Plot/Story (3 of 4):
“3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.”
In the second book of the series, Harry and his friends – Ron and Hermione- find themselves again involved in a battle with a mysterious opponent, whose identity and purpose are not revealed until near the end of the story. Lord Voldemort returns, not by physically possessing another wizard, but as an enchanted memory, weaving his evil plot through one of the Hogwarts first-year students. When Hermione and Ginny Weasley fall prey to the monster of The Chamber of Secrets, Ron and Harry determine to solve the riddle and defeat the evil, once and for all. They are helped along the way by certain unexpected friends, while other seemingly trustworthy characters reveal their truer natures.
Characterization (4 of 4):
“4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.”
Once again, Rowling demonstrates her devotion to and mastery of characterization and character development. New characters, such as Gilderoy Lockhart, Dobby the house elf, and even Professor Binns are all perfectly introduced and executed throughout the book, regardless of their major or minor status in the storyline. Additionally, characters whom we are more familiar with from book one, like Harry, Draco, Ron, Hermione and Percy Weasley continue to grow and we begin to see more of their natures – even anticipating how they may act in certain situations, or where we might see them in future books.
Prose/Style (3 of 4):
“3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.”
While The Chamber of Secrets maintains a similar reading level as its predecessor, The Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling begins to play with more advanced language and vocabulary, and even more advanced themes. The Dursleys, for instance, as well as some of the schoolchildren, become more prominently vindictive and cruel. There are coy jokes made about teenage romance, and the nature of evil and “badness” in both the expected and unexpected characters is much more realistic and intense than in the first book. As the children are getting older, they begin to understand certain personality traits and to distinguish more clearly between dichotomies of right/wrong, good/bad, selfish/selfless, etc. The pace is also great and each chapter, as in book one, works as a “scene” as in a play, where each portion builds off the next but also deals with its own moment of the story, advancing the story gradually and smoothly.
Additional Elements (3 of 4):
“3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.”
Once again the setting of the story works to its favor. The novel begins in the “muggle” world, of which we are all familiar – a single family home in the suburbs of London, recognizable in general as “living space.” Then, we proceed through Diagon Alley, the wizarding area of downtown London, as well as the subway and its magical counterpart, Platform 9 & ¾. Balancing each of the magical places with a realistic twin helps to keep the reader firmly planted on the ground while simultaneously being swept into the mystical enchanting fantasy of Hogwarts. Rowling works her own magic, here again, almost making it seem as if, in our day-to-day lives, there would be nothing extraordinary at all about bumping into a crimson-cloaked wizard (though they do try to be covert). Certain symbols and motifs from book one, like friendship and the “formed family” are carried into and further developed in Chamber of Secrets. Other elements, such as the nature of humanity (subservience and slavery, hypocrisy, cozening, etc.) are introduced. The resolution, though, seems much more far-fetched than in Sorcerer’s Stone. While this is obviously a fantasy novel, the climax is a bit far-reaching and it becomes harder to believe, in this case, that no adult wizards – teachers or otherwise, would be present during the final “showdown.” While in book one it seemed almost natural for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to be solving the problem, here it seems a bit odd and even uncomfortable. Still, new information has begun to be hinted at in regards to certain characters, like Percy Weasley and the Harry-Voldemort connection, which is interesting at the start and even more fascinating to those, like me, who are going back for a re-read and being reminded of how early in the timeline these characters and relationships began to develop.
Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: All Ages
Interest: Fantasy, Education, Good/Evil, Friendship