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Harry Potter: A History of Magic

An Audio Documentary
Narrated by: Natalie Dormer
Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
4 out of 5 stars (91 ratings)

Non-member price: $39.95

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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.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing for a HP fan

I am a colossal Harry Potter nerd so was looking forward to this new publication. I had expected it to be a comprehensive history of magical beliefs and practices throughout the ages, with a focus on how that inspired HP, but instead I learned (on listening) that it was a discussion relating to a museum exhibition! This in itself would not be so bad except that the script regularly refers to the pieces in the exhibition and without a visual frame of reference, this is dull and frustrating.
I also found the narration to be very slow moving, with lots of pauses and musical interludes for no real reason. I ploughed ahead anyway, because Harry Potter, but there were times I considered switching it off.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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More Documentary than book.

This audiobook would have been better as a series of televised documentaries but none the less a brilliant performance and a joy to listen to.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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a history of magic

borrrring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring dull like it's name sucks boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring

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wasn't a fan

I wasn't a fan at all!
It just discussed where the ideas for mythical creatures came from. i fell asleep through most of it. wouldnt recommend

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    4 out of 5 stars
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You learn a lot

Perfect for anyone who loves history, museums and magic. The start is a bit bumpy, Dormer takes a chapter or two to get used to narrating, then she shines

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the performance let this one down

I struggled to listen to this, not because of the content or the overall narration, but the choice to have the guest commentary at a different volume to Dormer. So frustrating to have to alter my settings all the time!
I hope to see this exhibit at some point, so it's a good intro.

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A History of Magic

I did like this audiobook, however, I was expecting more of a Bathilda Bagshot version as opposed to an actual history of magic. Other than that, it was interesting, informative and inspirational.

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A joy to listen to

Highly recommend this audiobook. Despite not seeing the exhibition, this book was still an absolute joy to listen to!

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Disappointed

Extremely disappointed as this book has barely a passing reference to the HP world with the majority being a dry documentary style look at magic but not magic as it relates to HP but as it has been believed over the centuries by us. Natalie Dormer is wonderful but I really wanted to read a history of magic by bathilda bagshot not be so bored that I couldn’t even make it through the whole book

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I could not love this book more if I tried!

I absolutely LOVED listening to this book and will listen to it over and over. Natalie Dormer is a beautiful narrator (although she pronounces Voldermort with a silent "t" which is annoying) and has a true magical way of weaving through this magical history. The story itself is a genuinely interesting insight into magical history and how it aligns with the world of Harry Potter.
Some of the interview recordings earlier in the book are at times a little hard to hear but this seems to improve and the book progresses.

For any history or harry potter fans I would highly recommend this book!

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  • fisherguy446
  • 19-10-2018

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.

27 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Tasha
  • 04-10-2018

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.

52 of 57 people found this review helpful

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  • Lisa
  • 08-10-2018

It is a History of Magic

This is great for History buffs, this is a History of Magic and how JK Rowling used it to help shape her books. Natalie Dormer has a great voice and accent, lots of people from different fields speak as well, very interesting.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • brian
  • 04-10-2018

Not what I was expecting, though some parts were g

I was expecting an audio book take on the in-universe A History of Magic, only to find a behind the scenes at what inspired Harry Potter. Disappointed, though the interview segments were a nice touch.

89 of 109 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Soto
  • 04-10-2018

Didn't read the summary - fail on my part

I was expecting the story of magic in terms of the world of Harry Potter. Not the "magic" of how Harry Potter got published, how real life history helped shape the books, and basically a collection of interesting facts. I guess it could be said that the cover image is misleading in that it should had been obvious that people would jump to the same conclusion that I did.

Natalie Dormer has a magical voice and is very easy on the ears. Also, the guest speakers are mostly decent. I am not saying that the audiobook is bad. It just was not what I was expecting and if I had not pre-ordered it, then during the "sample" I would have listen to the truth.

63 of 77 people found this review helpful

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  • N.L. Lewis
  • 04-10-2018

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.

45 of 55 people found this review helpful

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  • Zorlac
  • 23-12-2018

Love the content. Hate the narration.

To be brutally honest every time Julian Harrison speaks it completely takes me out of the book. his voice is completely atrocious for this type of material. he goes out of his way to whisper everything and try to sound placid but in the end it makes anything he says nearly impossible to hear and understand. I have to turn my volume twice as high as usual just to be able to listen to him.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-12-2018

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.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 10-11-2018

storyline is good, narration however is very poor

I enjoyed reading the book and learned a lot about the background stories of many of the features in the Harry Potter series. there's a lot of historical background to what we saw Harry Potter encounter and that history is what interested me the most. JK Rowling did a spectacular job of explaining where some of these ideas came from and the historical background. I thought that the narration for the most part was good but there was narration by Julian Harrison that irritated my eardrums. The sound volume went up and down and was not modulated for listening because one had to turn up and down the volume whenever Julian Harrison spoke his wispy, whispering voice. He sounded like he was speaking into the corner of a room. most irritating.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kingsley
  • 08-10-2018

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Elle
  • 04-10-2018

Better as a documentary - read review to the end

I pre-ordered this instantly without really checking to see what the book was about, purely because Natalie Dormer is one of my favourite actresses who did an amazing job narrating the Game of Thrones History and Lore animated shorts. At first it felt like I was listening to a podcast, Natalie being our wonderful host with guest interview excerpts ranging from academics and historians to Potter illustrator Jim Kay and narrators Jim Dale and Stephen Fry.

Initially it was interesting listening to the behind the scenes tidbits about how the world of Harry Potter came into being, but as time went on the discussion shifted to the real life history of magic, based around the British Library exhibit of the same name, it felt a little frustrating. The chapters are rather quaintly divided into Hogwarts subjects like herbology, divination, potions, magical creatures, dark arts etc... but unless there is some kind of online PDF accompaniment to go with this audiobook to display the art and artefacts that are being discussed at length, something that you're able to refer back to even after completing the audiobook, then this book is probably better enjoyed in the traditional book format or - better yet - as a visual documentary. There's a lot lost in the audio-only experience and unless you're idly listening to the book and able to stop and Google search the illustrations and images that are being described - then the whole experience feels very lacking.

Another massive frustration was the fluctuating quality of audio when it flits between the narrator and guests who clearly did not record their interviews in the best settings with the best audio equipment. Having to shoot the volume up and strain to hear someone then suddenly fumble to turn the volume back down is the. most. annoying. thing. The whole point of an audiobook for me is to listen to something hands-free! The directors and producers of this audiobook clearly made enough of an effort to include musical interludes and effects in and between chapters, a basic thing like VOLUME should have been addressed long before that to make the listening experience comfortable.

Overall, so far at least, I'm enjoying Natalie's narration and hopefully she will do more audiobooks after this. The historical tidbits are interesting and probably a good launch pad to delve into the stories and subject matter that interest you. But it really would have been better as a documentary.

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EDIT: I've just done my research and found that this actually WAS a documentary, it aired on the BBC on the 28th October 2017 and focused on the Harry Potter: A History of Magic Exhibition which ran from 20/10/2017 to 28/02/18. It's on Youtube to view. Of course the documentary was only an hour long, so they've fleshed it out using the same interviews and used the audio samples from Jim Dale and Stephen Fry, then engaged the services of Natalie Dormer in to stitch it all together. Knowing this, and the fact that a lot of people will have purchased the hard copy of the book after listening to all the descriptions of images we can't actually see... this audiobook sniffs suspiciously like a cash grab. And from the people who gave us The Cursed Child and seemingly endless tiresome cinematic adaptions of Fantastic Beasts, I'm not even surprised.

42 of 51 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-10-2018

Need illustrations to make it interesting

First audio book I have needed pictures to enjoy... Have had to order the paper book to see what narrators & experts are talking about. I love audio books & have a really good imagination, but not fun to listen to when the whole point is what the subject matter (characters, places, creatures, artifacts) looks like. Shame, as narration & content are good. Maybe should have come with a link to the pictures from the book???

29 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-10-2018

very enjoyable

I really enjoyed this book, very interesting. the experts were great and at times very amusing.

Judging from previous reviews people haven't been reading the summary properly, I don't know about anyone else but having only one credit per month makes me very picky about what I listen to so I always read the summary, listen to the clip and watch any promotional videos. This was exactly as advertised for me, an exploration into the real life stories and history of magic that have inspired Harry Potter.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. G. Mitchell
  • 05-10-2018

little bit misleading title

First off, maybe I misunderstood what this was going to be about from the description and interpreted it the way I wanted to. It's not a story set in the Harry Potter world, it is not a story filling in more details about Magic used in Harry Potter.

It's a book that starts off about the history of the books of Harry Potter which is set in a magical world, then talks about magic through the age of the real world with quotes from the books stuck in for some random reason.

If you want that, then this is the book for you, I agree with other reviews that it needs images as parts of narrative is describing a picture that's on a page in front of the reader.

Honestly it's almost like they've stuck the word "Harry Potter" on the title, added in some text about the books to pad out a book which seems to be interviews with people about magic that would be 6hours without the HP stuff.

32 of 41 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt
  • 30-11-2018

Fabulous journey through centuries of magic

A totally absorbing book, rich with stories about all kinds of magical objects. Especially enjoyed the section unpicking the Ripley scrolls, and the various chats with recent Harry Potter illustrators about where they draw inspiration.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Veberley
  • 14-10-2018

Addictive and facinating!!!

I absolutely love this book, not only about Harry Potter but adding real historic events, people and even historical Kings etc. I am obsessed with history especially Tudor history, I Loved the hints of tudor history in here AND the cherry on the top this audio book is narrated by Natalie Dormer who played an amazing Anne Boleyn in The Tudors series!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!!!! HIGHLY recommended!!!!!!

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • ashley
  • 07-10-2018

Not what i expected at all

This is not what i expected at all. Shame they didnt just write a copy of the actual book from the series. Like a comprehensive and complete stories from the history and lore of the harry potter world

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Sean Dempsey
  • 04-10-2018

A History of Harry Potter (publishing)

Should’ve been titled the above. Had high hopes for this, but it’s Incredibly dull the first few hours. If you want a behind the scenes look at the publishing of Harry Potter, this is the book for you

19 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Neil McCann
  • 28-02-2019

Not what it says on the Tin

Very simply I was looking for a book on magic. I got a commentary on Harry Potter which offered no exploration on magic itself but Lots on Harry P and it's commercial Entourage.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Janka Carlisle
  • 09-11-2018

Very interesting

Quite in-depth non-fictional book. I would recommend but a book to dip into or you may get overloaded..

1 of 1 people found this review helpful