Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Companion Books

You bet I bought the Collector's Edition of
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
I absolutely adore the companion books that accompany many book series; I have a sizeable collection of them, mostly Star Wars and Harry Potter companion books. I especially love the companion books that are created by the author of the respective series, the fact that they're willing to make that much effort and share that much detail never fails to prove to me how committed they are not only to their worlds' but also to all of their fans. 

Whether its maps, family trees or timelines; or simply encyclopaedic  entries that expand on information about the characters, subjects, themes and locations; I want to know everything about my favourites series and that's why I love companion books.

My top 5 favourite companion books are:

1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 
You really can't go wrong with a companion book written for a charity that uses comedy to help people. This book is not only informative about a wide number of the creatures you'll encounter in the Harry Potter series, it's absolutely hilarious. Any Harry Potter fan knows that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the title of one of the in-world school textbooks that Harry and company use and JK Rowling ran with that with this companion book she presents it to us as being Harry's copy of the book. It's filled with humours hand scrawled annotations and commentary by not only Harry, but also Ron, such as the ever so mature circling of the word bum in Glumbumble. Madame Pince would've had their hides if she'd seen the way they defaced this book! 

2. Star Wards the Essential Atlas
This is THE official guide to the galaxy far, far away. One of the best parts is the extremely detailed map of the entire galaxy that even maps the major trade routes. The map shows every world that has ever appeared in any of the films and any of the expanded universe novels. There's an overall history of the universe, and then a history of each region in Part I. Part II is devoted to the profiles on each planet, which includes a full colour illustration, complete physical stats and a brief (half page) description/history. Part III includes historical maps of the galaxy, for example there's a map that tracks the origins of the Jedi from approx. 25,000 years before the battle at Yavin. I love the scale of this particular book, it must have been a HUGE undertaking. The level of detail is so impressive and I like to imagine how much science must've gone on the create accurate planets.

3. Star Wars the New Essential Chronology
I love this one for similar reasons to the previous Star Wars companion book. The level of detail makes me so happy. It's a 230 page time line of every single event that has ever happened in a  Star Wars plot. It's basically a history textbook for Star Wars fans. It's also a cheat sheet for those who haven't gotten around to reading every single book in the Expanded Universe. You can find out about all of the major plot events in this one companion book, and they're not long entries, you get max. about 3 pages per event. Because of it's nature as a complete chronology and the fact that you can cheat with it, if you don't like spoilers STAY CLEAR of this book. I personally don't mind spoilers with a series on the scale of Star Wars so that could explain why I enjoy this book. Although it's still one of my major reading goals to eventually read the entire collection of Expanded Universe the correct chronological order. Why does that task sound like it would be on par with me declaring that I intended to read War & Peace in Russian with no knowledge of Russian? (I actually know someone who attempted that, I'm not sure if she ever did succeed)

4. the Pocket Companion to Narnia
Spoilers galore in this one! A definite steer clear if you haven't read all 7 books and don't want the end spoiled! I love this book because a) maps! I love maps! but more importantly b) encyclopaedic entries that expand on EVERYTHING. And I do mean everything. Themes, characters, locations, and things! It even includes spoiler alerts which is lovely! It's so nice that the author respected the readers enough to mark where he might be spoiling things for us! There are a lot of interesting things in this little book. There's a list of all the biblical allusions in the series and where to find them. Also the meaning of the name Cair Paravel which according to the book means "city in the valley" which is hilarious when you remember that Cair Paravel is located on a cliff overlooking an ocean, high ABOVE the valley. Another handy tidbit in this book is the list of comparative ages of all of the main characters throughout the series. And this is just the pocket version, apparently the full sized version has even more information.

5. Princess Alyss of Wonderland
Last but certainly not least is the companion book to Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars trilogy. This book was insanely hard to get my hands on, not easy to find at all, but I am SO happy I did and very pleased to have it in my collection. Beddor's series is one of my absolute favourites, it's an amazing re-vision of Alice in Wonderland which as you all know is one of my all time favourites. This is one of those fantastic companion books that doesn't only contain facts and information about the series, it also contains Artifacts! Artifact books are the best books because no matter how old you are they make you feel like a little kid. They let you discover the series in a whole new way.The entire book is a diary of Alyss's account of her time on earth. There's a handwritten letter from Alyss to her best friend Dodge on the very first page. It's heartbreaking to see RETURN TO SENDER stamped on the envelopes of all of the letter Artifacts. Midway through there's even a recipe for tarty tarts and at the end there's a hand made deck of Wonderland cards and instructions for playing looking glass wars.


I have to confess though, my favourite companion "book" isn't actually a book. It's Pottermore. Hello? It's the ultimate testament to an author's respect and appreciation for her fans. It's interactive, what fan doesn't love that? And the information it delivers! OH! Be still my beating heart! I was part of the early beta, and I still adore it. I was especially excited to actually get sorted (I am a Slytherin! This was only somewhat of a surprise, turns out I'm more driven by ambition than I thought I was!), and to read the description about the Hufflepuff Common Room (which I was able to see thanks to all of my friends who got sorted into Hufflepuff) because it was the only Common Room Harry didn't visit during the series. And I have to say from her description of it, I kind of wish I'd been sorted into Hufflepuff because their common room sounds awesome, except for the entrance, I don't even like tube slides so I can't imagine how I would've handled climbing through a tunnel to get in and out of my House multiple times a day...

So those are my favourite companion books, what are some of yours? Which ones should I check out?


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