Sort the dwarves from the goblins;Children's books

7th May 1999 at 01:00
MYTHS AND MAGIC. By Terry Brooks. Titan Books. pound;12.99.

Myths and Magic claims to be an "all-in-one guide to the mythical, the mystical and the medieval for writers and readers of fantasy and historical fiction".

Fantasy freaks might thumb the glossaries to check that they know their mantlets from their machiolations or their champfrein from their crini re.

As for someone who wants to write fantasy - well, the introduction offers a few tips: make an overall plan; don't feel you have to be original; ensure that your fantasy world has some connection with our own. Any serious writer would surely be rather further down the trail.

"Eclectic" would be a kindly description of the content and its organisation. Six contributors have amassed chapters with titles such as World Cultures, Fantasy Races, Creatures of Myths and Legends, or Anatomy of a Castle. Entries are rarely rooted in specific periods. Illustrations are sparse and often banal ("A Cloak", "Long Breeches (left) and Short Breeches"), as are some of the definitions.

The book is American in provenance, and references to texts, cults and witchcraft reflect this. There is a nod to Middle Earth but no mention of Narnia or Redwall. Fun to browse or to clear up confusions between goblins and dwarves, or find out at last what a trebuchet was; but no handbook for a budding Philip Pullman.

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