Friday, January 25, 2013
Chamber of Secrets ~ Post 1
Happy Harry Potter Day, everybody! This week we're starting Chamber of Secrets, which I normally think of as my least favorite book of the series, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the first half of it on its own. I know that the rather underwhelming adventure is coming, but reading it in parts really let me enjoy this first half. Even though it's often kind of cheesy, it also has some parts I really love, like Dobby and the Burrow. Like in Sorcerer's Stone, Rowling does a great job of setting things up, even if the ending flags a bit.
The Master Post
My original review
So we open on Harry's birthday (note that it's his birthday this time, not Dudley's - Harry is now the subject of his own story) and the Dursleys are making him promise to not exist while they have a dinner party. Typical abuse follows, as Harry is forced to slave away without food or drink, and then he hides himself and then... Dobby! Who of course we will love but at this point is just bizarre and mysterious and gets Harry into trouble (side question: was the pudding just whipped cream and sugared violets? I don't really understand English food terms). And then further and even more horrifying abuse occurs as Harry is literally barred into his room and his diet is limited to cold canned soup. Conveniently, a flying car containing his best friend shows up to save him! And we go to the Burrow!
I LOVE the Burrow, and probably for all the same reasons as Harry. The wild garden, live gnomes, delicious meals...who wouldn't love it? And there's adorable Arthur Weasley who says things like "escapators" with pure joy in his voice. And then they take off for Diagon Alley (which apparently sounds like Knockturn Alley is you're coughing) and Harry ends up inside of an insignificant-seeming black cabinet in a store devoted to the Dark Arts, which, like Harry, you probably forgot entirely about (unless this is at least your second reading). And then Lucius Malfoy fondles Ginny's book, seemingly only because he is a douche. SEEMINGLY.
Then Harry and Ron decide to fly the car to school in a chapter that is entirely silly and clearly meant to appeal to twelve-year olds and works in that function, though I find it rather excessive and hard to swallow as an adult. I mean, Harry and Ron do have some common sense, even when Hermione's not around. Happily, it's not as heroic a stunt as they imagined, though they do get far too much credit for it.
And Harry is back in school! And this time around, we get to see more of the classes, which is fun and proves that Hogwarts is actually an academic institution. Some of my favorite parts of the series are when we see what magical classes look like. The mandrakes and even the pixies are such fun. And also there's Colin Creevey, who is really annoying right now but makes me happy/sad when I think about Deathly Hallows, because he really just loves Harry, you know? We also hear about a black and gold vanishing cabinet, which Peeves damages, and we forget about entirely. BUT WAIT, that's twice now!
But then Harry Potter-verse gets real, you guys, complete with derogatory epithets. And even though this is very much still a children's book (see previous chapter), it's getting a little deeper and darker. This magical world isn't as fun as it may seem - there's prejudice and not just the "everyone hates the Slytherins" prejudice that's meant to appeal to immature readers, but true, underlying prejudice.
And finally...the mystery! A cat has been attacked...the floor's all wet...and Harry stands accused of an undetermined crime! Also, he's hearing a voice making violent threats that nobody else can hear...what suspense! It's enough to make you keep reading!
My only major complaint about this half of the novel (despite the lameness of the flying car) is the amount of reminding Rowling does, as though I'm not currently rereading the whole series back-to-back. Yeah, kids (who at least originally were the intended audience) can forget things, but I think repeating so much information really underestimates them. If a kid (or an adult for that matter) likes a book enough to read the sequel, he or she probably paid attention to the first novel and knows what's going on. Even the most inept reader would remember that Harry Potter is a wizard, which Rowling reminds us of on page 3.
One question that I meant to ask last week - why do wizards hide magical fauna and flora from Muggles as well, and how is that even possible? I mean, obviously they have to for the sake of the story, but what's the purpose? The existence of a dragon in no way confirms the existence of magical folk, and it seems like it would be far less trouble to not deal with this problem. I know this isn't really something I can get an answer to the illogic and like impossibility of it just bothers me.