book was the magic of the introduction to all the delights, the allies, and the enemies. Chamber of Secrets is missing that magic. I don’t remember my reaction from my initial read of the book, but this time, I found it to be formulaic duplicate of the first. The world building is much less dramatic and the new characters not very interesting, though the confrontation with Harry’s nemesis Lord Voldemort at the end is very satisfying.
Chamber of Secrets introduces my least favorite character in the whole series is Dobby. In the movie, he was very annoying, but the whole second movie was annoying. I tried to go into this book with an open mind in hope of seeing Dobby in a new light, perhaps being less critical of his antics. You see, Dobby appears to Harry before the school year begins, warning him not to return to Hogwart’s because of some mysterious evil. Because Dobby is a house-elf, and therefore a slave to his unknown master, he can’t tell Harry what the evil is, only warn him. For revealing even this, the elf literally beats himself up in lieu of the punishment he would get if his master found out what he was doing. I don’t know if Rowling thought if this would be funny, but it was just pathetic, and not pathos in a good way. Of course, Harry doesn’t heed Dobby, and through the school year, the elf tries various things to get Harry to go home.
As I mentioned in my last review, I am often troubled by the whole concept of people not telling the truth and not listening. I know this device makes for good suspense and is part of literature regardless of genre, but rather than feel sorry for Dobby, I just wanted to shake him, pin him to the floor, grab his face and shout at him. That was my level of annoyance with him. I’m not actually happy about using the word “annoying” in my review. I recently read the review of this book by someone I don’t like from my book club and he used “annoying” throughout it. Unfortunately, it’s the only word that describes my reaction to the character and his plot line.
On a positive note, the showdown between Harry and Voldemort at the end is suspenseful and fun. It also moves the overarching plot of the whole series a little further, demonstrating the growing power of the evil Lord. Unfortunately, I felt that it was the only place where that plot moved. Everything else that happens in the book feels more like antics, rather than moving anything forward. The main characters feel stagnant. Even the introduction of the new faculty member, Lockhart, provides only wan farce rather than honest comic relief of any significance.
As a book in and of itself, it’s basically good. If I was Harry’s age and the intended age of the audience, I’d probably love it, because it’s another story like the first. As an adult, after the tremendous beginning, knowing how well the characters and the main plot develop over the course of the rest of the books, this one just falls flat. I give it a limp three out of five stars.