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The Children of Hurin by Tolkien, J.R.R. published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2007) Hardcover – 2007
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Inside, the acid-free paper is of a heavy weight and the text is large and easy to read. There are 9 full-page color illustrations by Alan Lee. Each chapter begins and ends with a pencil line-drawing. Also included is a fold-out map of Beleriand in the First Age in red and black. It's only the size of two pages of the book but for the most part is easy to read and contains almost all of the places of interest mentioned in the story. Interestingly, it does not show Angband itself, stopping at the northern border of Hithlum and showing probably 85% of Anfauglith. It also stops short of Ossiriand in the east
There is a Preface, Introduction, Notes of Pronunciation, as well as geneologies, an Appendix, a List of Names (which unfortunately is not an index as it does not give any page numbers or chapters where the names appear) and notes on the map.
The story actually begins in the Introduction with a history of Beleriand in the First Age. This is an extremely selective history that really skirts most of the major aspects of Middle Earth's history and, in my opinion, is probably too spartan for someone unfamiliar with the First Age to really come away with a good background understanding. For those who have read The Silmarillion it's impossibly abbreviated.
Obviously constructed from the same sources used to build The Silmarillion, the story follows Turin and his sister Nienor with only brief asides (such as Hurin and Morgoth). Christopher Tolkien's purpose was to tell in full the heroic, tragic tale of Turin and he succeeds in this at the expense of the richer tapestry of events that enfolds Turin's tale. I have concluded this was a worthy goal and Tolkien more-or-less succeeds at it. For the most part the tale is told in the words of The Silmarillion, and without that volume to compare I think the expansions made are slight and overall in keeping with the story. It is still successfully stand-offish in a sense that lends to the aura of mystery and "mists of time" the veil the Elder Days.
The story follows Turin from his childhood and fostering in Doriath to his flight and subsequent wanderings among the outlaws, at Nargothrond and Brethil, his encounters with Glaurung and Nienor, and his unhappy demise. It is truly a tragic tale set against all the pageantry of Beleriand in the First Age. The characters come to life but are successfully kept legendary. Overall I think this is a worthy popular successor to The Silmarillion and suspect that, if it is a popular success as well, we may see the tale of Beren and Luthien, as well as some of the other major stories of the First Age in the future. I would welcome that.
This is a truly outstanding edition/book. The leather quarter-binding is very fine quality, as is the cloth covering the rest of the boards. The heavy paper is excellent, and the print quality is sharp, dark, and consistent in a beautiful face of good size. The signatures are full-sewn and snug without tending to crack or break when reading. The slipcase is of excellent quality, though I am unsure whether it is leather or some simulated material (in any event the material is THAT good, the difference is hard to spot).
The only flaws I can spot are that the foil-stamped helm on the slipcase is much smaller than as depicted in the photo on Amazon, and the touted "frontispiece" illustration is simply the same image as appears on the cover of the standard hardcover first edition of CoH, in a presentation no better than that (though without the embossed title and other text of the standard edition). Otherwise this book contains the same Alan Lee illustrations as in the standard editions, which are lovely and well presented as glossy color plates, as well as fine pencil/charcoal drawings at chapter headings.
This book, unlike most Houghton Mifflin Tolkien books, was printed and bound in Europe. One of the nice details, as a result, is the Euro practice of binding the leather quarter-binding (e.g. the spine and first 2 inches of the over) UNDER the cloth. In the US this is almost always reversed, with the quarter-binding of whatever material sealed OVER the cloth (or paper as the case may be). What this means is a MUCH more durable binding, since the tendency is for one's thumb to rub towards the spine, and peel the quarter-binding up and away from the book, IF the book is bound in the American fashion. This one is not, so years of handling will leave it intact. You will clearly see what I mean when you examine this book. There are several other features of construction that are as outstanding and as rare. Though difficult to describe to the non-bibliophile, they will each and all become very apparent to anyone who can recognize something that is well made, regardless.
Many other Tolkien titles (as well as loads of others) are jobbed out to printers and binderies in Asia these days, and a European made book is instantly apparent as a superior object (Some American-made books are quite good too, but other than small and art presses, few hardcover titles are printed or bound here anymore, alas). These outsourced books suffer most glaringly from uneven inking and print quality. This edition of The Children of Hurin is IMPECCABLE in both consistency and quality of impression and inking. Truly a rarity, and without ANY flaw in execution, and ARGUABLY none serious (taste being moot) in design as well.
I recommend this edition of Children of Hurin most highly, and without any reservation whatsoever. It will become an heirloom and treasure for the Tolkien buff, or any lover of fine books, without doubt. It is simply the best edition of any Tolkien title now in print in the United States (superior even to the very substantial 2004 US 50th anniversary Lord of the Rings) and stands among the very best (and very expensive in the US) HarperCollins/UK Tolkien editions (like the 2004 UK 50th anniversary LOTR, or the recent premium editions of The Hobbit and Silmarillion). If you are not a book collector, conservator, or special collections librarian, you may never have owned a book this well made before. The Amazon.com price is a minor miracle, as well. A very great edition (look elsewhere for reviews of the story itself)! Let us hope (and lobby) Houghton Mifflin sees fit to bring out similarly beautiful and enduring editions of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion, in the near future!