book review

9¾ Reviews: The Chamber of Secrets

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.

9¾ Reviews: The Sorcerer’s Stone

Since I was in 7th grade, I’ve been a massive Harry Potter fan. I can remember the exact moment I started reading the books and can honestly say that since that day, it’s changed my life. As dramatic as that sounds, it’s true. As Potterheads do, I rewatch the movies almost constantly, I cancel my plans for Harry Potter Weekend, I hum The Mysterious Ticking Noise, and can be found in my Gryffindor snuggie watching A Very Potter Musical/Sequel regularly. As much as I indulge in the wonders of Harry Potter, rereading the series can be rather tedious with a busy schedule. I’ve done it a few times when I was younger and usually quit around Goblet of Fire. This time, I’m determined to finish the series and reflect on it being almost ten years older than I was when I originally read it. If by some chance you haven’t read or even watched Harry Potter by now, I highly recommend doing so before reading this, as it will completely spoil all of the magic.

I finished rereading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone almost immediately after I had picked it up again. I was completely sucked into the magic all over again. It’s strange how a story you know so well can feel new every time you dive back into it. Harry Potter still seems to do that for me.

What I love about The Sorcerer’s Stone is its little adventures. Once you reach Order of the Phoenix, and even in Goblet of Fire, the little adventures are overshadowed by the main plot. The characters are older and have bigger things to worry about than the first quidditch match of the season. The Sorcerer’s Stone introduces both Harry and the reader to the world of magic. While everything is important and ties into the plot, it doesn’t feel as heavy as reading one of the later books. We feel like we’re learning about quidditch and dragons then suddenly there’s Voldemort. It’s a deceivingly light read that is actually full of action and adventure.

Adventures aside, The Sorcerer’s Stone is also just full of warmth. Watching Harry find his new home and where he fits in just feels good to read. Harry bonding with Ron over growing up overshadowed and poor, Harry learning about his parents and seeing them for the first time, and Hermione surprising the boys with her bravery and wit gives this book (and entire series) heart that I feel a lot of books lack. J.K. Rowling let us get attached without boring us with too many details and without shoving forced relationships down our throats.

Most of my favorite scenes that I found the most touching were with Hagrid. I guess I had forgotten just how much I love Hagrid because I felt like I was reading an entirely new character this time around. Hagrid probably has the biggest heart out of anyone in the series and that’s exactly what Harry needed coming from the Dursley’s care. In one of the last chapters we see Hagrid give Harry yet another gift. Hagrid had been collecting pictures of Harry’s parents from as many people as he could to give to him. If that doesn’t show heart, I don’t know what does.

There were many other things that stuck out to me this time. The biggest and most unsettling was how rude Harry and Ron are. I understand that Harry and Ron are still children and have been overshadowed their entire lives, but they really just came across as mean. The way they treated Hermione when she was standing up to them for leaving (much like what Neville was rewarded for) was quite upsetting. Once the trio became friends, this settled down a bit, but not entirely. Gryffindors are known for this type of obnoxious and rude behavior but I guess when I read this as a child myself, I never realized just how rude Harry and Ron were in this book.

I also noticed how goofy Dumbledore was throughout this book. The movies make Dumbledore seem extremely serious so I had forgotten how he really was. It was nice to forget the controversy about the character that comes out later and just enjoy Albus as the wacky headmaster we all loved who starts to get close to Harry.

As I said before, this book is deceivingly light. With little adventures like rescuing Hagrid’s Dragon, the overarching plot line doesn’t weigh down the story. There are a couple of little details in this book that are key to the later books that I never noticed before. It’s well known by Order of the Phoenix that Voldemort has a connection with Harry and often tries to communicate with him through dreams. What I didn’t realize was that Voldemort had been doing this since Harry’s first night at Hogwarts. By Order of the Phoenix we also know Snape is a master of Legilimency. The first mention of this came from The Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry gets the unnerving feeling that Snape can read minds.

This probably won’t shock you, but I love this book. This is the book that changed my opinion on reading entirely. I think there’s something in this book for everyone that will surely hook anyone into finishing the rest. How J.K. Rowling was able to create such a huge and sometimes dark series starting from such a fun read, I’ll never know. It really is like magic.

Time to buckle down

Writing and reading are two things that I absolutely love to do. I find that when I don’t read, I don’t write. I guess it’s just an inspiration thing. Since I’ve been so busy with school and work, I practically haven’t read anything in months. The last book I finished was Jurassic Park a few months ago and that took me one whole year to get through. I wanted to write a review about it but I just let time pass by and now I can’t remember my specific notes to write about. Last night I stayed up until about 3 am reading a book that has been on my bookshelf for years now and I’m finally feeling inspired. My goal for 2016 is to read at least 5 of the books that have been cluttering up my shelf and review all of them. Yes, I realize 5 books is a small number, but I need to stay realistic with my schedule here. I’m fairly confident that this will get the creative juices flowing again and hopefully you’ll see some new posts from it. See you soon!