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The Magical Worlds of the Lord of the Rings
David Colbert
Berkley Books, 210 pages

The Magical Worlds of the Lord of the Rings
David Colbert
Formerly a head writer of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and an editorial director of HarperCollins, David Colbert has authored half a dozen collections of history and literature.

David Colbert Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

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The front cover avers that this particular volume was not "authorized, prepared, approved, licensed or endorsed by the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros, or any individual or entity associated with The Lord of the Rings books or movie". Oh good, an unauthorised biography. I like it already.

From an author whose previous work is given as The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, this is an Explanation Book. All those questions that you wanted answered about all these complicated fantastical worlds, but were afraid to ask. This is a book that sounds like it's aimed at the young reader -- chapter titles are couched in curiously child-like questions like "Why are Tolkien's elves tall?" or "Why do Hobbits live in holes?" or "Was Gollum ever good?" The answers are kept simple, in both language and context; this is not the exhaustive encyclopedia on the subject. In fact, the function which this book might be best said to fulfil is a handbook for those who haven't read Tolkien's famous trilogy at all but went to see the movies and now find themselves a little at sea about the whole story.

I'm not sure how useful something like this is, really. Young kids would require something simpler, but then young kids, the very young kids, would not have encountered The Lord of the Rings at all; for older children, teenagers and adults it's almost too simplistic. It's telling, though, that it appeared after the movie had been released. Somehow those who initially encountered Tolkien between book covers rather than the movie version went on to read The Silmarillion and other Middle Earth background works by Tolkien (there are oodles of these) off their own bat, and learned their information from the source. Or they picked up the more comprehensive encyclopedias of Middle Earth lore that had been published over the years. Tolkien's actual trilogy, the paper version, seems to demand a greater commitment than this slim volume can meet.

Let's just call it a First Step book; it's not an atlas or an almanac for the broad lands of Middle Earth. It is, however, a useful glossy brochure-equivalent -- pointing, perhaps, to places where the real thing might be found for those ready to start on their journey into the lands that Tolkien created.

Copyright © 2003 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her latest fantasy work, a two-volume series entitled Changer of Days, was published by HarperCollins.


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