BOOK REVIEWS: Pottermore Presents by J.K. Rowling

Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous HobbiesShort Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists
By: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Pottermore
Publication Date: 6 September 2016
Format: Ebooks

Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I couldn’t wait for the release of these three novellas that promise to give even more of an insight into the magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I started off with Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, which was by far the standout title for me out of the three. The first few chapters are all dedicated to our favourite head of Gryffindor house, Minerva McGonagall, and details her upbringing and how she came to be made a professor at Hogwarts. Her childhood was surprisingly traumatic, and she had more than her fair share of misfortunes when it came to relationships. I thought that the insight into her character explained an awful lot about what we get to see in the main series of books, and I loved seeing this softer side to her character.

What came next in this short collection was perhaps the most emotional tale for those of us with a connection to the Marauders, as we are treated to Lupin’s backstory and the sorry tale of how he came to be bitten by Fenrir Greyback. He goes on to have a lonely childhood and is never able to feel close to anyone until he reaches Hogwarts, where he finally makes friends only to lose them all at the hands of Voldemort. I was practically sobbing at these chapters, especially when his relationship with Tonks is explored in more detail, and we get to learn what happened in the lead up to Teddy’s birth after Lupin’s confrontation with Harry at Grimauld Place.

Hogwarts an Incomplete and Unreliable GuideFollowing these emotional short stories that were primarily about characters from the main series, I moved on to Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, which is more of a factfile about the school and its numerous secrets, not to mention the various magical artefacts used along the way. There are chapters about time travel, the sorting hat and of course, the Marauder’s Map to name but a few, with each section offering up extra titbits to those seen in the main books. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the school portraits, which explains how they come to act like subjects and pays special attention to Sir Cadogan and the Fat Lady.

Although perhaps not quite as interesting as the other short stories, this book nevertheless offers up valuable information about Hogwarts and reveals some of its secrets that have hitherto gone undisclosed. I think the Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick was especially entertaining, not to mention the Great Lake and Hogwarts Express chapters. J.K. Rowling also reveals exclusive snippets about what her original drafts for the books contained (such as Ron and Harry crashing into the lake, not the Whomping Willow in book two), which are definitely not to be missed if you’re a fan of the series.

Power, Politics and Pesky PoltergeistsFinally, I picked up Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists, which was more in the vein of the first novella. We are treated to in-depth chapters about Dolores Umbridge and Horace Slughorn this time around, who I must admit were not my favourite characters in the main series. Nevertheless, we are given a thorough background to Umbridge that perfectly explains why she is so vile, not to mention the full extent of the horrors she put the Muggle-borns through when she was in power at the Ministry. Likewise, Slughorn’s story is insightful in showing how someone can be sorted into Slytherin house for their cunning but not have a taste for dark magic. He regrets the knowledge he shared with a young Tom Riddle, and the extent of that guilt is not felt to this degree in the books.

Alongside these character profiles is information about the ghosts of Hogwarts and how Peeves the Poltergeist came to inhabit the castle, and a particularly intriguing whistle-stop tour of those who have held the post of Minister for Magic. I thoroughly enjoyed each short story, and think that they are a must-read for any fan of the series. They might not have the same appeal for the more casual fans, but if you want to know some of the characters better and understand the history of both Hogwarts and the wizarding world, then these stories are only a download away.

5 star

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