This wonderful book will give great enjoyment to anyone who loves fantasy. It is amazingly comprehensive, well-written, carefully edited and proofread, and as fair and objective as it's possible for such a book to be. In addition to the extensive coverage of authors (including those not known primarily for fantasy), it also includes a great deal of information on movies and TV. As an opera lover, I was delighted to find 24 pages on that topic. A few of the most curiosity-piquing entries are Cauldron of Story, Timeslips, Thinning, Recursive Fantasy, Rationalized Fantasy, Crosshatching, Into the Woods, Instauration Fantasy, Godgame, and Taproot Texts. Read this book to find out about all these and much, much more.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW IS ANECDOTAL
I had coveted this book for quite some time before I ordered my copy. Aside from being a longtime and irredeemable fantasy geek, I am also an English teacher at a small independent school, and our reference library has a copy. This fact has enabled me to waste many happy free periods rifling through the _Encyclopedia_ instead of, say, grading papers or thinking deep, serious thoughts about the state of pedagogy in America. But before you write me off as a disgrace to my profession, hear me out:
_The Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ is a remarkable book, and any time I have spent with it in lieu of more mundane tasks is time very well spent indeed. I can even justify this frivolous perusal academically, because what really makes the _Encyclopedia_ a great resource isn't so much its exhaustive listing of authors or titles (much of which information is available elsewhere anyway), but the fact that Clute et al. have managed to accomplish nothing less than a rigorous, consistent, and phenomenally well cross-referenced taxonomy and analytical vocabulary for fantasy. I know, I know, that sounds awfully dry, but it isn't.
I'm a word junkie, so I love learning apt new terms for things, especially if those nameless concepts have gone begging for far too long. When Clute coins the term "thinning" to describe any fantasy world that, over time, loses its magic [Middle-earth, anyone?], you cannot help (assuming you're an aficionado of the genre) but say to yourself, "Aha! Now I know what to call it!" Furthermore, the fact that this vocabulary is employed consistently throughout the _Encyclopedia_ allows for thematic and formal juxtapositions of specific works, combinations and comparisons that might not occur even to the serious fantasy buff. Who needs hypertext when you've got such meticulous cross-indexing?
I recently received an Amazon.com gift certificate from thoughtful in-laws, and decided that even though I have access to a copy at school, I had to have an _Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ at home, both for reference while reading/writing and for couch-sprawl browsing.
I splurged and bought the $75.00 hardback. I had a hunch it would get a lot of use, and I wanted it to last. Money very well spent, as far as I'm concerned, and if you're a fantasy partisan, a literary theory wonk, or just someone who gets off on thousands of pages of really, really small type, you'll probably agree.