15 November 2009

Fantasy and Your Family

Fantasy and Your Family-Practical Ideas, Weak Book
By Kristin Battestella

Shocker of shockers I’ve never read Harry Potter. I love The Lord of the Rings and thus my purchase of Fantasy and Your Family: Exploring The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Modern Magick by Richard Abanes was fueled by my current obsession for all things Tolkien. After reading Finding God in The Lord of The Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware a few years ago, I found Fantasy and Your Family discounted online. I took the plunge.

I don’t like to say there are ‘bad books’-well of course there are, but I prefer the term ‘bad reads’. Abanes runs thin early, and the format of the book is unusual. Although it was meant to be user friendly, Abanes’ categories jump from Christianity to the Occult, Tolkien to Rowling. This format makes Abanes’ case weaker; his pros and cons are mixed together. Only Professor Abanes strong voice and harsh writing define which side he’s on.

The educational chapters, however, are wonderful. For the uninitiated, Abanes dutifully explains the facts and fiction of modern Occult practices. From Pagans, Wicca, Spellcasting-even Witchcraft defined by the capital or lowercase W. An entire section of the book is dedicated to the man and myth of JRR Tolkien. Although I enjoyed this essential back story, I was disappointed to find no such chapter dedicated to the rise of Rowling. Very little details are given about her life pre-Potter-except Abanes ambiguous debate on Rowling’s religious orientation. Whether JK Rowling is a witch is not important to me. As a writer, I would like to know her opinion on the craft, her upbringing, her family life. Fans looking for this will be disappointed with Abanes dedicated attack against Rowling.

For my tastes Abanes spends too little words on what makes The Lord of The Rings great, but the Professor wastes valuable pages with information that is not his own. Most of the FAQ provided, appendices, or breakdowns of Harry Potter are citations from other sources. Quoting or referring to other works, books, websites is one thing-but Abanes’ book holds little of his own commentary. He agrees or disagrees with his sources and rewords what the other experts say, often in lengthy long winded hyperbole.

Abanes’ religious argument is also very uneven. We learn the ins and outs of the real Occult and how Harry Potter is supposedly manipulating kids towards unnatural practices. Whether that is the case or not, some readers of Potter or modern witches might be very offended by Abanes approach, and the Professor misses the opportunity to fully explore how The Lord of The Rings could be the healthy alternative. Instead of an offshoot against R.L. Stine, Fear Street, and Goosebumps, Abanes should have explained the basics of Christianity and how The Lord of The Rings parallels Biblical teachings. Abanes spends too much time trying to draw a line in the sand and not enough time clearly defining his right and wrong. He assumes his audience is on his side and knows the good he mentions in passing. That may not always be the case.

Fantasy and Your Family: Exploring the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Modern MagickFantasy and Your Family seems out of place in the book format. On one hand, the material seems too weak and thin for a full length book. Then again, it feels as if Abanes could release Fantasy and Your Family Part 2 with all the materials excluded. Abanes might have been better off creating a professional website or online database. Users could click at their leisure, and all the websites Abanes refers to in the books-and even screen captures- would be right there for the linking. Maybe a website would make no money for the Professor, but a website from Abanes could reach thousands more kids, young adults, and parents. I doubt a book discounted to $2 turned many a child away from Harry Potter.

Instead of focusing on the negative and what’s bad about popular fantasy trends, Professor Abanes missed the opportunity to showcase what’s good about creativity, imagination, and exploration. Like a lecturer trying to make a joke, many of Abanes chuckles fall flat. He comes down too heavy handed and misses the chance at having some fun with his topic. Isn’t that what fantasy’s all about?

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