Round 2, and everyone’s favorite underage wizards are back. I won’t bore you too much with plot analysis and dissection. If you’re reading this, you probably already know what happens. I’ll be reviewing the books as a series, so there will be a lot of comparison between them from here on out. And also the movies will be compared and contrasted on occasion…because it’s impossible to ignore them. So here we go:
This volume feels a little more mature. A lot of my friends told me you can see Rowling develop as she moves from book to book, and it’s…sort of present here. She dabbles a bit more in subtlety and side-plot. I particularly enjoyed the Ginny-Harry interactions, where Harry gets teased about his red-headed admirer by…well just about everybody. Through both books I feel like Harry comes off as a bit more human, with faults and foibles, more so than in the movies. I don’t know if it’s Radcliffe’s fault or something else, but the way you see Harry in the movies, he’s always a bit too removed, a bit too aloof for me. Doesn’t feel as real as he does in the books. The quality of the prose, however, doesn’t make the leap I was expecting. Chamber still feels very whimsical and wide-eyed. And like the first book, Rowling relies on telling over showing to translate her characters emotions and reactions to the reader. This also enhances the childish feel of the book, but also serves to move the pace along. The first two books can probably be tackled in one afternoon-evening, and you would not feel dragged down. I personally devoured both on the DC Metro on the way to work, and they made the 40-minute commute disappear. I always felt disappointed when I had to stop and put the book down (possibly because I had to then slog through a sea of humanity into sub-freezing temperatures…to go to work). And if I come off as complaining about the way Rowling writes don’t mistake me; I enjoy her writing and everyone should. Just trying to dissect like an editor. And she is masterful with building momentum. Both books were like roller coasters you didn’t want to ever end. The stakes are a bit higher throughout this volume, with underage grand theft auto and destruction of property playing a key role in the storyline. And there are some very dark moments that pulled me out of the child whimsy and tingled my spine. The death-day party was downright depressing, and the cliquey nature of the Headless Hunt injected a macabre kind of sadness into the text. The most didactic of the dark elements had to be the dialogue for the unseen Basilisk. The soft, short, serrated introductions of menacing ideas like ripping, killing, bleeding by an unseen force unexpectedly grab a reader and shake them. Weren’t we talking about Hufflepuffs, Whizzbangs, and Quidditch Snitches like 2 pages ago? This is the first time I really felt the darkness of the Dark Arts that came off as a bit campy in Book 1. Rowling handles the flashback aspects a bit cheesily; I disliked the comparison she makes to a television when describing Harry reading the Riddle diary, and I had to rely on my memory of watching the movie to manage my way through it. These can be difficult to tackle as a writer, and I’ve definitely seen it botched worse in some trashy sci-fi/fantasy novels (The word poof followed by italicized writing does not constitute a transition…oy.). The pacing and description of the action sequences, particularly at the climax, are much easier to follow and more fleshed out in book two. You can’t help but imagine the movie scenes during Harry’s final encounters with the big baddies, but in Chamber I could follow the action more fluidly. While I’m on the climax (giggity), much like in the movie, as cool as a phoenix named Fawkes is, it’s a big ol’ elephant of a Deus Ex Machina that’s hard to ignore. Thank God that bird is stronger than it looks. And can feel loyalty. And happens to have magic healing tears. Makes me want to write a spoof where a wondrous creature called the Plot Device always happens to have the right supernatural gift to right every wrong in the story. But I digress. The strength of this book, and I’m guessing the whole series, is the characters. I wish I could separate them from the incredible portrayals by the actors in the movies…but I can’t. So I won’t even try. Snape is his usual unlikable self in the most amazing way. And Alan Rickman reads all of his dialogue… … … slowly. Ron and Hermione are delightful sidekicks; and Hagrid(in spite of his dialogue) is lovable like a giant teddy bear. The teachers as ever prove pleasantly one-dimensional, but we do get another, deeper glimpse into the darker, all-knowing side of Albus Dumbledore. He is an…interesting character. Enigmatic to the reader but I feel like this is intentional, and enhances his mystery. And good ol’ GIlderoy Lockheart (cue the swooning) was delightfully the lighter side of evil in Chamber, and was enjoyable all the way through. I don’t know that anyone outside of Kenneth Branagh could have done him justice. Maybe Armie Hammer, but he’s not blonde. As a whole, Chamber is just as enjoyable as the first Potter book, and moves you through at such a breakneck speed you miss any small issues with the prose on your manic journey to devour the story and move on to the next one. Next, we get Sirius (ha) but for now…signing off.