Review: Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton

Review: Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton

The HP kids are alright 😌

Despite the whirlwind of being a child actor growing up onscreen as part of a globally famous film franchise, Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy has a down-to-earth perspective on life and a good, humble head on his shoulders.

I devoured this book – as a fan of memoirs and as a huge Harry Potter nerd of the same generation as Felton and the Golden Trio. Beyond the Wand (with a very sweet forward by Emma Watson) spills the HP tea in a fun, respectful way.

We get stories of Felton/Draco and the Death Eaters accidentally stepping on Alan Rickman’s robes 😱, 13-year-old Emma slapping the crap out of Tom to practice for Hermione’s onscreen Draco punch, and the healthy one-sided competition Felton felt with Daniel Radcliffe to grow as an actor at the same pace.

Plus, it’s interesting to hear about his life outside of the films and learn about his other projects and interests (golf?! being a beach bum in Venice, CA 😎, fishing).

Tom is a reflective writer, and I could tell from the thought he put into each sentence that it was heartfelt and more than just a “celebrity writing a book” cash grab.

Would recommend to all HP fans ⚡️

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

“The only true currency we have in life is the effect we have on those around us.”

—Tom Felton, Beyond the Wand

When you can’t go to Hogwarts, become Hogwarts.

I’m a big fan of relaxing background noise for sleeping, reading, sometimes for working. And once lockdown started, I started playing this kind of stuff more and more, until eventually a YouTube recommendation led me to this: Hogwarts ASMR ambiance.

Creator ASMR Rooms has done her due diligence in recreating some of the most well-loved locales from the book version of the Potterverse, both visually and aurally— complete with fire-crackling, rain-pattering, quill-scratching goodness, and occasional, subtle onscreen action.

The artwork itself also reminds me of the style you’d see on Harry Potter merch in the pre-Warner Brothers days, or illustrations by the US books’ illustrator Mary Grandpré.

These days, I’m working from home in the Ravenclaw common room. Why not?

If you like the library video above, take your pick from the playlist of 50+ other Potter-inspired ambiance videos. Some of my favorites:


The economics of the wizarding world don’t make sense

There’s a band called Harry and the Potters, and they sing songs about, you guessed it, Lord of the Rings.

Right. So, they sing songs about Harry Potter, and sometimes those songs are about how the economics of the wizarding world don’t make sense.

I live for a good, obscure worldbuilding roast.

My wand only cost seven galleons
That doesn’t seem like much
No, it seems like a bargain

How does Ollivander stay in business?
There’s only so many kids
Who buy wands
There’s only so many kids

Ten galleons for a unicorn hair
Seven galleons for a brand new wand
Ten galleons for a unicorn hair
Minus three to Ollivander

Death of the author and J.K. Rowling

Death of the author and J.K. Rowling

©E. Hull, 1827

Sigh. This is happening.

The concept of “death of the author” was introduced by French literary critic Roland Barthes in 1967, the most basic definition of which argues that an author’s intentions and biographical facts (their politics, religion, etc.) should hold no special weight to readers’ interpretations of their writing. That, once published, the text belongs to the reader, not the author—i.e., art should be separate from the artist.

It’s a concept that’s supes tempting to use to make it easier to cope when one of your favorite authors has outed herself as cringey.


Three things first—contradictory, perhaps, but to be fair, this is a tricky subject:

  1. I’m very sad about J. K. Rowling’s recent comments. I’m sad to see this side of her and sad that she’s choosing to die on this hill, in such a weird time, at that. I’m disappointed that she’s using her (highly influential) platform to promote the harmful notion that trans women are a threat to cis women’s experiences. I’m sad she’s alienating so much of her fanbase and colleagues (not to mention sullying her own legacy). Seeing this unfold, and after reading through her 3,000+ word blog post (in which she writes ‘woman’ is not a costume, opposes trans people using the bathrooms of their preference implying they’re predatory, and shows derision for inclusive language like “people who menstruate,” claiming that terms like this are degrading to women, when ironically she’s the one who would like to define women by and reduce them to uterus ownership), this whole thing has felt kind of like mourning to me—I used to really love her and this whole thing is just sad.
  2. Not to be The Onion‘s “Man Always Gets Little Rush Out of Telling People John Lennon Beat Wife” guy, and I know this argument may come off like grasping at straws—and maybe I am—but I think it’s safe to say we all like art created by flawed artists. If we stopped engaging with pieces of art because their creators held a bad opinion, I would hazard a guess that that takes most art off the table for our enjoyment. Am I going to avoid listening to “In My Life” or the Sgt. Pepper album because Lennon was a dick to his family? No. But at the same time I’m not going to justify his bad behavior, nor go around praising him as a peaceful figure. All that said, I understand this isn’t a one-to-one comparison with Rowling, because one of these people has been dead for decades and the other is alive and actively tweeting and influencing.
  3. I will always love the Harry Potter series. It’s been a part of my life longer than it hasn’t, as a 31-year-old who started reading the books at 12. It played a big part in my friendships, my passion for reading and writing. It probably indirectly influenced my decision to become an English major. The culture around the series and its film extensions has been such a source of joy for me and countless others. The same way I won’t give up listening to The Beatles despite Lennon’s behavior, I can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to Harry Potter. But I certainly won’t be going around touting J. K. Rowling as a wonderful author or inspiration anymore.

Now that I’ve got my feels out of the way, let’s revisit “death of the author” (DOTA).

The thing is, as tempting as it to cry “DOTA” about J.K. Ro, it doesn’t really work. DOTA is merely a literary theory about separating the author’s background and ideals that could’ve influenced their work from the text itself. It’s also about separating the author’s intent for the text from our own interpretation of it (e.g., Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is widely read as being anti-meat, but Sinclair really wrote it as a rally for socialism). It’s an academic tool. It doesn’t apply to fuckery being spewed by the author long after the text was published.

So, how do we reconcile our love for Harry Potter with the ickiness of its creator?

The answer: I don’t know.

My take: Continue to love and read Harry Potter if you want to, if it’s so deeply a part of your life and formative years that it would break your heart to let go. I fall into this camp. But trying to morally justify Rowling’s opinions only helps exonerate her and could help continue to feed her influence to spread harmful ideas about a marginalized group. Like the thing, with the awareness that the thing’s creator is problematic, and with the awareness that the way you talk about it or promote it could promote those views.

That said, I don’t know what this form of art consumption—the kind where you like the thing but don’t want to endorse the thing’s creator—looks like yet.

In the meantime—and especially if you’re on the side of Rowling—you can learn more about why the “gender critical” mindset is just thinly veiled discomfort with (at best) or hatred of (at worst) trans people from one of my favorite YouTubers, Natalie Wynn: