As some of you may know, I am currently participating in the Remembrall Readathon, hosted by the Harry Potter Alliance, in which we try to reread the series before July 31st, the release day of the Cursed Child script. You can read my post about the readathon here and my post about reading the illustrated edition of Sorcerer’s Stone here.
So I’ve read Sorcerer’s Stone about 5 times now, and this was my 4th time rereading Chamber of Secrets, and I have to finally say it: I like Chamber of Secrets better than Sorcerer’s Stone. There. I said it. I’ve never said that before. How liberated I feel!
There is a widespread opinion in the world that Chamber is inferior to just about every other Harry Potter book. But why? Why!? I sometimes feel that it only suffers because people have this theory about the sequel slump, or the 2nd-book syndrome, or whatever you want to call it, that the 2nd book in a series is never very good. This might be true for some books, but I think in HP’s case (in which all the books are great), people hate on book 2 as a self-fulfilling prophecy: “Oh, it’s the 2nd book? Then it must be the worst.” But like…why??
I see no evidence that Chamber suffers from the sequel slump other than the fact that people seem to believe it does. Please enlighten me if you are not a fan of the second book, so I can understand this better. Here’s how I see it: Chamber of Secrets is a wonderful part of the series because we know the characters and we know their world, but there is still so much exploring to do and so much we don’t know, and Rowling balances that excellently in this book, as with the rest of the series. Chamber was a make-or-break point: it could very well have ruined the entire trajectory and success of the series if poorly written. But it didn’t. It is wonderful.
Chamber strikes the perfect balance between the awe and magic of the first book and the dark, seriousness of the later books. It foreshadows SO MUCH of what is to unfold in the rest of the series while still maintaining the whimsical, carefree tone of book 1. Chamber is a very dark book! But it doesn’t read like a very dark book. That is why I believe it is so brilliant. We’re all excited to go back to Hogwarts, and there’s still a bunch of wondrous wizarding quirks to discover that make the book joyous, but underneath it all is an extremely complex and sinister plot. Like…oh yeah, Hogwarts is great, except btw, some people totally discriminate against wizards who aren’t “pure-blooded” to the point where they get murdered. I don’t think I need to talk about the allegory, because enough has already been said on it, but this book shows us that it’s not all fun and games in the wizarding world; their history is just as bad as ours.
The first book it great; it sets up the magic, it has incredible world-building and a decent plot. But the second book is so much more gripping to me. The plot structure just works. It’s suspenseful, it’s mysterious. As each attack happens, the situation gets more and more dire and you’re trying to put all the pieces together and then Hermione goes down and the panic sets in and then you start to figure it out and then the climax and Tom Riddle and OMG. The build-up is perfect. Perfect, I say.
But at the same time, the book is absolutely hilarious. Mostly for me because of Gilderoy Lockhart. I swear, I laugh every time he opens his mouth (and even sometimes when he doesn’t). He is absurdly funny. I know some people hate him or get annoyed and frustrated with him, but I find him to be endlessly entertaining. Shout-out to Gilderoy.
Anywho, I’m going to try to write a post about each book as I finish it (I should be finishing up Azkaban today!) as part of the readathon. You can also follow my Twitter for live thoughts as I read (#RemembrallReadathon; link in sidebar). It’s not too late to join the readathon fun, either! But for now,