20 January 2009

Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling

So. JK Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard. What's there to say about this? Well, I picked it up because it was cheap and had a lot of Airmiles attached to it at my work. And also, when I start in on a thing, I get obsessive about it. I can stop liking it, but I still have to complete the set. (Case in point: The Matrix? A very fine film. The follow-up? A very poor one. And yet, I own the third film, which I still haven't taken out of the plastic over wrap and have never seen.)

The thing about Rowling is that I don't think she's a very good writer. I think she created a compelling universe with compelling characters and a compelling story line. And I think she had a good editor, at the beginning, who was able to help her tell the story in a compelling way. Somewhere along the line, everything but the compelling universe (for me) got lost.

The problem with a compelling universe, for me, is that I want to know more about it. I want to know all the bits of that universe that she didn't explain before. So things like this book and like her other charity books (Quidditch Through the Ages and… the Beast one, I forget the title) make me want to have and read them, even if I think I'll be disappointed by the story they tell.

Opening Paragraph:
There once was a kindly old wizard who used his magic generously and wisely for the benefit of his neighbours. Rather than reveal the true source of his power, he pretended that his potions, charms and antidotes sprang ready-made from the little cauldron he called his lucky cooking pot. From miles around people came to him with their troubles, and the wizard was pleased to give his pot a stir and put things right.
So this is a book of wizarding fairytales, written originally in runes by Beedle the Bard, then annotated by Dumbledore, then translated by Hermione Granger, then brought to the muggle world by Rowling. It's a short selection of tales – just five – and, well, five days later, I've forgotten them all.

Oh god, it's just so boring. I wanted to like it, but it's boring. The stories read like fake fairy tales and not like ones that might really have existed in some other society. I'm not sure if anything would have felt "real" enough for me, but this certainly didn't.

I'm certain that some small part of my dislike is just the lingering disappointment of the last few books of the Harry Potter series, but the rest of it is just wishing that Rowling (and I, obviously) would just let it go. I don't really know where she can or will go from here, but even though I'm still apparently willing to buy it, I do wish she'd stop treading old ground. (Even if it's being done in new, for her, ways.)

Does it need to be said what else JK Rowling has written? Nevertheless, Rowling has written the 7 Harry Potter books, which have all been (or are in the process of being) made into movies. She's also written two other short books in the Harry Potter universe, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Rowling, JK. The Tales of Beedle the Bard. London: Bloomsbury, 2008.
Finished: 15 January 2009
Rating: 3 of 5* warty cauldrons
This was my 2nd book in January, and my 2nd in 2009.

*Psst... my ratings are numbered 1-5, meaning something like 1=sucky, 2=meh, 3=okay, 4=good, 5=great.

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