More Harry Potter stuff!? What’s up with that? These new releases have many fans’ brows furrowed, mine included. If you didn’t know, Pottermore released 3 ebooks last Tuesday that a lot of people are not too happy about. Why you ask? Because most of the content inside these 3 ebooks was, once upon a time, published and freely available on the Pottermore website. They have since taken down some of that content and are now making you pay 2.99 each just to read what you may have already read for free, plus a bit of new, previously unpublished stuff. I’m lucky enough that 2.99 each isn’t a big deal for me, but I understand others’ frustration at this. I don’t understand the point of putting this all in ebook form when it was already online. Print copy would have made more sense, but they basically just took content from one e-platform and put it on another. (Though they’ll probably be printed eventually anyway, cause why not?) *Shakes head.* Also, I was confused as to why they decided to release these, without much pomp and circumstance, right in the aftermath of the Cursed Child publication. The timing was awkward, and it basically became a non-event since most of this was already on Pottermore. Strange things. But enough about that; let’s talk about the actual books.
I enjoyed reading these ebooks. I was one of those people who read every darn word J.K. published on Pottermore (surprise, right?), so much of the information was not new to me, but despite that, I still greatly enjoyed reading these. However, there is one other thing I think was a murky decision in publication: calling these ebooks “short story” collections. There are no short stories in these ebooks. Nothing is narrative. The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book of short stories. These are books of encyclopedia entries about characters, events, and magical objects in the Potterverse. (Which btw, I’m totally calling as the elusive “encyclopedia” we were promised oh so long ago). So if you go into reading these books expecting them to be actual narrative short stories, you will be disappointed. The titles are misnomers, which could upset those who don’t know what they are going in. But now you’ve been told, so…yeah. They’re not short stories. Ok, seriously, let’s talk about the actual books now.
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies: This was my favorite of the 3 ebooks by far. This book is structured to feature back-stories of certain characters, the best of which are Professor McGonagall and Remus Lupin. McGonagall’s backstory was already on Pottermore, but rereading it was just as enjoyable as reading it for the first time. Lupin’s backstory gave me all the feels. These sections are the lengthiest of any across all of the ebooks, so the result is a wonderful look into just how much thought Jo put behind her characters. And after all, the characters are best things about the HP series. There is also a backstory on Trelawney, which is good, and one on Silvanus Kettleburn, the Care of Magical Creatures teacher who famously retired to “spend time with his remaining limbs,” which is very entertaining. In between each character’s entry are shorter entries on related topics, such as Animagi after McGonagall. This one is great because we FINALLY get to find out what you need to do in order to become an Animagus, and it is hilariously ludicrous. I give this book a solid 5 stars, because of the depth of characterization, the extra fun tidbits (like Animagi), and the feels.
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists: This was my least favorite of the 3 ebooks (also the lack of Oxford comma in the titles is making my eye twitch). It starts with a backstory entry for Umbridge, so from the start I was not so jazzed about it because she’s literally the worst, and honestly, most of the content in her story was stuff we already knew from the plot of the Potter books, so I didn’t really see the point. Then there are entries about Azkaban, Slughorn, Potions, Cauldrons, and a timeline list of each Minister for Magic with a brief description. I found most of the entries in this book to be boring. The book is all about a darker side of the Wizarding World, which I’m fine with, but there just isn’t much new or particularly entertaining content included. Some of it is interesting, but ultimately unmemorable. 3/5 stars.
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide: This one is the longest book, filled with shorter entries on various objects, people, and elements of Hogwarts. I enjoyed this book better than “Power & Politics,” but not as quite much as “Heroism & Hardship.” Most of the entries in this book are repeats from Pottermore, but it is all very interesting. I would list my favorite entries, but the list is too long! It’s filled with so many tidbits regarding Rowling’s inspiration for elements of the books, as well as feelings she has now that the series is done. One particular entry of interest is the one on Time-Turners. In it, Jo admits it was not the best idea to create this plot device in book 3 because it was too convenient. She then explains how she later solved the problem: she destroyed all the time turners in book 5. The tone of this entry is clearly one of guilt, and it makes one wonder what sort of drugs made her condone a play based on a Time-Turner plot…anyway. This book was great, it gets 4/5 stars.
The books range from about 70-90 pages long, so they are quick reads. I highly recommend all of them to all Potter fans, regardless if you’ve already read any of the content on Pottermore. All of the content is written by Jo herself (minus the paragraphs that divide between topics, which are meant for transition purposes, but are honestly not needed). I would be one happy fan if this type of content were the norm for new Potter releases (rather than fever-dream theatrical plays that make no sense in continuity with the book series). These books add to the richness of the world by giving us a glimpse of the mind behind it. They are clearly taken from Jo’s stash of notes from when she created her world and show how much detail and careful thought went behind even the smallest character names and places. They give you an even deeper appreciation for the series, just when you might think that’s not possible.