By J.K. Rowling
I honestly have a hard time with book 2 of the Harry Potter series. There are a lot of components that get introduced in this book that get used more effectively later on. The Whomping Willow, polyjuice potion, and the character of Ginny all get their first appearance here. None of these heavily influence the plot (though we can argue about how much Ginny affects the story if you really want), they are just kind of there. Now, these all become fairly important later in the series so the introductions are noteworthy. But overall, Chamber of Secrets feels more like a set up volume for future stories than a work in its own right.
In general, the HP books build on themselves quite well. It is assumed for the most part the reader is familiar with the world after the first book and takes any prior knowledge into account. I find that works well for what world-building Rowling does.
Rowling also plays well to the strengths of her characters. Hermione figures out what the monster is and how to counteract it, which I think makes perfect sense. When you have all the knowledges, you should use them. Unfortunately, the delay in time between Hermione figuring things out and our dynamic duo following suit doesn’t really make much sense. She had the paper in her hand and we’re supposed to believe that a) no one noticed it was there for two months and b) that Harry and Ron didn’t visit her at all during that time?
Speaking of plot devices, how about Fawkes, hey? First of all, Fawkes just happens to appear, not by any conscious invocation, but rather just when Harry is loyal to Dumbledore’s ideal. Then he brings exactly what Harry needs to survive in the form of the Sorting Hat, gets rid of the most pressing threat, and finally gets rid of the secondary threat. Seriously? One creature that was barely introduced just happens to have everything needed for surviving the encounter? That just doesn’t make for good storytelling. To a lesser degree, the Sorting Hat falls in this category as well.
Two other small things before I wrap up. First, I don’t understand why Lockhart was in this book. His character seemed completely dull and pointless. I suppose the idea of the fame-obsessed foppish wizard is fairly amusing, but beyond that I have no use for him. Secondly, I just don’t care about quidditch. Nothing you say will make me change my mind. I’m sure this will come up again in the future.
So is this book worth the read? If you are planning on reading the Harry Potter series, yes. As a stand-alone book, no.