Wrapping up my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
I found Gilderoy Lockhart to be a humorous character, and he never quite crossed the line into being annoying to me. He gave us one of the more amusing scenes in the book, where he duels with Snape. The reader knows by then that Lockhart stands no chance, and Snape evidently knows it, too, as he gives a rare smile. Everyone knows what’s about to happen, yet it’s still satisfying when it does, and you get to see Lockhart get his ass kicked a little. My only issue with the character was: why did he continually set himself up for such public humiliation? I mean, even if he actually had been fooling everyone else, he knew he hadn’t done all the things he’d claimed, and his final reveal to Harry and Ron shows him as quite aware of how little magic he knew. So shouldn’t he have been trying to avoid using magic in front of anyone else, for fear of being exposed (like he was)? Why try to showboat if you know you have nothing worth showboating?
Lockart’s presence also allows Rowling to keep adding to Hermione’s character. Over the course of the first book, Hermione went from a brainy know-it-all with no personality, to a likable friend willing to break rules for cause. In Chamber of Secrets, she’s an even more aggressive rule-breaker — but only if it’s for something she believes in; she still shames Harry and Ron for stealing the flying car to get to Hogwarts. But around Lockhart, we see her for the first time as just a normal girl with a normal crush. Harry and Ron immediately see Lockhart for what he is, giving them the intellectual upper hand on Hermione for the first time. But Hermione defends her crush for as long as she can, creating a perfectly realistic blind spot for the series’ smartest character.
There were still minor things that bothered me in the book. Harry is blindsided by the use of the word “mudblood” as a slur for those of mixed magical heritage. So, his entire first year, it never came up that, hey, this is like the worst thing you can call someone in the magical world? Seems like someone would have told him that. Ron breaks his wand early, yet goes the entire year without getting it replaced. It makes some sense, since we’re told early that the Weasleys are perpetually strapped for money. But given how much we see his broken wand affect his ability to do anything, it seems like some solution would have been found, by sheer necessity, over the course of an entire school year. And the whole school is awfully fast to turn on people at any suggestion that a person is bad. I mean, Harry has been famous among wizarding families his entire life as a hero, he defeated an evil professor in his first year, plus the dark lord for a second time. Yet in year two, it takes so little for everyone to immediately believe he’s evil? They’re similarly quick to turn on likable Hagrid and maybe even Dumbledore when they, too, are besmirched.
By and large, though, the book was a delightful adventure. Since my memory of the film was dimmer, there were more twists that I didn’t remember until they were happening, like Hagrid’s role in opening (or not) the Chamber. The climax was well-developed, with the revelation of Tom Riddle as Voldemort really upping the ante for the villain. In the first book, Voldemort was more of a generic evil, too big to fully comprehend yet. Chamber of Secrets gives us a good chunk of his origin, far sooner than I would have expected. There’s still plenty in between that we don’t know about Voldemort, but he’s rapidly developing into a more interesting villain as we go.
I never became a huge Dobby fan, but at least I didn’t hate him in the book, like I had in the movie. His freedom was a nice way to end the conflicts in this installment, and his seemingly immense power raises more questions about just how much he can do, and why elves would ever be slaves in the first place; I could see him becoming more likable as such questions are later answered, if they are.
In all, I liked Chamber of Secrets more than Sorcerer’s Stone. It started a little more quickly, and had very few moments where any writing issues took you out of enjoying the action. You’re already familiar with the main characters and you enjoy them more, faster. The main villain has gone from just ominous to ominous and fascinating. The tone got a little darker and a little more mature. It’s a good read that more thoroughly hooks you to try the rest. And of course, it had even more of the Weasleys. They rock.