Most helpful positive review
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This version is good, but not perfect
on 4 November 2013
I must make it clear from the start that I will not review the story of The Hobbit, but just this (hardcover) annotated edition in particular:
Publisher: HarperCollins; Revised edition edition (7 April 2003)
It's important to note that Amazon unfortunately merges all the reviews from one story, regardless of each edition. The edition I pointed out looks similar to an American version with the same name, though I couldn't find the differences between them on the internet and I only purchased this British one.
The build quality is superb, though I can't say I was expecting less. In fact, I was quite disappointed when I saw the book for the first time. The hardcover is quite solid but the fact that it is only a plain green front was quite unexpected. The illustration we see in the Amazon item is just the paper that comes wrapping the book (dust cover?), but the front itself has no illustration or writing at all. You could not tell what the book is only by looking at its front cover.
The side of the cover is quite another story. It contains the title and some other marks you would expect in the front. It's all beautifully written in golden letters and that is the section that gives the book the "premium feel".
The quality of the paper and the font are very good, so the reading is quite comfort.
The book contains several illustrations scattered in the right places along the story. These illustrations are usually small-sized black/white drawings published in the various different editions of The Hobbit along the years. The different artists involved (including Tolkien himself) causes the book to lack an uniformity in style, but I think that is a good idea for an annotated version, because you have some sort of historical compilation of the art of The Hobbit.
My huge disappointment about the illustrations is the lack of full-page prints and also the scarceness of colored drawings. Colored drawings do exist, but they are all grouped in the center of the book, forming a section completely separate from the context. That's even dangerous for someone who is reading the story for the first time, for if you looked at these pictures when you reach the middle of the story, you would be bombarded with spoilers. The way these colored pictures are presented makes me feel that it would be better that they didn't even exist, although I would love to see some of them in full-size in the right places along the book.
I think the annotations are indeed the strength of this version, though it's important to note that they are really annotations about The Hobbit, not about Middle-Earth. You do have some notes linking to other stories such as Lord of The Rings, Silmarillion, etc, but they are not abundant. Most of the annotations are about the differences in previous editions of The Hobbit (including really small details) and also about the biographical facts behind Tolkien that must have inspired him at some parts of the tale. So I see the annotations as some sort of historical registry of the publications of The Hobbit as well as hints behind the story linking to Tolkien's reality. In that scope I feel safe to say that they are quite complete, but they must be too cold for just a casual reader that would probably prefer more notes about the mythology itself.
I was unsure whether 3 or 4 stars would be fair for this edition. In the end of the day I removed only 1 star out of 5 to summarize all the "imperfections" I noted above. I think we can only judge a book by the success it got on its own objectives, not the objectives that we have. When our objectives are not the same of the book's, it's no fault of the book, but of the information that lead us to false expectations. I think reviews are important to align the expectations to the reality of the books. That said, I recommend this edition for people already familiar to The Hobbit and that probably won't have only this edition on their shelves. Tolkien's enthusiasts and collectors must have this book, but casual readers probably should look for other editions. This is the definitive guide of The Hobbit, not the best way to present the tale.