On the three books as a whole –
The three books below are made up mostly from writing that can be found for free on Pottermore. I know some people don’t like this fact, but I’m grateful for it. I initially scoured Pottermore for these gems but life gets in the way. It’s great to have these short stories in edited volumes I can enjoy at my leisure (with added extras I never found on the site).
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, all three of the books are a must-read. I spent a very enjoyable evening treading the cobbles of Memory Lane, and I’m sure you will too.
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies [Pottermore Presents #1] (4 stars)
Verdict: Well, that was heartbreaking.
Minerva McGonagall, love of my life, I’m sorry for any time the Golden Trio made your life difficult. You’ve had enough trouble as it is.
This first book in the series (of 3, but hopefully more soon – and hopefully in paperback) is a collection of short stories about a number of favourites, including Professor McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sybil Trelawney and Silvanus Kettleburn (Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures predecessor).
Whilst Kettleburn and Trelawney’s stories were interesting enough, the main reason for reading this companion to the Harry Potter series is to find out about McGonagall and Lupin. Lupin’s life is covered more in the book series, but very little is known about our private, stern Transfiguration professor.
The reasons for Minerva’s desire for privacy soon becomes apparent, as does her dislike for the anti-Muggle movement promoted by Voldemort and his followers. Her life seems to be blow after blow after tough decision, but Minerva keeps battling through, as one might expect from her name:
‘Minerva was the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom. William McGonagall is celebrated as the worst poet in British history. There was something irresistible to me about his name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.’
– J.K. Rowling
Rowling explores not only the characters in this book, but also the spark that created them, gave them their names and own vivid personas. The depth of thought she put into the creation of this world is wonderfully apparent, and it makes you glad to be rediscovering it all over again.
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists [Pottermore Presents #2] (4 stars)
Verdict: The wizarding world is just as messed up as ours. A great insight into the world of Harry Potter, with a strong peppering of humour and heartbreak.
The second book in the series covers the politics of the wizarding world, including a run down of all the Ministers for Magic there have ever been, and why Muggles have never been inside the Ministry:
“Their puir wee braines couldnae cope wiit.”
-Ex-Minister for Magic Dugald McPhail
I particularly loved this section, because the personalities of the Ministers were so easily imagined, and there was more than one humorous nod to the quirks of people who find themselves in power.
Beyond that, there was a section on Peeves, and life accounts of Horace Slughorn, Dolores Umbridge and Quirinus Quirrell (who I found out shares a birthday with my sister – explains a lot).
I love reading the histories of minor (and major) characters and those mentioned in this book are no exception. Umbridge is just as unpleasant as ever, and her story elicits no sympathy, but Slughorn’s and Quirrell’s entries are a different matter. Slughorn, bless him, was a victim of Voldemort as much as Quirrell; Quirrell may have carried the Dark Lord on the back of his head for a few years, but Slughorn carried Tom Riddle in his mind for most of his life.
There are other gems and little-known facts in this book, but I won’t list them all. A wonderful, easy-to-read companion to one of my favourite children’s stories.
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide [Pottermore Presents #1] (3 stars)
Verdict: A welcome exploration of Hogwarts, reminding you of things you had forgotten, and letting you discover more than Hermione knew.
I found this to be the least interesting of the trilogy as it lacked the ‘human interest’ element (unless you count Nearly Headless Nick). That said, I still raced through its pages because ‘least interesting’ is still pretty interesting when the topics cover train-thieves, stubborn Sorting Hats, time travel, ghosts and the Chamber of Secrets.
It takes you on a tour of Hogwarts, beginning with catching the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross, getting Sorted in the Great Hall, and then taking a look at all the lessons on offer. If, like Hermione, you want to take more lessons than there are hours in the day, there is the option of a Time-Turner (as long as you abide by the strict rules that come with this dangerous object).
Rowling’s personal asides were a highlight of this book, explaining what happened to the Time-Turners and why, and the by-now-well-known story of why Harry and the other students just had to travel by train from a certain London station.
My favourite part, however, was the poem that covered the events leading to Sir Nicholas becoming Nearly Headless. Written in a jaunty, silly style, it was a highlight of the ghost section.
The book is, as the title suggests, an incomplete guide to Hogwarts. I’m still waiting for the day when Rowling releases Hogwarts: A History but, until then, this is a nice distraction.