The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert
Berkley Pub Group Trade: ISBN 042519891X PubDate: 05/01/04
Review by Edward Carmien
288 pgs. List price $14
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This low-resolution reference work represents an update from the 2002 edition. Filled with large text and general information, it is a jack of some trades and master of none. That’s OK for most readers, however, who are probably not looking for the sort of detail to be found in equivalent tomes that provide similar reference material for Tolkien’s mighty act of world-building.
I say Jack of Some Trades, as the text is uneven in its coverage. Some characters receive a very general one-line definition, while others (sometimes less interesting, in my opinion) receive more detailed attention. This isn’t only a review of character names and their possible derivations, however. Colbert addresses creatures, Rowling’s magic system, details about plant names, and even Joseph Campbell’s classic concept of the hero with a thousand faces and how it applies (in very general terms) to Harry Potter.
Master of none is also appropriate, as nothing here is thorough or detailed to any degree. For serious readers Colbert’s reference text will serve as a jumping-off point for real research, or possibly another more detailed Potter hint-type text. Warning: while Colbert doesn’t go beyond explaining what certain names mean out here in the Muggle world, some of these other texts attempt to forecast Rowling’s intentions. In short, Colbert is safe to share with young readers, and it is perhaps in this role Magical Worlds works best.
The text is easy to read, the language uncomplicated and approachable, and Colbert’s selections seem to this reader to represent the terms that will be of widest general interest. Low resolution, true, but good for the kids. One word of caution: the 2002 edition still appears to be available at Amazon—look for the text on the cover that tells you the copy you’re looking at is the newer version before buying.