Length: 70 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Every wizarding household will have a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – a reference book / textbook that details the who’s who and what’s what of beasts that roam the world. The beasts have, thus far, stayed hidden from human view. But now, the book is available to humans so that they too can learn about these fantastic, and often dangerous, beasts.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does not tell a story. It is, instead, a short, simple, reference book of the many creatures that make up the wizarding world. You get an insight into the creative awesomeness that is Rowling’s mind as she creates an entire range of exotic beasts, each with its own powers, abilities, weaknesses, and history.
Written under the name of Newt Scamander (an expert in beasts), it is meant to be a textbook at Hogwarts, and reads pretty much as intended. The additional fun parts are the rough notes, hand-written by Harry, Ron, and Hermoine.
What the book does not do is tell you a real story of any kind. It relates some wizard and beast related instances, but that’s it story-wise. What it does, however, is give you all the information you’ve wanted about the random pets Hagrid loves to keep, the many creatures that make appearances in the Harry Potter books, and about how humans remain so oblivious to the creatures that exist around them. It also tells you what goes into love and other such potions, effectively ensuring that you’d never take many of these concoctions.
The beasts are interesting, and the effort it must have taken Rowling to create such a world is mind-boggling; this gives you a real appreciation for the book. But, at the same time, as a read in itself, it can be a bit dry in some parts. It starts off really well and with a lot of promise (the notes at the beginning put the bar quite high), but does not successfully meet expectations throughout. Sometimes, it begins to drag but, thankfully, the monotony is broken, often just in time, by some small notes that act as a saving grace.
The best, and most endearing, part of the book, though, is how well Rowling has tied in the wizarding world with the Muggle one. Entities like the Lochness Monster and the Abominable Snowman – a popular matter of discussion in the human world – are tied in neatly with apparent realities of the wizarding world. And then there is the subtle, but quite funny, sense of humor that often comes through in the narration (and even the footnotes). These aspects make the book quite enjoyable, and even manage to diminish some of the dryness.
So, should you read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?
Yes, if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan and need to know everything about his universe. Yes, if you just want some reference before you head to watch the film. But definitely not if you’re expecting to read the story that’s going to be hitting cinemas soon. The book is meant to be a textbook and that’s what it is. Except, it’s quite a readable, and even enjoyable, textbook since I didn’t get my letter to Hogwarts and don’t have to give an exam on the subject – I just get to read it for fun! (And it’s a great way to prepare for the upcoming, and much anticipated, film.)