Matthews - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures
John & Caitlin Matthews
Barnes & Noble Books
Nonfiction, Magic/Folklore
*****

DESCRIPTION: As strange and wondrous as the world around us is, people have never been able to resist adding even stranger and more wondrous creations of their own - some of which may even once have walked this world with us. From ancient creation gods to modern cryptozoological puzzles, from mythical hybrids to the magical attributes of everyday animals, this encyclopedia covers a great variety of beasts and beings.

REVIEW: Though the articles themselves rarely run longer than a single paragraph, the overall coverage and number of entries exceed any similar book I own. The authors include mythical and allegorical creatures with cryptids and the magical aspects of real animals, but the distinction between what is, what isn't, and what may be is fairly clear; the authors donít belittle cryptozoologists by suggesting that theyíre chasing fairy tales, unlike a few books Iíve read. Since context is important to understanding many of these creatures, the authors present several myths and legends featuring them alongside the text, abridged but getting the general idea across nonetheless. Unlike some recent bestiary attempts, this book focuses on information and range rather than graphic appeal; the few illustrations are stock clip-art, mostly unrelated to page content. An extensive bibliography at the end shows the amount of effort that went into writing this book. Even if some of the articles seem to contradict information I've read elsewhere (in a few books mentioned in the bibliography), I can respect the conclusions the authors came to as the result of sincere effort and thought rather than deliberate negligence or apathy. I only wish they could have included slightly longer descriptions of the more obscure creatures, or perhaps actual illustrations instead of clip-art, but I was impressed enough with the sheer volume of entries to give it a five-star rating anyway. If fantastic creatures interest you, this book belongs on your shelf.

You might also enjoy:
Mythical Beasts (Alexandra Bonfante-Warren, Nonfiction - An overview of classical beasts of myth, with many images)
Cryptozoology A - Z (Loren Coleman & Jerome Clarke, Nonfiction - A compendium of cryptids past and present)
Magickal, Mystical Creatures (D. J. Conway, Nonfiction - A compendium of fantastic creatures and their attributes as spirit guides)
A Natural History of the Unnatural World ("The Cryptozoological Society of London," YA Fiction - Notes and field studies of imaginary creatures)
Here Be Dragons: A Fantastic Bestiary (Ariane Deleacampagne and Christian Delacampagne, Nonfiction - An examination of fabulous beasts in cultural, religious, and artistic history)
The Flight of Dragons (Peter Dickinson, Fiction - A speculative look at how a biologically-probably dragon might live)
Big Book of Dragons, Monsters, and Other Mythical Creatures (Ernst and Johanna Lehner, Art - Historical images of fabulous creatures)
The Book of Gryphons (Joe Nigg, Nonfiction - The history and evolution of the classical gryphon)
The Book of Fabulous Beasts (Joseph Nigg, Nonfiction - Classical origins of many fabulous animals)
The Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were (Michael Page and Robert Ingpen, Fiction - Fantastic beasts, gods, places, and people)
The Evolution of the Dragon (G. Elliot Smith, Nonfiction - An exploration of the roots behind the universal dragon myth)
Dr. Ernest Drake's Monsterology (Dugald A. Steer, "editor", YA Fiction - Guide to fabulous beasts of the world)

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