I listened to the Natalie Dormer narrated audiobook of A History of Magic and it was both the perfect way to enjoy the expansive magical world as well as the most frustrating way. The British Library should really film this for an HBO or History Channel documentary series. Natalie Dormer was a fantastic narrator; her role was primarily as the host of the book who introduced sections read by contributors and interviewees. It was a fantastic way to delve into the wonderful world of Harry Potter again, as well as real world examples of Magic, but there were a lot of references to images, particularly Jim Kay’s illustrations, that as a listener I missed out on.
There were some interesting anecdotes about the development of Harry Potter like the story of how Alice Newton convinced her father to publish the first Harry Potter book as well as interviews with Jim Dale (the American narrator) and Stephen Fry (the British narrator) on how they approached voicing the audiobooks. There are also fun facts like how the boys were originally going to crash into the lake at the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets and have a run in with mermaids not the womping willow. JK Rowling initially planned a more elaborate sorting ceremony, a more detailed Muggle Minister and other interesting tweaks in character names & descriptions between first drafts and final copies.
Mostly though I was surprised and intrigued by how much this was truly as history of magic and not just an analysis of the Harry Potter universe. I would say it is about 50/50 between the two with the real world history being a bit more interesting. There is rich discussion about cauldrons, psychics, astronomers and apothecaries which mostly tie back into the Harry Potter manuscripts but are interesting to learn about all on their own. I’d love to see the London museum exhibit!