Review: Reopening the Chamber of Secrets


The pages themselves go dark as Harry Potter takes an unintended trip down Diagon Alley, words blazing a white trail to shatter the grim backdrop of Borgin and Burkes.

Here, antiquities of the Dark Arts gaze ominously upon the boy wizard, whose first attempt at traveling by Floo Network has led him to the grim side street. From behind his trademark round-rimmed (and now once again broken) glasses, his eyes rest wearily on the tainted objects.

Potterheads have been picturing this moment since it first graced the printed page in 1998, and fans of the films know Chris Columbus’s interpretation well.

But artist Jim Kay still manages to breathe new life into the tale in his follow-up to last year’s first deluxe illustrated edition in J.K. Rowling’s series.

Illustrations by Jim Kay © 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Fantastic beasts

Through a series of stark and brilliant etchings, Kay lends his own vision to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with lush two-page spreads that threaten to suck readers in like Tom Riddle’s diary and a smattering of finely-crafted, smaller pieces spread throughout.

The diary passage alone is a technicolor wonder, and a testament to Kay’s ability to bring his own artistic interpretation to the wizarding world.

He adeptly captures the personalities of human characters through subtle details, from the glinting smile of Gilderoy Lockhart to the food-smeared face of Dudley Dursley. The eyes of his characters seem to stare out from the page.

Whimsical interpretations abound for an array of fantastic beasts:

Dobby the house elf, looking slightly elephantine, dashes down the steps of 4 Privet Drive, revealing a glimpse of his bare backside.

Mandrakes are brought to life with an informational chart in the style of a Leonardo da Vinci notebook and the noble Phoenix gets its own full-color entry, ripped from the pages of a magical textbook.

Aragog and his kin are frequent guests here, skittering across the corners of pages or featured en masse, an arachnophobe’s nightmare.

And inside the Chamber of Secrets, the pages once again fade to black with just a hint of something scaly as visual foreshadowing.


Break the bookshelf

As the series progresses Rowling’s tomes double and triple in size, making it difficult to keep the illustrated editions around the same size without some amount of sacrifice.

On screen, directors have dealt with the trend by clipping entire scenes and side plots from the films (much to the chagrin of fans who thought Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix needed more time devoted to the titular organization.)

This time, the editors behind the illustrated editions have solved the problem with a book that is less densely packed with illustrations than its predecessor. Perhaps the publisher will consider breaking some future installments into multiple volumes to avoid the risk of breaking the bookshelf.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition (Book 2)

Story by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay. Arthur A. Levine Books; Illustrated edition. 272 pp. $39.99. Out now.

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