on February 25, 2002
. . .as it seemed to be virtually identical to the first story.
There is an unpleasant (and silly) adventure with the Dursleys. Again.
There is a difficulty at the train station. Again.
There is a difficulty with the Defense Against the Black Arts professor. Again.
There is an adventure in the Forbidden Forest. Again.
There are difficulties with bullies -- the same bullies. Again.
There is a final showdown with the evil wizard Voldemart in one of his many guises. Again.
Add to that some nagging "continuity gaps" between "Chamber of Secrets" and "Sorcerer's Stone" and one is left with a profound feeling of "I think I've read this before."
As a homeschooling parent who felt he needed to be informed about the "Harry Potter" mania prior to expressing an opinion (see my review of "Sorcerer's Stone") I still retain the same mixed feelings about this series as I did after reading just the first book. But I am less convinced that "Harry Potter" represents authentic "fairy-story" fantasy and more convinced that the truly creative reader will be put off by this installment.
I do intend to continue reading the series. I hope I do not continue to be disappointed.
on March 14, 2001
All right, the first Harry Potter book was Ok; the whole deal with Diagon Alley; the unpredictable ending, etc. But this one...lacked even the qualities that made the first one barely readable.
TCoS is even skimpier than TSS, and again, there is little storyline. The ending was obvious, pointless, and did nothing to advance the tale of Harry (which I've now lost complete interest in). By now you've probably read the excerpts of the story tons of times, so you know what this is about. Nothing. Harry is a character I can't care for no more than his... little goody friends.
The only reason I gave this book two stars is because of the new teacher that replaced Quirrel, he was about all the comic relief in this book (and there wasn't very much).
Please, save yourselves from these two hundred pages of complete and utter drivel and get something readable. Kids may not be able to tell the difference between good literature and bad, so get this for them if you're stuck for a gift.
on December 10, 2000
I am a Harry Potter fan, i've read every one over and over, but i have to say this is definately the worse. The book is not only predictable at every part, but it drags on and on and is incredibly boring. The Harry Potter books are too childish and predictable to be read, but i can understand why kids would like them. For some reason kids like to read the same thing over and over and over, and reading the Harry Potter books is pretty much doing so. Here is the layout for all 3 books. 1.) Harry Potter is at the Dursleys 2.) He recieves some letters from his friends 3.) He wants to get out of the Dursleys 4.) He is somehow rescued from them, either from running away or from the weasleys, or hagrid, or the quidditch world cup 5.) He goes to Hogwarts where there is some sort of a problem 6.) He spends half his school year trying to solve the problem while dealing with his school work. 7.) There is some sort of a mystery to the problem 8.) Then there is the climax where the culprit/mystery is revealed 9.) Somebody rescues harry from almost being killed 10.) Problem goes away. 11.) everyone goes home for the summer and harry is a hero every time.
Dont you think it is a little dumb to have the main character be the hero at the end of every single book? I mean, there is nothing special about his skills at anything except quidditch, he is not especially strong in certain areas like spells or dueling, the only thing special is the lightning scars on his forhead. So take my advice, go ahead and read the books, and look out for the cliches, and then you will see that the only reason these books are so popular is because of these cliches. ...
on November 1, 2000
I am not sure if I should err on the side of generosity here, but I cannot give one and a half stars, so it is two. I will do my best to give a reasonable account of my bad mark, as ninety-something percent of the Amazon reviews give top marks, and I don't want to be a sour grape for no good reason.
The general plot is familiar if you have read book one, but this is not a bad thing as there is still a 'whodunnit' element. The book is inventive, and the humour is still there, and a little more sharp-edged in places. I got a wry botanical smile out of the magical mandrakes (plants with human-shaped roots), which are nursed in the potting shed from young plants to full grown during the story. They betray approaching maturity by becoming moody and secretive, and trying to move into each other's pots. I think I can also detect improved writing technique, as some of the scenes are more coherent and descriptive than book one, although the characters are barely more fleshed out. And as I am an enthusiast for spiders, my favourite fantasy monster, I enjoyed the big spider scene. (I am trying to not reveal the plot too much, or I would wax more lyrical here.)
As to the down side, I am not too worried by the Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, but I am bored by the overly obvious new DADA teacher, who is an unfunny buffoon and a charlatan. I can only presume that a bigger fool employed him. Much worse, the mentally disturbed, slime-ridden self-harming elf who tries to help Harry, just detracts from the whole story. He is in bad taste. I think Rowling hates JRR Tolkien's elves, and hates them with a passion, and wants a spoiler in here. Parents reading this story to their children will want to avoid having to answer too many questions about this elf. They may also have grave doubts about the moral example of the criminal way Harry and co. acquire the ingredients for their Most Potente Potion. It is too much like organised crime for me. Even Malfoy's father has a sneer for career thieves in the Little Shop of Horrors, earlier in the book.
Lastly, there is an unpleasant undercurrent in this book, as there was in the first. In the first few chapters, before we get to Hogwart's, there are a number of striking references to ordure - filth, excrement, the smelly stuff, etc, ad nauseam. Dung abounding and toilet humour - Harry completes his potty training! Do we need it? Do we want it? Mercifully, these references largely disappear when we get to school, but only to be replaced by many scenes located in the girls' toilets. Still, flushed with success, Harry completes his mission, so all is well.
on September 20, 2000
I am one of the few people in this wide world who despise Harry Potter. I think it's boring. I didn't even make it through the first chapter (YAWN!) I congratulate J.K. Rowling on the success of the book though and I think that it's just wrong to remove Harry Potter from schools for violence! Hey, I've never read it but I'm smart enought to know that basically every single adult in every single country in the world enjoys Harry Potter and reads it to their seven year old children who enjoy it too and what parent would let their child read a violent book that they thought shouldn't be read at school or at home. I'm now changing my mind. I will change the 1 star to 2 out of pity for all those heartfelt fans who are not allowed to read the books anymore because of some people! I admit, I'm a kid, but the stupidest kid in the world is smarter then all you adults who think Harry Potter shouldn't be read at school! None of the kids in my school deal with this problem, they're allowed to read it. But other schools in the US can't and I'm complaining on behalf of them. Now I'm changing my stars back to 1 because I do think it's dreadfully boring. OK, now I'm through!
on September 9, 2000
The Harry Potter series has received so much media endorsement that it has attained a kind of god-like status. When you actually strip away all the hype you are essentially left with a basic story that lessons. No thought provoking concepts, just lessons that could be similarly acquired through watching any cartoon on Nickalodeon. The author, while demonstrating she does have a good command of the english language, has simply produced a work so devoid of content, that any ten year old could have conceptualized it.
Bottom line: the Harry Potter books are rudimentary stories that have no value beyond entertainment. If you realize this and still choose to allow your children to read them, wonderful. Just be aware that there is nothing in these books that can't be gleaned from a few sessions in front of the tv. It's still the same garbage that media titans have been cramming down the throats of our children for decades. The only thing innovative is the new techniques they use to perpetrate their massive indoctrination.
on June 21, 2000
Having written a Master's Thesis on the fantasy works of Ursula K. Le Guin, I am amply qualified to judge works of fantasy in general. Though these books do contain magic, that alone is not enough to qualify them as fantasy literature. In fact, each one of these first three books is really not much more than a mystery book with Harry Potter as the aspiring sleuth. And while these books do utilize some elements of Joseph Campbell's hero's tale, they fall far short of true mythic proportions. Good fantasy literature, or good literature of any kind, for that matter, has a theme which runs throughout the book. JK Rowling, in each and every one of these first three books, drops a theme into the book, only at its completion--For instance, in book one we learn at the end that Harry has learned about love, and in book two we find out that Harry is a lot like Tom Riddle, but only at the very end, and then the head master points out that he is like him, except for the choices Harry makes. This latter example would have made an excellent theme, but Rowling is not concerned with theme, but only with fun. To her credit, these books are fun, but a theme is what gives a book real cohesion, and, ultimately, real staying power. If you want your children to read excellent fantasy literature, stay with Tolkein's The Hobbit, LEngle's A Wrinkle in Time, C.S. Lewis' The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lowry's The Giver, and my favorite, Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea. You might note, that unlike these fine novels, Harry Potter has yet to win any serious awards such as the Newberry, etc. Nor is he likely to. Rowling's books are page turners, however, as are any decent mystery novels, and do help keep children reading who might otherwise close the book up. And that's the only good thing I have to say for them.
on May 28, 2000
I am a sixteen year old reviever from the U.K. Firstly I would like to say that I have no objection to these novels being taken in their intended context, as children's books, I also am generally enthusiastic about anything that promotes children reading. However I can't understand how anyone over the age of twelve continues to be 'enthralled' by these books. It is understandable why the Philosophers/Sorcerrers Stone had some appeal. It was unchallenging, imaginitive storytelling, although hardly more inspirationall or originall than a 'Worst Withch' story, taking on a Goosebumps-esque format. However the second in the series, The Chamber Of Secrets, continues in exactly the same style, repeating the pattern of the first book. It fails to do any further character development, leaving the protaganists one dimensionall and uniform. It also bases all the humour element on stereotypes e.g the clumsy fat boy, Nevil. This really is enriching childrens world view! A further annoyance to me is that boundries between 'good' and 'evil' are laid down from the beginning, again enforcing stereotypes. The reader is autoumatically encouraged to be biased on the side of the 'goodies', justifying Harries actions and incriminating Malfroy's etc. No alternative perspectives are offered and no explanation is given as to why the 'evil' people behave as they do other than them simply being 'baddies'. If the character does not comply to the authers ideal they are bad! There seems to be no underlying point being portrayed in these books, In commparrison to other 'children's books' such as Phillip Pullman's, His Dark Materials Trillogy, this is meaningless and one dimensional. In fact the reason why these books have sold so much is the media hype surrounding them. It saddens me to see that people can't form their own oppinions of books based not on it's marketing and funding but on it's impact on the way they think. If you have agree with the stereotypical way this book is written, I suggest you and your children read 'Lord Of The Flies' and see it's implications!
P.S I am sure that I will recieve lots of negative critisism for this review but I'm not egotistical enough to care. Having unhelpful points on my name does not devalue my opinion, it merely justifies my point.
on February 29, 2000
As a great fan of children's literature that demonstrates "crossover appeal," I read the original Harry Potter book and now the Chamber of Secrets. They are both fine books, especially because they have caught the rabid fascination of kids and inspired them to read. However,the magic in both books is so ubiquitous that it comes across as mundane. Rowling is one of those writers who actually overdoes it in the imagination department. She really lets her imagination run rough-shod over the story itself. She seems to have an obsession with making every doorknob, photo, stack of cards, candle, teapot, cup, article of clothing, utensil, and SPECK OF DUST into some magical entity. Instead of using good writing and clever metaphor to create atmosphere or detail, Rowling simply makes everything into a magical object.Instead of letting the magic "pop up" in strategic, choice places (adding to the sense of mystery and wonder), we are bombarded with it at every turn until it becomes ho-hum. I wouldn't be surprised if the kitchen sink ends up being enchanted in one of these books, or if Harry sits down on a talking toilet seat one day (Moaning Myrtle notwithstanding).While Rowling is a decent story-teller, she is a bit of a hack as a writer. Either that or she has editorial problems. There are a number of misspellings and grammatical errors in this work. The episodes in Chamber lack cohesion and often seem arbitrary, as if Rowling is letting her indulgent imagination lead her off into pointless detours rather than allowing a harmonious progression of the story. Some scenes end abruptly, or seem altogether pointless and plotless. Harry is a good character, but he is one-dimensional, like almost everyone in the book. I think Rowling fills her story with so much gratuitous magic to cover up the fact that her characters are really not very developed or interesting. It's just like a blockbuster movie filled with non-stop, pointless special effects in the hope that no one will notice that the script stinks and the characters are made out of cardboard.The book also lacks the sort of "pure in heart" hallmark of all the great children's books (Narnia, Oz, etc. etc.) and the characters don't appear to stand for anything greater than themselves.For example, all poor Hermione does is roll her eyes and complain. Harry runs from one scene to the next never really revealing much about himself--just reacting (or overreacting) to everyone in this Magically-Overloaded world. He has about as much depth as a kiddie pool. Draco Malfoy is capable only of smug smirking and run-of-the mill pot-shots. The adult teachers at the Hogwart's school are also somewhat lacking in warmth, personality, or teaching value--which is usually a good thing to have in a child's book. I'm convinced that the Potter series is pretty much what happens when an entire book is based upon rampant, aimless imagination. Keep in mind that I'm writing this review of Chamber of Secrets from an adult perspective. I heard that a great many adults were becoming groupies of this series so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I give this book(and the 1st) 4 stars for their value for kids 8-12, but I can't see why any adult past the age of 20 would want to read the whole series. Two were more than enough for me.I had no sense of wonder when reading this book, and that was disappointing. However, it's fantastic that so many young people are reading because of this fabulous series of stories and this will translate into kids reading even more (and even better)books besides. I also think it's pretty wonderful that Rowling overcame financial hardships to make her tales a success. That's pretty inspiring. But I feel Rowling's writing in Chamber of Secrets is still too amateurish to please serious adult fans of great children's literature. For adults, I would give it one star and suggest rediscovering CS Lewis or Tolkien.
on January 17, 2000
Harry Potter is everywhere lately, featured on the cover of Time (but not as man of the year yet), making the rounds of the TV talk shows (in the guise of the author J.K. Rowling), and holding the top three slots on the NY Times Bestseller List. He's making headlines as both the savior of literacy and the spawn of Satan. But what's lost in this all this noise is the fact that, when all is said and done, Harry Potter is boring. He's popular the way Big Macs are popular; it's easy to sell something bland and formulaic.
The first clue to Harry Potter's franchise status is in the interesting title switch. Harry became all the rage in Britain under the title Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Since no red-blooded American would be caught dead with a book about philosophy, the title had to change. So as Harry crossed the Atlantic, he dropped the Philosopher's Stone and picked up the Sorcerer's Stone; the occult sells better than contemplation.
The second problem is the gross simplicity of the plot and characters. Magic works in these novels the same way Waylon Jennings' singing worked in the TV show The Dukes of Hazard. Whenever Bo, Luke and Daisy got into a pickle they couldn't get out of, the show would cut to Waylon Jennings singing yet another variation of "Good Ol' Boys" and the problem would be miraculously solved. Logic, character development, consistency even within the parameters of the story, were always ignored. Harry has the same luck. Whenever he's in a jam or things aren't going well, he manages to find some long lost spell or some arcane rule of quidditch to make everything all right.
Character development is, of course, out of the question. Just like the rule requiring every Big Mac around the world to taste equally bland, every character in the Potter books is either good or bad from start to finish. Harry runs the emotional gamut from A to A and back again. The villains twirl their mustaches and cackle like an army of Snidely Whiplashes. The characters in the Potter books are all gross cartoon exaggerations; but as Homer Simpson has proven, even cartoon characters can have hearts. Too bad Harry hasn't learned that.
The real trouble with Harry is that his oversized ego and the hype all around him is crowding everybody else out of the field of new children's books. He's like the George W. Bush of children's literature. If you want to read books that don't insult the intelligence of your inner child try Holes by Louis Sachar, or The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. Jules Feiffer has two amazing novels: A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears and The Man in the Ceiling. Or if you need something British try The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan. Like Harry, these books were all written in the last five or six years; and like Harry, they all have magic of one kind or another. But unlike Harry, these books are also fresh and intelligent. These books aren't products to be mass-produced for maximum sales; these books have hearts.