Book Review: Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them

Fantastic Beasts & Wear To Find Them By Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling)

As someone who is more than a little bit familiar with the broader corpus of literature relating to the Harry Potter universe [1], and someone who reads and reviews a lot of books, a book like this presents a certain sort of challenge.  This book began its life as a fictional textbook for a fictional boarding school for fictional witches and wizards who are supposed to learn how to properly deal with the magical beasts they will encounter in their studies as well as in life.  The immense popularity of the Harry Potter series, which was likely a surprise to the author, gave this book a visibility and a viability that it would likely have never had apart from the epochal success of the larger Harry Potter series, to the point where this little book is the inspiration for a forthcoming movie that promises to be a successful one given that it explores the Harry Potter universe’s view of the United States, which ought to add many more galleons to Rowling’s Gringott’s bank account.  At any rate, given the popularity of the series and the desire of people to see more of the side books discussed fleshed out in a bit more detail, Rowling obliged and wrote this short and amusing bestiary with the proceeds given to Comic Relief for projects helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable people of the world.

The contents of this short book are divided into two unequal parts after the usual modest introduction from Albus Dumbledore explaining how the book was copied from Harry Potter’s own copy of the textbook with the humorous comments from Harry, Ron, and Hermonie and a comment that expresses the weariness of the notional author about the way people write all over his beloved and popular book.  The first part consists of an essay that gives a brief discussion of the nuances and shifts of what constitutes a magical beast as opposed to magical beings like humans (wizards at least), goblins, and house elves, including some sentient beings who nonetheless desire to be considered beasts for their own purposes like centaurs and merpeople.  This book as a whole is filled with mock scholarly footnotes as well as humorous notes from the young heroes about Hagrid’s total lack of knowledge about important matters like the illegality of experimental breeding of magical beasts and the immense danger, of, say, acromantulas, the first animals discussed in the alphabetically organized bestiary that makes up the rest of the book.  It is quite possible, given the expansion of the Harry Potter universe and the development of more magical creatures that this book will be revisited and expanded, and if that is the case it would likely remain an enjoyable book.

The pleasures of this book are modest and somewhat derivative in nature, in that few people will like this book if they do not like the Harry Potter world of which this book is a part, but since that is a large group of people this book is likely to be pleasant in a modest but enjoyable way.  To those who create compelling and enjoyable worlds comes the pleasure and the burden of creating works that will embellish and embroider the existing ones, and this book certainly does that.  It is a modest and entertaining book, if a bit of an inside joke only enjoyable to fellow Harry Potter fans, and it is a book written for a good cause.  Those who enjoy the first few books of Harry Potter are likely to find this book lighthearted and a lot of fun, and even the dangerous animals are discussed in such a way that rewards those who enjoy humor about yetis (sadly, no sasquatches) and Nessie, both of which are mentioned here with a great deal of humor.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Book Review: Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them

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