Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling was tied for last place in the series, along with the first book which, as you all know, is now bumped up to really liked a lot, surprisingly better than I remembered it. So naturally I wondered if the second book would likewise improve upon a rereading and the answer is . . . nope.
There is nothing remarkably bad about the book or even inferior. However, it is not uncommon in novel series for there to be one volume that is, by comparison, the weakest and for me this novel is the weakest in the series. It serves its purpose—introducing several characters and themes that will reappear in later volumes. Also, the final conflict/confrontation is amped higher, warning the reader that there is more to come. More danger. More complications.
So on that level, the book works. Harry’s returning to the home of the Dursley’s and his feelings about being isolated from the magical world over the summer break, Dobby the house elf, Aragog (who becomes a critical turning point in a later volume), the Whomping Willow (which become crucial in the next volume), etc.
Just as she did in the first book of the series, Rowling lays a foundation for the rest of the series in this book. Where this book fails slightly by comparison to the first is that the first introduces us to characters we don’t know, establishes so many of the ideas and themes that will continue for the next six books but this book only brings minor things onto the “stage” and if the characters develop somewhat they do not surprise.
And yet, there is the climax and something that doesn’t seem so significant happens that later is crucial beyond even any of the other things. I also appreciate the fact that Rowling allowed things to be more intense in this novel. It is because, I suppose, I love these books for that very reason, the way each story evolves into a darker place each volume, maturing with the reader. I’ve “warned” parents that they should be careful with the upcoming books with their younger children. When these books were being published, Rowling’s readership was growing and the pace at which the books hit the shelves left enough time for many readers to be mature enough to emotionally cope with what was inevitably coming in the later novels.
I say “inevitably” because there are certain heroic themes which are undeniably predictable. So I can give Rowling some forgiveness, knowing that she is not the first to write a weaker novel in a longer series of very good novels. And I can appreciate some of the things that emerge in this book which will become more significant as the stories continue to grow with the reader.
At this point, the rankings of the novels are:
It’s possible that as I continue to reread the series, one or more books will flip from one place to another. But I’m guessing that what is now #1 will slip in the rankings and #2 will very likely be #7 when all is said and done.
And now, onto the next book. Yay!