Welcome Muggles and Magic-folk alike to the next 9¾ Review on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. If you’re new to 9¾ Reviews, this is a series dedicated to the Harry Potter series done by a Potterhead grown-up. If you’re interested in starting from the beginning, you can ready my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone here. For the few of you who know nothing about Harry Potter (I’m very sorry you don’t), you should check out the amazing series before reading my reviews filled with spoilers.
In my review of Sorcerer’s Stone, I mentioned loving it because it was very episodic. There were little adventures to teach us about the magical world and it took away from the heaviness of the plot. Chamber of Secrets is where we see the first big shift in Rowling’s writing style. They switched from little adventures to plot driven books. One of my favorite things about this series is as we read them, we see Rowling’s writing style grow. It is like we grow up with the characters and with J.K. Rowling.
Plot driven does not exclude little adventures. Those fun scenes of the trio doing something stupidly brave still exist. They now have a purpose greater than teaching us about magic. Nearly Headless Nick’s death day party is a prime example that nothing in this book was written without it aiding the plot. It was a great adventure to read about and was an alibi for the trio when the first attack happens.
While the style of writing has changed in this book, the trio is still choosing to be involved. In later books like The Goblet of Fire, the characters are forced to participate in Voldemort’s wicked plans. In the earlier books, our three heroes chose to snoop for answers and eventually ended up in the midst of chaos.
Writing style wasn’t the only thing that caught my attention. Some characters in this book really stood out to me. The group that stood out to me most was the Dursley family. More specifically, how cruel they were to Harry. Obviously we all knew Harry wasn’t treated well by his aunt and uncle, but this book really showed how much fear and hatred they had toward Harry. Aunt Petunia tried to swing a frying pan at Harry’s head, trapped Harry in his room except for monitored bathroom trips, and fed him barely any food. I’m not sure if this disturbed me as a child as much as it does now, but I was shocked to read the little details of their abuse.
Staying on the subject of vile people, let’s discuss the Malfoys. Whether it be because I’ve seen the movies so many times or because I watch A Very Potter Musical too much, I completely forgot how horrible Draco Malfoy was. Yes, it was his horrible family that warped him into such a cruel person. Yes, in future books I do feel a bit more sympathetic toward his position in Voldemort’s ranks. However, I don’t have any sympathy for him in this book. Wanting to help murder people, guessing who would be next, and pouting when those people attacked were saved in the end reminded me of why I’ve never been able to be a Draco fan. The movies portray him as a horrible person also, but they definitely toned it down. Lucius Malfoy is downright evil in this book. Reading about his son and how he treated him in Knockturn Alley shows just how good of a dad he is (or isn’t).
Yet again we can see how J.K. was preparing for the rest of her series in these early books. In Dobby’s visit to Harry at the Dursley’s home, Dobby hinted that there is dark magic that even Dumbledore doesn’t know about. Dobby was likely hinting at horcruxes made by Voldemort. She also mentions Mungdungus Fletcher in this book whom we meet later on in Harry’s journey. Something I never realized until my second time reading this book, Snape is the professor who taught Harry his signature spell, Expelliarmus, during the dueling club. If not for that dueling class, who knows when Harry would have learned the disarming spell that saved his life many times.
As always, there are differences between the book and movie. In the movie, I always miss the death day scene for Nearly Headless Nick. I think that’s one of the more unique ideas written about in this book. I know in the directors cut that is played on Harry Potter Weekend, we see people really believing Harry is the heir, but not in the regular version. While I think it’s ridiculous that anyone suspected Harry, it was a great pressure added to Harry in the books. Surprisingly, I actually prefer the fight scene in the movie. The book’s battle scene, while still good, was much shorter than I remember. That being said, I do find the concept of the basilisk in the book to be scarier and actually got chills the first time reading the voice as Harry hears it.
The Chamber of Secrets may be creepier than Sorcerer’s Stone, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read. Scenes with the flying car, visiting The Burrow, and freeing Dobby, prove that this book is as full of warmth and mischief as its predecessor. This book is an important transition in the series that sets the tone for future books. I’d love to know your thoughts on The Chamber of Secrets so if there’s anything you’d like to discuss, let’s talk in the comments. Keep an eye out for my next 9¾ Review of Prisoner or Azkaban, my personal favorite.