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Harry Potter: A History of Magic

An Audio Documentary
Narrated by: Natalie Dormer
Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (146 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The history of magic is as long as time and as wide as the world. In every culture, in every age, in every place and, probably, in every heart, there is magic.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic reveals some of the hidden stories behind real-world magic and explores some of J.K. Rowling's magical inventions alongside their folkloric, cultural and historical forebears.

Narrator Natalie Dormer and a host of experts will take you on an audio journey like no other; from ancient China, to a 14th-century apothecary's shop, on to the Salem witch trials and beyond. They delve into a rich body of writings about magic and explore intriguing artefacts to bring to life deep-rooted ideas of mysticism from around the world.

Along the way, you can listen for handy tips on how to capture a basilisk, make yourself invisible or create your very own philosopher's stone. You'll hear about the dozens of drafts and drawings that went into J.K. Rowling's writing process and enjoy exclusive interviews with Jim Dale, Stephen Fry and illustrator Jim Kay, who all share their experiences of working on these incredible stories.

The extraordinary and thought-provoking tales in this audiobook are perfect for anyone who wants to know a little more about magic and the wizarding world.

Music composed by Patrick Neil Doyle

Sound effects licensed from ProSound Effects 

©2018 J.K. Rowling/Pottermore Ltd. (P)2018 J.K. Rowling/Pottermore Ltd.

A Message from Natalie Dormer

Natalie Dormer invites you to take an audio journey through the history of real-life magic.
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What members say
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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

An audiobook about an exhibition. It's the worst.

Listen to people talk about old artifacts and illustrators talk about their amazing artwork without seeing any of it. J.K. Rowling never makes an appearance to talk about her own books but instead we have other people talk about what she might be thinking with her early drafts and her writing process. To be clear, this is a book about the exhibition and the items they have along with it and the artists for the illustrated versions of Harry Potter. This is not a deep dive in Harry Potter lore but rather a 10 hour conversation about our own history of humanity's obsession with magic with the Harry Potter name slapped on to make sales. The only saving grace is Natalie Dormer's beautiful voice.

5 people found this helpful

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Almost perfect

Would have been perfect if Tanya Kirk hadn’t giggled or laughed every time she spoke- it took away from the respect of the subject.

4 people found this helpful

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Tanya Kirk laughs way too much

Great book, very interesting. All the narrators are wonderful EXCEPT Tanya Kirk. Every time she speaks she laughs in the clip and it’s incredibly irritating. Everyone else is taking this seriously but it’s almost as if she thinks all of this is a big joke, especially when it comes to topic of what they used to do in the past- it’s as if she is making fun of them for thinking that way/ testing something out. Yet the tone of the book is that science stemmed from witchcraft.

7 people found this helpful

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Lacking, but still magical

Extremely interesting. Definitely not only for Harry Potter fans- this is a great historical summary of the history of magic in our world, as well as how it relates to the world of Harry Potter.
However, if you only read the book without listening to the audiobook, you are missing fantastic insights and interviews from narrators, illustrators, curators, historians, actors, and many more; similarly, only listening to the audiobook, I got the gist of the items and illustrations that were mentioned but felt I missed out. Overall, I would say having hard copy while listening to the audio would be ideal, but it is still a great book alone.

1 person found this helpful

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Did not think this was a history of the real world

Was expecting a history of the magic world of Harry Potter but instead, I got a history of wizardry throughout our history with the museum of history of London and New York.
But the worst part is the slytherin voice of Julien Harrison which made my ears sizzle. Always whispering and making thundering s sounds after each Word... I skipped his parts at the END!

1 person found this helpful

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Brought me back to the wizard of world

Probably better with the different people help narrate the book, although seeing all the visuals would’ve been nice. This is a nice way to get back into the magic that is Harry Potter. I’ll probably go pick up my copies of the series for a reread now.

1 person found this helpful

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hard to finish

struggled to finish not what i expected this is not Bahilda Bagshots A history of magic

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Fantastic audiobook...one con!

The only complaint I have about this audiobook is having to listen to Julian Harrison. He sounds horrible- his tone is so sharp, it really hurts the ears and is not a soothing voice in the least. It really ruined the parts he discussed, it was that bad.

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Awesome History with a great voice

This was a match made in heaven! Natalie Doormer AND Harry Potter?! If you love Harry Potter and need a great female voice to narrate to you JK Rowling’s awesome lore and history; then this is the audiobook for you!

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Love all of this information on the books

My only hesitation is that there are a few additional guests, but two guests speaking were so annoying to listen too. Natalie Dormer does an amazing job, but one woman laughs way to much while trying to explain things, and another woman has absolutely no character to her voice. It’s very bland to listen to during her recordings.
I wish it was all read by Natalie.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kingsley
  • 2018-10-08

Springboard to a history of our Muggle world

Is this for a fan of Harry Potter? Maybe. Is it for a fan of Harry Potter who is also interested in the stranger side of world history? Definitely.

The book is not exactly about HP, but uses the books as a spring board to talk about other things – mostly our real world history.

It is a bit of Making of HP, filled with interviews from those involved in the book such as artists who drew the pictures and covers, and those that recorded the audiobooks, but that isn’t really the focus of the book. These are placed in between the main focus of the book: history.

The book is really a history of ‘magic’ in our muggle world. So not talking about the ‘in universe’ magic, but looking at real life events. It uses HP to guide the discussion of our history, and also uses real world histories to give insight into how JKR wrote the books and incorporated real items, Latin roots, and history into her books. One example is 14th century apothecaries (potions masters) and what they used to create ‘magic’. They talk to experts on the apothecaries and discuss some of the ingredients they used, and what for. Unicorns horn and narwhal horn are discussed, for example. Some of the potions are shown to be completely useless, while others are discussed as actually having some good medical effects.

The book uses each of the classes students take at Hogwarts as a launching board to discuss the history and beliefs associated with this teachings.

A few other things (not an exhaustive list) discussed and expanded on:
• Witch trials (the history of them, and discussions on how our view and tropes of witches developed – cauldrons, brooms etc.)
• Magical creatures (real life unicorns and a real history of ‘unicorn’ hunting – although not quite what we image unicorns to be. Why are familiars always Owls, toads and cats?)
• Charms and words like ‘abracadabra’, looking at where the words developed
• Herbology (similar to magical creatures, but looking at strange things people have used plants for)
• Other classes taken at Hogwarts – divination, astronomy, defense against the dark arts etc.
• The real Nicholas Flemmel, Philosopher's stone

There is a lot of ‘museum directors’ interviewed in this, filling out the histories, and discussions with people from British Libraries.

There isn’t a whole lot of ‘new’ information here, but it is a collected and nicely packaged history, with lots of interviews and excerpts from the HP audiobooks. There is discussions of drawings or storyboards – either stuff JKR did while putting her story together or of official images in the were in the books, which would work much better for an ebook or physical version. An inclusion of a PDF with the discussed images would have been really nice, as without them you can be a little lost.

Natalie Dormer does the main narration, around the interviews, putting them in context of the larger picture. She does really great with this. Very enjoyable to listen to, well paced and clear while keeping your attention. The interviews are generally really good. Occasionally there is an interview where the audio quality is lower but generally it is high quality.

67 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-12-01

Why is there no PDF?

There are so many things described that are hard to picture, especially since they may be one of a kind pieces. Knowing it was a walk through the exhibit, I expected there to be a pdf to help those of us who may never make it to the museum to see it. Natalie Dormer was an excellent narrator, a few of the guest speakers were so soft spoken that at times they were hard to hear even while increasing the volume.

I enjoyed the book but was bummed that there weren't any pdfs to see some of the things that were described.

137 people found this helpful

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  • A. Tennant
  • 2018-10-08

buy a paper copy

this book is not a very good audio experience- art work and visuals are constantly referenced, and while they are well described, the lack of their experience really makes a negative impact on enjoyment.

70 people found this helpful

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  • fisherguy446
  • 2018-10-19

Brilliant

This book is really fantastic. Don’t be fooled by the title as this is a nonfiction book examining both the Harry Potter series and the origins of many of the mythological creatures and ideas presented. That being said this is well worth the 12 hour listen. If you have the physical copy of the book, you should know that this covers a vast amount of information that the books do not. There are tons of interviews with everyone involved with the project of creating the museum exhibits. There are also fascinating and revealing interviews with many of the people involved with making the books, including: both the American and the British audiobook Harry Potter narrators, the illustrator of the illustrated editions, the publishers in both America and Britain, and many others. In summary, I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this and would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking to gain more insight on the world of Harry Potter.

81 people found this helpful

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  • Richard
  • 2018-12-05

horrible audio leveling.

the audio was way to unsteady hard to hear what the people were saying half the time.

28 people found this helpful

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  • Tasha
  • 2018-10-04

An enjoyable making-of documentary of sorts

An enjoyable making-of documentary of sorts in the vein of the Lord of the Rings behind the scenes documentaries, but in audio form. Accompanying images of the historical objects often referenced would make for a more complete experience. This is not a in-universe Hogworts textbook. It includes insights from illustrators, voice actors, historians, etc into the making of the Harry Potter Universe as well as historical accounts of magic, science and medicine.

60 people found this helpful

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  • SCM
  • 2018-11-27

Very disappointing

I've rarely been let down by a book as much as this one. It's not a Harry Potter Book (I didn't expect an HP fiction book, you'll see what I mean in my description), it's not even living within the Harry Potter world, it's an amalgam of academics and their studies trying, seemingly desperately to connect them to Harry Potter. They try their hardest to make connections and all too often they're taking a lot of effort into pounding a proverbial round peg into an academic square hole (pun intended). I consider myself a deep dive Harry Potter fan, who loves minutia, but this content is, I hate to say, mostly boring, even to me. To top off the indignation, whoever produced the audio portion did a terrible job in modulating the volumes. There are far too many times where an audible clear spoken voice gives way to an inaudible one so listening to this book in any environment other than a library is annoying in that large swaths of dialogue are missed due to drops in volume resulting in the need to "rewind" and raise the volume to hear what was missed, then of course stopping to lower it as the louder person starts to speak. Yes, some people speak less loudly and less clearly than others, but the volume portion can be compensated for by someone who cares to do so. I have listened to hundreds of audiobooks, and rarely do I consider asking for the Audible refund offer to be honored, I considered it for this one.

27 people found this helpful

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  • S. L. Christiansen
  • 2018-12-19

Horrible Production

One voice was loud and very clear. Another person was in a space with lots of echoes. There were 3 people that were recorded at a low volume and they were impossible for me to understand while I was driving. And on top of all that the primary narrator was constantly pausing when there was obviously neither a period nor a comma in the sentence being written. I was completely disappointed!!!!!

4 people found this helpful

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  • N.L. Lewis
  • 2018-10-04

Unfortunately very boring, but great narration

If you can get past the first hours unbelievably boring rehash of the original books and how they were written, it gets better. If you are looking for a Harry Potter or Magical Creatures type story, you will be largely disappointed. This is the book version of the behind the scenes stuff on most movies that barely anyone watches.

The saving grace is the great narration from Ms. Dormer and the original narrators, the rest is unfortunate.

This seems like a sad money grab “behind the scenes” audiobook that is really just a boring historical description of a couple of museum events with historical artifacts, followed by a mixing of historical and magical anecdotes.

If you do like the director narration on movies, than this book will be great for you.

64 people found this helpful

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  • Toni Ann Winninger
  • 2018-10-22

Variable presentation hard to hear some

The material is fascinating but the presenters are uneven, As the various speakers changed I found I frequently had to change the volume in order to hear them. There was very little moderation in the recording for the soft spoken and I had to replay parts in order to understand them which became very annoying. Almost stopped listening numerous times even though I wanted to hear the material.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Client d'Amazon
  • 2019-01-08

Très bon documentaire audio

Super, très éducatif, un must pour tout fan d'HP. La narration de Nathalie Dormer est agréable.

1 person found this helpful