Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
Cover art by Mary GrandPre
Published by Scholastic Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
Harry Potter had a wonderful first year at Hogwarts, the magic school. There he found friends with whom to stand and things at which he could succeed. Most importantly, it was a place where his strange talents were no longer shameful, but something to treasure and develop.
But all too soon it was over and it was time for the students to go home. Except in his case home meant his aunt and uncle, Vernon and Petunia Dursley, who hated all things magical in their defiant pride in their own normalness. The first thing they did was to lock away all his magic books and equipment in the cupboard under the stairs. He was strictly forbidden to even mention magic, which his aunt and uncle regarded as an abnormality and a disgrace.
Harry has been surviving their treatment with the best grace he can by keeping his mind on the coming term at Hogwarts. But just as release seems to be in store, disaster strikes in the form of a mysterious little creature known as a house elf. Dobby, who speaks a sort of broken English and dresses in cast-off kitchen linens, warns him that he must not return to Hogwarts. Of course this would have to happen right while the Dursleys are hosting an important visitor whom they want to impress. The racket caused by the house elf causes Uncle Vernon to lose a sale, and of course Harry is blamed and locked into his room, with only a tiny slot to deliver food. To make matters worse, he's in trouble with the wizarding world for underaged use of magic (never mind the house elf Dobby actually cast the spell) and threatened with expulsion from Hogwarts if it happens again.
Just as things are getting desperate, rescue arrives in the form of friends from school, the Weasley brothers. Their father has enchanted a car to fly, and they use it to whisk Harry off to their own home, a crazy magical place known as the Burrow. But trouble is still not over, because they still have to get their school supplies for the new year and get to Hogwarts.. Harry's first introduction to Floo Powder, an important magical means of transportation which zaps people from one fireplace to another in the wizarding world, lands him in the wrong shop on Diagon Alley and he overhears his old enemy Draco Malfoy up to no good. Then he meets the incredibly stuck-up Gilderoy Lockheart, who is going to be the new teacher of Defense against Dark Arts at Hogwarts. And to top it all off, they manage to miss the train to Hogwarts.
But the boys aren't about to give up yet. Although they are breaking more than a few rules, they take the Weasleys' magical flying car to Hogwarts. They narrowly avoid being expelled, and soon discover that there is something very strange afoot in the ancient castle which houses the school. It houses a terrible secret which goes back to the founding of Hogwarts and may well have something to do with the Dark Lord Voldemort, who has been persistently struggling to restore his strength and thus his power, ever since the infant Harry somehow defeated him.
When students suddenly start showing up turned to stone, there is serious talk about closing Hogwarts and sending the students home. For Harry that would be a disaster, because then he would have no escape from the wretched Dursleys. Somehow he has to find out what is lurking in the ancient Chamber of Secrets created by the original Slytherin. But the villain may well not be the one he expects, and friends may appear in the strangest places.
Review posted September 14, 2000
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