Sorry for the delay, but I'm trying to get through another book and it's taking forever, so I read this fun little Harry Potter spin-off last night so that I could get a review out. And I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed the book and the way it's presented, renewing my interest in Rowling post-Deathly Hallows.
Actually, a few months before this book came out, a version of the individual stories it includes were put online for all to read/share, and since I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, I couldn't help but take a look. So for the most part I had already read the book. I believe that at the time an original, handwritten manuscript was being auctioned off for charity, and the interest was so high as to what was contained in the manuscript that The Tales were leaked online, and then officially released to the public.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a fairy tale collection "translated from the Ancient Runes by Hermione Granger" with a "commentary by Albus Dumbledore," so even though four of the five tales have no direct correlation to Harry Potter himself (the final story of the book is actually taken from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), through references to events in Harry Potter's life and allusions to other familiar wizarding books and terms, Rowling keeps everything nicely connected. The "commentary" is an addition from the online version that I read originally, so it was a pleasant surprise to see new content. If you've read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander or Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp, two other books Rowling has written as companions to the larger series, you'll be familiar with the overall tone and style.
The stories themselves are straight up fairy tales, which is an innovative way to introduce new stories into this well-established world. They deal with classic fairy tale themes like poverty, pride, greed, royalty, justice, and the rewarding of wisdom and kindness. They may not all contain groundbreaking insights for hardcore fans of the series, but they certainly feel like stories that wizarding parents might tell to their young children before bed (and the commentaries for each story actually do expand upon some of the characters and events from the main books). On top of this genuine fairy tale quality, Rowling very deftly maneuvers her writing so as not to include words like "muggle" in the tales, saving that and other exclusively HP-related terms for the commentaries. So even though they contain magical situations and characters, Beedle's stories have their own voice, distinct from the modern wizarding voice of Dumbledore that most readers are probably familiar with by now.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J. K. Rowling
The stories are cute and fun, but also have clear-cut morals and memorable characters, so they stick with you for a while. It's a very enjoyable read.
The added commentaries by Albus Dumbledore do a lot to make the book more interesting as a whole. Some of his notes refer to later notes, and others to memorable HP moments, which really brings up the quality.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend The Tales to anyone who isn't a fan of Harry and his world, because they probably won't get as much from it, but it's possible that some readers would still find the individual stories intriguing. If you enjoy the main series, though, I'd say it's safe to bet that you'll have a great time with this one.
I would say that the rating would drop a point, maybe even a point and a half, if you haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, but not much lower than that. The commentaries wouldn't be as interesting, but the actual tales are still great and can hold their own against any fairy tales.
Keep reading, Genoshans!
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