It’s only been six days since I closed Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time ever … and I’ve already completed the second book in the series. Much like the first instalment, Chamber of Secrets continues to highlight the underappreciated aspect of J.K. Rowling’s writing and classic story: mystery.
As I said in my previous review, it is extremely difficult and taxing to talk about this novel without referring or comparing to the book. Having said that, much like the first book, Chamber of Secrets is perfectly complimentary to its’ big screen adaptation if not more impactful. There is an argument, which I sporadically subscribe to, that claims the book will always outshine the adaptation simply because a reader’s imagination puts a director’s imagination to shame. Of course, there are examples like Lord of the Rings and even comic book movies like The Avengers that claim to buck that trend but Harry Potter may indeed follow it.
That isn’t to say that the feature films are horrible and unwatchable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is just as good as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. See what I did there? Yeah, that’s smart writing inspired by J.K. Rowling.
In the end, one has to compliment Rowling for one thing above all else: her ability to craft mystery. Dropping and outlining clues throughout this adolescent drama, whilst keeping her finger on the comedic pulse, the author crafts a beautifully poised and unravelling mystery. There are beats that do feel like unnatural beats simply intended to play off down the line but 90% of the time it all flows smoothly with emotional and loveable characters soothing the beats into place.
One also has to compliment the novel for its ability to terrify and scare. It’s subtly haunting with Rowling dropping moments of still quiet darkness in amongst the inherently jovial nature of a story set in a wizarding school.
My only gripe with this particular story is Tom Riddle. Whilst I admit that Riddle is a huge part of that seeping blackness that crawls down your back, I was and always have been unsure about the whole Tom Marvolo Riddle anagram reveal. It was one hand too far. One moment that felt like Rowling trying to be smarter and heavy-handed than this usually tempered story.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is still a superior book to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The first book was just so loving and inviting and endearing that the follow-up always had a tough job. And whilst the mystery and the narrative is spookier and engulfing than ever, I did feel like Rowling lost one thing she excelled at in the first: crafting a wider Wizarding world. Nonetheless, Chamber of Secrets is still a fantastic entry.