Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling, is the second installment in the popular series chronicling the eponymous boy wizard’s years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This review is of the 20th anniversary edition and is a reread of the main story. As Pottermore sorted me into Ravenclaw and my daughter into Slytherin I had access to both house hardback editions. I reviewed the first in the series and wrote about these anniversary editions here.
The book opens with an introduction to the chosen house, naming key alumnae who will feature in the story. For Ravenclaw these include Gilderoy Lockhart (five times winner of Witch Weekly’s Most-Charming-Smile Award) and Moaning Myrtle (a ghost haunting a girls’ toilet at the school). For Slytherin there is Tom Riddle and Severus Snape.
A double page spread containing a map of Hogwarts reminds readers of key locations. It is then straight into the story.
Opening on Harry’s twelfth birthday, the boy has spent a miserable summer being bullied and belittled by the Dursleys, his reluctant guardians following his parents’ murders. Compounding his misery is the fact that promised letters from friends have not been received. Harry wonders if he has been forgotten and the invitation to stay with Ron at the Weasley’s home, The Burrow, rescinded. The reason for their silence is explained when a house elf, Dobby, appears in Harry’s bedroom demanding a promise that he will not return to school.
Ron has not forgotten Harry and, along with his brothers, mounts a daring rescue involving a flying car. This vehicle is also deployed when the boys miss their connection with the Hogwarts Express. Starting the year by risking expulsion puts a damper on their reunion with Hermione. It is not long, however, until further trouble attracts the trio of friends.
The academic year is marred by unexplained attacks on pupils at the school. There is a strange voice coming from behind walls that only Harry can hear. Graffiti written in blood claims that the legendary Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Speculation is rife as to who the Heir of Slytherin can be. Due to his unfortunate proximity to each attack, and his outing as a Parselmouth, Harry finds himself in the frame.
Determined to find out if the chamber exists, and what links there may be to events from fifty years ago, Hermione uses her books and magic skills to help her friends investigate. There are potential links to Hagrid whose expulsion from Hogwarts and ban on using magic has never been explained. And then there is a mysterious diary.
As attacks continue, Dumbledore is discredited leaving the future of the school in its current inclusive form at stake. Harry and Ron realise that they must piece together what little they know in an attempt to enter the chamber and face whatever is within.
In rereading the story with the benefit of having read the entire series there are many details to enjoy that foreshadow future events. Although there were now no surprises, it was still a highly enjoyable read.
The book ends with information on house elves which differ slightly in house detail. Ravenclaw focuses on the work the elves do, Slytherin on how harshly some are treated and how they may gain their freedom. There then follows a quiz on The Alumni of Hogwarts (I didn’t do very well) along with a line drawing of the appropriate house common room. The final extra content is a Q&A with illustrator Levi Pinfold on how he created the house crests. A line drawing of the relevant crest explains the symbols he employed and what they represent.
These editions of the book are beautifully presented and the extras provide interesting detail about Hogwarts and its history. The story at its heart remains well worth reading.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is published by Bloomsbury.