Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, J.K. Rowling: Book Review

hogwarts incomplete unreliable guide jk rowling book reviewPottermore Limited/ Carl Court
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide Book Cover Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide
Pottermore Presents
J.K. Rowling
Young Adult, Fantasy
Pottermore Limited
September 6, 2016

‘The Ministry of Magic felt strongly, however, that to construct an additional wizarding station in the middle of London would stretch even the Muggles’ notorious determination not to notice magic when it was exploding in front of their faces.’ – J.K. Rowling

Pottermore Presents is a collection of J.K. Rowling’s writing: short reads originally featured on pottermore.com. These eBooks, with writing curated by Pottermore, will take you beyond the Harry Potter stories as J.K. Rowling reveals her inspiration, intricate details of characters’ lives and surprises from the wizarding world.

Hogwarts An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide takes you on a journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You’ll venture into the Hogwarts grounds, become better acquainted with its more permanent residents, learn more about lessons and discover secrets of the castle . . . all at the turn of a page.

The Pottermore Presents e-books have taken us on a journey through some of the most interesting and unknown facets of the Harry Potter series. From tales in Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists, to heartbreaking histories about some of our favorite characters in Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, J.K. Rowling has proved herself a master of magic once again. The final e-book in the series, Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide is no different, as it takes us back to where the magic began: Hogwarts.

hogwarts incomplete and unreliable guide j.k. rowling book review paperback paris

When I first read the descriptions for the Pottermore Presents series, Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide stood out the most. While I was interested in learning more about the characters from the Harry Potter series, I have always wondered about Hogwarts as an institution. In my TBR for this month, I expressed interest in knowing more about the Harry Potter world. I hoped that this e-book would provide me with answers on many things about Hogwarts. I wanted to know more about each of the classes. I wanted to know about moving portraits. I wanted to know more about magical objects. Honestly, I wanted to know a little bit about everything.

This review contains spoilers

To be completely honest, I had a hard time rating this e-book, which falls somewhere in-between two and three stars. While Rowling’s writing remains flawless, the content of this e-book was a little slim. To be more clear, there was very little new content compared to the other books in the Pottermore Presents collection. When it came down to rating Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, my rating rested entirely upon the amount of new content in the book.

While the writing and flow of the e-book are great, there is very little in this book when compared to the other two in the series. This e-book, in most respects, seems more like a summary of information, rather than a collection of new information. For that reason, and that reason alone, this e-book got a lower rating.

In the end, I liked it, but it was only okay when compared to the rest of the series. However, for someone who is newer to the series, this e-book is probably perfect. It’s a great recap of events, and it covers some of the more subtle aspects of the Harry Potter world that long-time fans of the series are already aware of.

Just because a good portion of this e-book provides information on things that are already known, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some new information. In fact, there are quite a few interesting additions that provide more insight into the Harry Potter world. We learn more about the Hogwarts Express, two Hogwarts ghosts (Nearly Headless Nick and the Fat Friar), the Hufflepuff common room, Hogwarts portraits (Headmasters/Headmistresses and Sir Cadogan), and the Chamber of Secrets. In addition to that, this book features many of Rowling’s thoughts and inspirations concerning the Harry Potter world.

hogwarts incomplete and unreliable guide j.k. rowling book review paperback paris

While there are a lot of little interesting pieces of information found in Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, one of the most detailed and amusing was that of the Hogwarts portrait featuring Sir Cadogan. Fans of the series will remember Sir Cadogan as a portrait that is seen most often in Prisoner of Azkaban, as it serves as the portrait that guards Gryffindor tower after Sirius Black’s entrance into the school, which caused the flight of the normal portrait of the Fat Lady.

The section on Sir Cadogan is very detailed and is very much a short story on its own. It mirrors the level of detail dedicated to the characters featured in Politics, Power and Pesky Poltergeists and Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies.

Sir Cadogan’s most famous encounter was with the Wyvern of Wye, a dragonish creature that was terrorizing the West Country. At their first encounter, the beast ate Sir Cadogan’s handsome steed, bit his wand in half and melted his sword and visor. Unable to see through the steam rising from his melted helmet, Sir Cadogan barely escaped with his life. However, rather than running away, he staggered into a nearby meadow, grabbed a small, fat pony grazing there, leapt upon it and galloped back towards the wyvern with nothing but his broken wand in hand, prepared to meet a valiant death. The creature lowered its fearsome head to swallow Sir Cadogan and the pony whole, but the splintered and misfiring wand pierced its tongue, igniting the gassy fumes rising from its stomach and causing the wyvern to explode.

Featuring the characteristic level of detail and fantasy that Rowling’s writing usually exhibits, this short story on Cadogan is featured in a longer section that details his life. This small piece is a perfect example of the Harry Potter world, as it features the dangerous and fantastical while remaining amusing and intriguing at the same time. This section even includes an idiom based on Sir Cadogan that immerses the reader into the Harry Potter world.

Elderly witches and wizards still use the saying ‘I’ll take Cadogan’s pony’ to mean ‘I’ll salvage the best I can from a tricky situation.’

Small details and short stories like these make Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide worth reading. Although many parts of the e-book include information found within the first seven novels of the Harry Potter series, such as the sections on Hogwarts classes, the Time Turner, the Mirror of Erised, and a few others, there are a number of hidden gems in this short e-book. In addition to the short story on Cadogan, Rowling includes a ballad featuring the tale of Nearly Headless Nick, as well as some interesting details about long-time favorite characters, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom.

While Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide does not completely live up to the other two e-books in the Pottermore Presents collection, it is certainly a welcome addition to the Harry Potter family. If you’re looking to relive the initial magic of the Harry Potter series and refresh yourself on some of the older aspects and objects of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, don’t be afraid to pick up this e-book.

Melissa Ratcliff
the authorMelissa Ratcliff
Senior Staff Writer
Reader, Writer & Translator. Cats, books and video games are my life.