Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling

Rowling is obviously best known for her seven book series chronicling the time Harry Potter spends at Hogwarts, learning to be a wizard, but she has done three books that aren’t immediate members of the core storyline, although they are in fact all related to her famous series. Two of them, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, are both written as books that Harry encounters in his years as a student, while the third, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, is a replication of a book important to Hermione in the seventh and final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Since The Tales of Beedle the Bard is involved with the seventh book, I’m waiting to review it until I’ve read all seven novels, but the other two are more relaxed aspects of the saga, and I am using them as an intermediary between the third and fourth novels.

The first of the two books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is more or less an encyclopedic compilation of descriptions, details, and anecdotes about the assortment of creatures hidden from the muggle world by wizards. The introductory material, which is extensive, gives interesting insight into the Ministry of Magic’s part in the hiding and protection of these creatures, as well as reasons for conservation. What follows are very short bits about each creature, written in a straightforward manner.

The big push of the book, as mentioned in the preface written ostensibly by Albus Dumbledore, is to raise money for Comic Relief UK, to help children living in poor countries world-wide. Using fiction as a vehicle for social good is an important aspect of the world of words that is frequently over-looked today, particularly by big name authors, so this is a breath of fresh air, and for the cheap price, more than worth the good it will do.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a very small book, that hints at Rowling’s potential while being a touch dry at times, but gives fun looks at the background to Harry’s world, is cheap, and is for a good cause. More than worth it for the completists and the huge fans, but maybe not worth it for the casual reader.

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