For the past 12 months, Insight Editions has been publishing a series of reference books in the Harry Potter: Film Vault series, a couple at a time, that go in depth into various aspects of the Harry Potter movie franchise universe. As of August 2020, the whole set is now available. I recently had a chance to check them out.
What You Get
Each volume of the series focuses on a different aspect of the films, with gorgeous photography and artwork (including plenty of concept art) and detail, and lots of behind-the-scenes information. Fans of the movies will enjoy learning what went in to each part of the lengthy saga and be able to closely study some of the characters, settings, and scenes.
In addition to the books’ stellar content, each volume includes an art print in the back, and when you put all 12 volumes in order on your bookshelf, the spines show off the Hogwarts crest.
The full list of books are:
- Volume 1: Forest, Lake, and Sky Creatures
- Volume 2: Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express, and the Ministry
- Volume 3: Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows
- Volume 4: Hogwarts Students
- Volume 5: Creature Companions, Plants, and Shapeshifters
- Volume 6: Hogwarts Castle
- Volume 7: Quidditch and the Triwizard Tournament
- Volume 8: The Order of the Phoenix and Dark Forces
- Volume 9: Goblins, House-Elves, and Dark Creatures
- Volume 10: Wizarding Homes and Villages
- Volume 11: Hogwarts Professors and Staff
- Volume 12: Celebrations, Food, and Publications of the Wizarding World
This volume covers centaurs, Acromantula, Hippogriffs, Thestrals, merpeople, Grindylows, and several varieties of dragons. They not only go into each species as a whole, they also cover individual members of some species, such as Aragog and Buckbeak. Each section includes Fast Facts to get you oriented to what you’re seeing (the Fast Facts are a running feature throughout the series).
The first half of this volume covers many different locations in Diagon Alley—including a handy diagram of the vaults in Gringotts—while the second half includes Knockturn Alley, the Hogwarts Express, and the Ministry of Magic. If you, like me, wish you could go shopping in the many stores in Diagon Alley, this volume will be a favorite.
This volume covers the many trials of searching for the Sorcerer’s Stone, the seven Horcruxes, the three artifacts that make up the Deathly Hallows, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
This volume covers Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, of course, and also Neville Longbottom, Fred and George Weasley, Ginny Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, Lavender Brown, and Cho Chang. It also includes a short section on student robes. The short section that I wish were longer on the Triwizard Tournament also includes more about Harry Potter plus Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour, and Viktor Krum. This volume has a decent amount of text to describe the students and their roles in the movies.
This volume starts out describing some specific animals and pets, such as Hedwig, Errol, Pigwidgeon, Scabbers, Crookshanks, Trevor, and Arnold (Ginny Weasley’s Pygmy Puff), as well as Mrs. Norris and Fang, and a good section on Fawkes (I’d read a whole book about Fawkes). Next up is plants: Mandrake, Whomping Willow, Mimbulus Mimbletonia, Venomous Tentacula, and Dirigible Plum. Finally, Shapeshifters are described, including Animagus and the characters that have Animagus forms, Boggarts, and Werewolves and Werewolf characters (yay, Lupin! boo, Fenrir Greyback!). The art of Fawkes on the cover would make a great wall-sized poster.
This volume covers all things Hogwarts including elevation drawings of the exterior, what happened during the siege, the movie magic that transformed the Great Hall time and time again, the house points hourglasses, the Fighting Knights of Hogwarts, moving staircases, the many paintings, the library and hospital, the prefects’ bathroom, the Room of Requirement, the Astronomy Tower, and common rooms and dormitories (I wish they’d spent more pages on that last bit). The last section covers the grounds, the Forbidden Forest, and outdoor areas of Hogwarts, such as the Clock Tower and Courtyard, the Bridge and Stone Circle, and the Boathouse. This book makes me wish Hogwarts were a real place that we could visit ourselves.
This volume covers Quidditch, a favorite of many a Harry Potter fan. It goes into the rules, equipment, uniforms, brooms, and how they filmed the Quidditch scenes, along with the Quidditch World Cup scenes. Next, the Triwizard Tournament and the Goblet of Fire are covered, the Triwizard Cup, and the participants, along with much more information, including some about the pesky Rita Skeeter.
This volume begins by introducing you to the original Order of the Phoenix, including James and Lily Potter, Sirius Black, Aberforth Dumbledore, Mundungus Fletcher, and Molly and Arthur Weasley. Then it covers the newer lineup, including Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt. The second half of the volume covers the dark forces at play, such as Lord Voldemort in all of his forms, Peter Pettigrew, Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, and Death Eaters in general. I love (hate? love to hate?) the cover to this one.
This volume covers House-elves such as Dobby and Kreacher, goblins such as those at Gringotts bank, the Basilisk, Dementors, the Inferi, trolls, giants, Nagini, and more. Some of these aren’t given a lot of screen time in the movies, compared with the books, so it’s nice that they got their own book in this set.
This volume naturally begins in Hogsmead Village, the place we all want to visit, including Hogsmeade Station, the Three Broomsticks, the Hog’s Head, Honeydukes, and more, with a whole spread devoted to the neatest candy labels and packages. Godric’s Hollow is up next, and then on to Grimmauld Place, Shell Cottage, Lovegood House, Malfoy Manner, the Burrow, and several other spots.
This volume begins with Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, then profiles Rubeus Hagrid, Argus Filch, Madam Pomfrey, Madam Hooch, Professor McGonagall, Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick (and it covers why his look drastically changed as the movies went on), Professor Trelawney, Professor Snape, Professor Quirrell, Professor Lockhart, Professor Lupin, Professor Moody, Professor Slughorn, and, my least favorite character in all of the movies, Dolores Umbridge. The book ends with a brief section on the ghosts of Hogwarts.
This volume will make you hungry. It starts with the many feasts held and meals consumed in Hogwarts’ Great Hall, food and drink at locations such as the Three Broomsticks and the Burrow, and it shows off some very cool product labels as well. It also covers music, and Bill and Fleur’s wedding. The next section covers newspapers and magazines, such as The Quibbler and the Daily Prophet, including several pages of ads and other features from the publications, which are so fun to read and re-read. It then goes into the many books that are used in the Harry Potter universe, including textbooks, and it has several spreads showing off the front and back covers of many of them. Gilderoy Lockhart’s books make an appearance, as does The Monster Book of Monsters and Advanced Potion-Making. It finishes off with some Ministry publications, paraphernalia, and propaganda. The print in this book is a cover of The Quibbler!
What I Liked
These books are high quality hardcover books with thick, slick pages with nice color art. Most volumes have far more art than text, so these are lovely to page through casually and repeatedly. Looking at some of the images is like getting to pause one of the movies during certain scenes and really studying the setting and characters, except without any blurriness. The photography is very well done, and there is so much concept art and so many artistic renderings. My favorite pages, though, are the ones that show off the labels, publication ads, and book covers.
The books do, though, include enough text to learn what you’re looking at, why the elements are included, and sufficient background information to understand context. You learn about the many design decisions made in the movies, how they made certain scenes work, and have the opportunity for a closer look at it all than you get in the films. There are a few sections that are definitely heavy on the text, which is great for description and backstories.
But probably my favorite thing about a series like this is the opportunity to focus your study on one aspect of the much larger whole. There are a few aspects of the Harry Potter universe that don’t thrill me—such as a few of the darker wizards and witches, along with the politics of the Ministry—but I’m always interested in learning more about lesser talked about elements, such as celebrations, how wizard families live at home, product design, and features of Hogwarts Castle. This series allowed me to learn more about those focused aspects without having to filter out any extras.
I also loved how much artwork was included—including in some cases a large number of illustrations about one narrow aspect or topic, which I love—which really gave us a look at the development process that went into turning these books into films. There is so much to look at, and the prints in each volume highlight scenes and items that you wouldn’t necessarily expect; they don’t all include the headliners. If you just can’t get enough of Harry Potter, this series provides considerably more fodder for the imagination.
What I Didn’t Like
My only complaint about these books is that they’re a little on the short side, at a little more than 60 pages each. They included quite a bit of information on some topics, but less on others that might have deserved a longer treatment. Two spreads on Cornish Pixies is great, but I’d have enjoyed longer sections on the Hogwarts ghosts or Sirius Black. But the volumes do contain such detail on what they cover—plus the interesting art prints (though I wonder how they chose what image should go on each, as some of them are a bit unusual)—that it’s great for collectors and completionists, as well as general movie fans.
The entire Harry Potter: Film Vault series is on sale now. The volumes each retail for $16.99, but the earlier volumes are often found cheaper. I highly recommend this set (or any one of the individual volumes) for movie making buffs or lovers of the Harry Potter franchise of movies.
Note: I received sample copies for review purposes.