Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets By J.K. Rowling and Illustrated by Jim Kay

chamberofsecrets1Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Illustrated Edition)

Author: JK Rowling

Illustrator: Jim Kay

Year written: 1998

Publisher and year: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2016

ISBN Number: 978-1-4088-4565-3

This is the second in the series of Harry Potter books that they’ve released in an illustrated version, I did a review of the first, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, here if you want to read that one. I have loved the Harry Potter series for years, I didn’t start reading them until the third one was released but I grew up with them and have read them so many times. If you’re reading this review and thinking about getting this book you’re probably familiar with the story and this post is mainly about this version rather than the storyline of the book itself but I will do a couple of paragraphs on that at the end, maybe skip there if it’s less the illustrated version and just the book you’re interested in.

If you’re not familiar with the books or films, or heard about it in general which would be surprising, Harry Potter is a young wizard who goes to the wizarding school of Hogwarts. On top of that there’s a bad guy who wants him dead, as with a lot of adventure books, and conveniently tries this once a year which is great considering there are seven books, one for each year of his school life. The Chamber of Secrets is the second in the series so it’s a good idea to read the first as it does set up the plot and the characters but it could be read by itself I think, you just might not get some of the references.

 

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Art behind the text

I always said that I wouldn’t get any of the newer editions of the Harry Potter books, it can get a bit ridiculous with the amount of special editions or collections they’ve done over the years, but when I saw they were doing the illustrated ones and saw the cover I had to get them. On top of that this one was on an offer when you pre-ordered it, it’s the same price now at £15 instead of the RRP £30 over on Amazon but it is available from other places too. This illustrated edition has art on every page, whether it’s a large picture that takes up all or half of it or just the background having texture or a border that goes with the chapter or theme in that part of the story, there are no blank pages with just text on them.

 

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The front cover for this is gorgeous, I love the art style in general but the colours in the sky and the way the Weasley house looks in it fit so well with what I imagine and the sky in England in the early morning. It’s a similar picture to the original publication I have, though a different journey in the flying car, which is understandable considering the flying Ford Anglia is a memorable and relatively spoiler free part of this individual book. The writing is in a coppery colour which seemed an odd choice but it does go with the roof of the Weasley house and doesn’t clash with the rest so it does work. The foil and embossed finish does make it stand out too so it doesn’t get lost in the art. The back of the cover is a continuation of the art and doesn’t include the blurb, instead there’s just a quote from JK Rowling about the art which keeps it clear and leaves it as a decorative cover. The blurb and a bit about the author and illustrator are on the inner flaps of the dust cover so they haven’t disappeared, they’re just moved so they don’t take away from the artwork.

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The binding for the book itself is bright orange, which I didn’t expect and seems an unusual choice for a hardback, though maybe that’s just the ones I have. As the first one was red inside I’m kind of hoping they go with a rainbow theme as there are seven books. The cover is plain and the title, illustrator and author on the spine are done in a metallic green which stands out fairly well. Maybe it’s the fact it’s so contrasting but it makes it hard for me to read, might just be me there though.

As all of the pages are printed all of the paper is the same, it’s slightly shiny and the colours are very bright. The words fit around the art and most pages have an off white, slightly patterned, background with black print but there are parts, like the action packed parts near the end, where the background is black and has white print. It is a nice contrast and is still easy to read for me as it’s a clear print but I think it can be a problem for some people. The paper has the feel that it would survive getting a bit marked if it was wiped off quickly as it’s got that shiny finish and it’s fairly thick.

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Comparing it to the original paperback I have, which is the one printed in the UK in 1998, the number of pages is pretty close. In the original there are 251 pages, this illustrated version has 258 as, although some pages are taken up completely by the art, I think they fit more on each page text wise. As far as I can tell it is identical word for word, at least on the parts I flipped to they are exactly the same, and it doesn’t claim to be abridged so, like the first in the series, I think it’s identical text wise. The size is the most obvious difference, apart from the illustrations, with this one being a lot larger than the original and also a lot heavier. It’s over one and half times the width and probably one a quarter times the height of the paperback and a lot more square. There’s nothing much in the thickness, the page part of the hardback is pretty much the same thickness, it’s the binding that adds a lot to it so it’s not going to be needing a lot of shelf space in that direction, it’s the depth that might make it harder to put on some bookshelves I think.

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The main draw for this version is the art and I do love this style, the paintings are so detailed and the line art adds even finer detail to them. Most of the images go with the particular part of the story but there are some character pictures thrown in for some of them like Hagrid and Draco Malfoy and a couple of pages that look like they’re notes on certain animals and plants that do add some lore into the world on top of the book itself, I thought these were a nice touch. I think my favourite art covers two double pages, or the bottom halves of them, and it’s the pages that have Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley one after the other and they’re pretty much how I’d imagined them before the movies were released so it’s nice to see them like that and to see the two next to each other in the book.

 

As this is a children’s book originally the art does fit with that, the earlier books are definitely more child friendly to me than the later ones in the series, and I know that when it first came out I was around 9 and people in my year at school were reading it so it’s safe for that age, I know some places that have been reading it around year three in school which is 7 or 8 I think so it does depend on the child and I think for younger readers it would be a case of having it read to them rather than them reading it themselves but I may be underestimating reading abilities, I can’t remember what level children generally are at that age.

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On to the review of the book itself, which is going to be short as I think most of you probably have an idea of what Harry Potter is and may have read this book anyway. As these are written for children the language isn’t complex, the later books do become more detailed and the themes more grown up I think but the earlier books are very child friendly. There are words that are created within the world but they’re always introduced and explained, which is one of the good things about the fact that Harry is just entering into the wizarding world as it makes it seem more natural to have the people who grew up in it explain it to him and, by extension, the reader.

In this book it’s Harry’s second year and there are more problems at Hogwarts, though he has been living in the wizarding world for a year, minus the summer at the Dursley’s, he’s still introduced to new things when he spends time at the Weasley house and sees thing that they consider everyday that he’s never heard of. It’s definitely an action and fantasy story, there’s plenty of magic in there even when it’s not a part of the action itself, a part of everyday wizarding life, but it helps to make the world they live in seem more realistic and adds depth. It also adds to the history of the school itself, with hints at things that have happened in the past and more information on the four founders and why they started the school so it builds on the first book well.

The story does move quickly, it doesn’t take long for the action to start, and it doesn’t really slow down as it seems to try and get a lot into the book but doesn’t rush it too much. Some parts do seem to almost skip a step in the explanation but then you go back to it later as the main characters find something new. It fits in well with the rest of the series, though at some points it feels like it may not be a part of the longer story that goes through the seven it does all tie together and it’s not just filler to have something happen in the second year.

 

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Art on the inside of the cover

 

Overall this is a gorgeous book. I think any Harry Potter fan would love this, whatever age they are. It is probably best suited for a collector, if you’re planning on reading it yourself or to children then a standard paperback would be cheaper, though I think that younger readers would enjoy looking at the pictures, they are very detailed and there’s quite a bit of action captured in the later parts of the books. I think that, at full price this is definitely worth it for a collector or someone who is into art but not as just to read as Harry Potter. If you can find it in an offer it’s a great edition of the book and the pages seem like they’re the kind that would withstand plenty of page turning and reading if it was your only copy.

Basically, if you’re a fan of Harry Potter and like this art style or know someone who is then it’s worth getting.

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