Friday, September 4, 2015

The Silmarillion and Tales from the Perilous Realm (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Being a book reviewer, you don't always get to take your time and read books for pleasure. Sometimes you are under a time constraint to get a review done. Other times publishers you faithfully work with send you a book that you don't really want to review, but you feel obligated to. Sometimes, there are just too many books and not enough time. There are some people who are more successful at slowing down and only reviewing one book a week, and I applaud them for that. I haven't been able to accomplish that, and it's probably because I'm so greedy in wanting ALL THE BOOKS! Anyways, I'm rambling, when all I really needed to say was, "Today, I am reviewing two books I really wanted to review." Without further ado, here are my reviews for today.

I own several copies of The Silmarillion, but one thing they were all lacking was illustrations. I know that it's a more adult tale than The Hobbit or even The Lord of the Rings, but sometimes when you're reading fiction, you just want some illustrations to accompany what you are reading. The only edition I have found so far was published in 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The illustrator is Ted Nasmith, who is known for his Tolkien-inspired paintings. What's impressive to know about him is that as a teenage Nasmith mailed Tolkien some pictures of his artwork, and Tolkien replied to him! This correspondence and honest critique of his artwork improved his work, which led to him being invited to work on the conceptual art for The Lord of the Rings movies and providing the artwork for the first ever illustrated edition of The Silmarillion.

For those unfamiliar with The Silmarillion, it is divided into five parts. The first part deals with creation of Eä, the second part talks about Valar and Maiar, the third part (the longest one) is historical events before and during the First Age, the fourth part takes place in the Second Age and primarily deals with the Fall of Númenor, and the last part talks about the Third Age and events that led to the events in The Lord of the Rings. I particularly love the Creation account, but I'm a sucker for tales like this in mythology. The illustrated edition contains "the revised and corrected second edition text;" a letter written by Tolkien himself, which explains his conception of the earlier Ages, and a fold-out map Beleriand. I personally think the map should not have been glued in the book, but instead tucked in a sleeve so you could look at it easier, but alas.

So if you already own an edition of The Silmarillion, why should you get this one? For starters, it's a hardcover edition. If this is a book you plan to devote some time to and read over and over, you want a hardcover, so that it will hold up better. The other reason you should get this book is because it's illustrated! There are about 50 color paintings/illustrations in here by Ted Nasmith, and they will captivate you! I found myself studying those as much as I studied the text, and I kept wishing there had been more. So if you are a casual Tolkien fan who wants to know more or an avid Tolkien fan who wants a lasting edition of one of his tougher works, I highly recommend the illustrated version of The Silmarillion!

Tales from the Perilous Realm is like owning a set of some of Tolkien's lesser known works in a single volume. In this hardcover are his book of poems entitled The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and his four novellas Farmer Giles of Ham, Leaf by Niggle, Smith of Wootton Major, and Roverandom. Also included in this book is also a speech Tolkien gave entitled On Fairy-stories. The illustrations are done by Alan Lee, who has illustrated other Tolkien works, including The Lord of the Rings and The Children of Húrin.

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil contains several poems about Tom, several poems found in The Lord of the Rings, and other poems about fairy tales and whatnot. Farmer Giles of Ham is a fun tale about a farmer battling a dragon named Chrysophylax. Leaf by Niggle is about an artist named Niggle in a society that doesn't appreciate art. He is also a perfectionist, so he never completes the grand masterpiece he set out to do. Smith of Wootton Major was a fairy story meant merely to serve as a preface to George MacDonald's story The Golden Key, but instead became a standalone story of its own. Lastly, Roverandom is a story about a dog who is turned into a toy and goes on many adventures including a trip to the moon.

Each tales is beautiful in its own right and shows the reader that there is more to Tolkien than hobbits, elves, and dwarfs. So why should you buy this edition of Tales from the Perilous Realm? The main selling point I see for this book is convenience and affordability. At $28, you get five of Tolkien's under-appreciated, but exceptionally great works. It also means you only have to carry around one book, instead of five. The illustrations, for me, are not a huge selling point in this book. Alan Lee is a fine illustrator, but he is not my favorite Tolkien illustrator - Pauline Baynes. Therefore, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

This books were provided to me for free by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!