A while back there was some debate about Hobbitus Ille, to which I contributed. I have some more perspective about it now. I read Hobbitus around Christmastime; since then I have bought (in some cases merely dug out) and read (or in a few cases re-read), Winnie Ille Pu, Alicia in Terra Mirabilis (I have the original edition, not the new one that's been released recently), Regulus vel Pueri Soli Sapiunt, the Lingua Latina volumes Epitome sacrae historiae and Fabulae Syrae (when I bought and was working through the other LL volumes several years ago these had not yet been released), all the available Arcardius Avellanus translations (though I haven't gotten around to Pericla Navarchi Magonis yet), Harrius Potter (I finished et Philosophi Lapis and began but have not finished et Camera Secretorum). I also bought, but have not yet read, Nicholas Gross' translation of "Perfume", Fragrantia, together with his Glossarium Fragrantiae, which I have spent quite a bit of time with but haven't finished - more on that later - and just today Antonio Torres' translation Dominus Quixotus a Manica arrived, of which I haven't yet read much beyond his longish and wholly delightful introduction. Still on the docket is Tuomo Pekkanen's Kalevala Latina, which I've had for some time but have never gotten around to, although it looks great.
In any case, it's been a rewarding and sometimes challenging good time with a kind of text I hadn't spent much time on in the past. The vast majority of the Latin I've read has been mediaeval - especially though far from exclusively scholastic - with the classics as a fairly distant runner-up. Here are a few impressions:
Winnie Ille Pu is mostly good as a curiosity. The Latin is too advanced and idiomatic for beginners or intermediate learners, with a big vocabulary inadequately glossed and endnotes justifying its choices out of classical and postclassical authors. It's useless for students, because the content is too shallow to enjoy at the slow pace of someone struggling through it with difficulty. It's the kind of book that can only be fun if you can read it at a brisk and natural pace.
I found Alicia in Terra Mirabilis, by contrast, much easier and more enjoyable. The Latin is simpler, the content more interesting, and on the whole I found it very well done.
Regulus kind of irritated me. I'm not sure what it was, but while it never felt particularly hard I found myself still having to stop and puzzle about it fairly frequently. It didn't feel smooth and natural.
The Lingua Latina volumes were great, like everything in that peerless series. My only complaint is that I don't like the oversized format of the new volumes; it doesn't match the others and the paper and binding quality is not as high.
The Latin of Harrius Potter is not too hard, aside from some neologisms and workarounds for some sticky areas, but on the whole I found it flat, pedestrian, and uninspiring to read. Since this reflects the original quite well, it's not really a complaint about the translation.
The Arcadius Avellanus books were great. Mysterium Arcae Boule was particularly enjoyable, because unlike most of these books, I was totally unfamiliar with the story and had no original version to compare it to, mentally or otherwise. Avellanus is quite difficult for me to read compared to the rest of these. His Latin is definitely the best and feels most authentic and natural, but for that very reason it's the least suited for students. His vocabulary is huge and I learned a lot of new words, as well as coming across a few I couldn't find in any of my dictionaries. He has footnotes explaining some of his more obscure words, some short, some quite long and learned, and I found these very enjoyable, but scattered at random and not nearly numerous enough for my needs. Of all the above, Arcadius' translations are the ones I think I'm most likely to read again for sheer pleasure as well as profit.
I'm especially excited about Dominus Quixotus, which the translator says he has cast into the simplest Latin he can while remaining accurate and which looks fantastic. And I really can't rave enough about Nicholas Gross' work. As I said, I haven't started Fragrantia yet. The Glossarium Frangrantiae is a separate work. He explains that he began it simply as a glossary of the more obscure words needed to translate "Perfume", which is full of historical, chemical, botanical, and other curiosities; but this glossary blossomed into a kind of encyclopedic dictionary of rare and obscure Latin terms generally. Fragrantia itself is a small volume of only 335 pages; the Glossarium is a far more massive tome, over 500 pages. Many of its entries are only a line or two, but many of them are very long, going on for pages and pages of eclectic and amusing information. For instance, the entry on Austria gives a digest of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian history before digressing on the careers of Hitler and Arnold Schartzenegger; the entry on ducks has a ludicrous amount of information on everything from mating habits to culinary recipes; that on the Jesuits has a quite detailed history of the Society, and so on. It's a fantastic compilation of entertaining material as well as a dictionary, written entirely in Latin but also frequently giving German and occasionally English and French equivalents for its main entries. I can't recommend it enough.
As for Hobbitus Ille, I stand by what I said in my Amazon review and the earlier thread. Its Latin is not up to the level of any of the books I've mentioned here, and it contains more than its share of outright blunders and poor choices. But a) it's explicitly targeted at a level of proficiency below what is required to read any of these other books, and b) I don't think its Latin is as bad as others have made out. I disagree with claims that it is not Latin or will actively harm learners. It's essentially a close crib of the English rather than a idiomatic translation into good Latin, but unlike most cribs its purpose is to provide an easy entryway into the Latin rather than to make the English more intelligible. Still I think that purpose is legitimate and is accomplished here. No, it doesn't provide students with a model of pure Latinity to emulate. But it does give them an opportunity to improve their confidence in basic vocabulary and syntax with ease and pleasure in a large amount of continuous and entertaining text. I imagine that a student who had more or less mastered Familiar Romana, for instance, but had not gone on to Roma Aeterna, might be able to read Hobbitus Ille happily while all of these other books were still a painful slog. I myself enjoyed it despite my not infrequent irritation at its shortcomings.
I'll be interested to see what people think of these and similar works. I've been thinking of getting Tom Cotton's translations of classic English novels next; if anyone has read them I'd be glad of an opinion.