This is not really a book for the serious cryptozoologist, but it would certainly make a fine present for someone with an interest in the strange fauna that inhabit the Fortean regions of human myth and imagination. It is clearly intended as a ‘gift book’, with its antiqued pages and bright illustrations, but none the worse for that.
It is divided into regional chapters, with a historical section for ancient Greece and Rome. Within each chapter the creatures are listed alphabetically, with usually about half a page of description and in many cases a very imaginative visual interpretation of the beast, by Sky Cybele, who has also published a Mythical Creatures Oracle card deck based on similar illustrations.
The description given for each creature are concise but give a good idea of the legendary and mythological background to the stories around it. The book is particularly interesting in the descriptions of creatures from societies away from the Classical, European and North American traditions, with a comprehensive listing of creatures from the Oceanic world view as well as Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although mostly dealing with animals from mythology, some more classic ‘cryptids’ appear, such as the mkele-mbembe, the Amazonian water-tiger and of course the Loch Ness Monster. I rather like the notes about the Australian drop-bear and its aversion to Vegemite and although the griffin appears in the European chapter I am sorry that there is no mention of the creature’s most recent appearances in the ‘real world’.
I would have welcomed a little more information on sources – a brief bibliography is given, and some sources are mentioned in the individual descriptions – but to be fair this is really not that sort of book. It’s not a scholarly work, its intention is to interest and entertain, and it does that splendidly. Christmas is coming, someone will enjoy this book – John Rimmer