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Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon by Daniel Falconer {4 Stars}

Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon by Daniel Falconer is something a little different for this blog, but obviously still a great fit because dragons! Unleashing the Dragon details the creation process for making Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy and also gives a lot of insights into how Peter Jackson came up with the epic battle between Smaug and the dwarves. Every single page has gorgeously printed images that range from initial sketches to scenes from the movie. Something that I thought was especially fun to see were all of the early ideas for Smaug, which range from Komodo dragon to extremely serpentine. If I wasn’t already in grad school, I think I would be tempted to go into this sort of design work after learning all about the process!

Note: I received Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon by Daniel Falconer {4 Stars}

Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon by Daniel Falconer (The Hobbit Chronicles #3.5)
Published by HarperCollins on April 3rd, 2014
Genres: Non-fiction
Page Length: 104 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Come face to face with Smaug the Magnificent, the most realistic, breathtaking and destructive dragon ever to appear on screen, in this gallery of exclusive images that tell the story of how he was created.

Smaug is possibly the most memorable character in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit: a huge, malevolent, fire-breathing, talking dragon! But while he makes quite an impact in the book, in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation he is definitely the most spectacular creature ever to appear on screen.

So how did the filmmakers manage to take the dragon that has lived in millions of readers’ imaginations and turn him into a totally unique and unforgettable living, breathing character?

The answer can be found in Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon. Packed with stunning, exclusive new images, it reveals how he grew out of thousands of detailed and fantastical concept designs into the beast that is unleashed in awesome digital glory.

4 Stars


  • The first thing you’ll notice about Unleashing the Dragon is that it is sooooo pretty! There are illustrations from several different artists along with models and full movie scenes to give you a visual for everything mentioned in the text.
  • The text for Unleashing the Dragon is interesting since there isn’t as much of the typical non-fiction feel and instead all of the text is from the various designers and people involved with the creation of Smaug. Instead of just a few quotes here and there, you get all the information straight from the source, including Benedict Cumberbatch!
  • Unleashing the Dragon takes you through the entire process of creating Smaug, starting from the very first exploratory sketches, all the way through making the gold for his horde, and his final dramatic scene outside of the mountain.
  • It turns out that most of the action scenes with Smaug weren’t written or planned out ahead of time and instead decided upon through experimentation as Smaug was being created. This means that Unleashing the Dragon gives some really fun insights into Peter Jackson’s creative process for The Hobbit trilogy, which was a fun bonus.
  • I feel like I learned so much about special effects and graphic design for movies! In addition to the passages from designers, there are a couple of info boxes that tell you about what each of the different departments actually focus on. Unleashing the Dragon gives you a lot of insider information about what people in the industry actually call all the various jobs and tools that they use, so you can sound cool at your next cocktail party ;-).


  •  A couple of the designers that wrote passages for Unleashing the Dragon got a bit over-jargony in their explanations. I could figure out mostly what they were trying to say, but here and there were words that I had no context for and context wasn’t provided in the info boxes.
  • A lot of the scenes that Smaug is in are dark between the inside of the mountain and it being night outside for most scenes. This means that some of the images from the film (or even some sketches) got too dark to be able to easily make out on paper.
  • If you haven’t seen the move The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, you might not get references to various scenes since they are definitely talked about in a way that assumes you’re familiar with the movie.


Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon is a fun companion book for the movie trilogy and a great choice for any dragon lover! It is full of beautiful images, so would make a great geeky coffee table book, but it is also quite interesting to simply read straight through. If you’ve ever been curious about how the special effects for movies are created nowadays, you should definitely pick up Unleashing the Dragon.

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon by Daniel Falconer

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. Sounds like fun! I think I’ll see if my library has it.
    Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard recently posted…Sunday Post – 5/18/14My Profile

    • Definitely a lot of fun! Huh, I feel like I never see these kinds of books at my library, though I don’t really know why that would be!

  2. Benedict Cumberbatch!!! Eeep, if the glorious images of Smaug weren’t enough to lure me in, his name certainly did ;-D I’m really jazzed you reviewed this one Anya, I have a feeling I’ll be picking myself up a copy soon! I was literally just thinking it would make an excellent geeky coffee table book and then you said that right at the end there! Awesome.
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: Third Grave Dead AheadMy Profile

    • Right?? It’s so awesome!! It was really interesting learning about his acting approach as well.

  3. I love books like these, they are so interesting because behind the scenes stuff is something you don’t hear much about at all. I’ve only seen the first movie but I’ll have to see the second one soon!
    Alise recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday [37]My Profile

  4. lekeisha thomas says:

    I just watched it again for the millionth time. Love The Hobbit movies!

  5. My daughter is obsessed with the new movies, I’ll have to look into this book for her :)
    Finley Jayne recently posted…Bout of Books Challenge #1 Books I’m Looking Forward to ReadingMy Profile

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