Kingdom's End by Charles D Blanchard

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Kingdom's End by Charles D Blanchard

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: An adventurous take on a political thriller, featuring Rats? Kingdoms's End builds an intriguing world that offers insights into the world of our furry friends and foes, plus parallels some fascinating situations in the world of us humans. Charles D Blanchard popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 338 Date: May 2016
Publisher: Lulu
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1483449364

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The rats made their massive colony inside the ruins of an abandoned motion picture palace, where for thirty long dark years, an aged blind leader ruled over them. A beloved figure held in high regard, he ruled with patience, understanding, justice and love. When a young upstart challenges all he has built, ruling with harsh punishments and rash decisions, the rats must decide how best to protect their colony in order to preserve all that they have built together. As the rats clash amongst themselves, some fail to notice the ever growing threats and dangers that the outside world provides - who will come out on top in this very literal rat race?

Rats. Many hate and loathe them, seeing them as filthy creatures who spread disease. Some keep them as pets, praising them for their social behaviour and high levels of intelligence. Some, in various cultures, eat them – Rat Pie was a delicacy for the rich in Victorian Britain. And people say that you're never more than six feet away one if you're in Britain – but a more accurate guess is something like 50 metres. So, these are creatures that all of us (save any of you reading this from Antarctica), coexist with on a daily basis, and yet don't give much thought to – rats only cross my mind when I'm throwing rubbish into my building's rather dingy bin store, or absently peering onto the tracks as I wait for an Underground train to take me home. However, there has been a long history of anthropomorphising small furry creatures – most famously in the late Richard Adam's brutal and beautiful Watership Down, but also in the heroic fantasy of Brian Jacques Redwall series. Charles D. Blanchard here turns the focus solely on rats – with fascinating results.

The world created, mostly within the confines of the once majestic and now crumbling movie theatre that the rats call their home, is one which Blanchard has invested a huge amount of time and energy into creating, drawing political divisions, intrigue, backstabbing and tension, which make this book a far more exciting and intelligent one than the reader may first imagine – with really intriguing parallels to both historical and current political situations, making this book a rather fun hat tip to Animal Farm. The struggle of the rats is interspersed with glimpses at the personal interactions of the rats, and that's where this book was particularly outstanding to me – complex and emotional characters, the rats certainly work as characters who are easy to root for. However, Blanchard balances this with regular reminders that these are wild animals – and whilst the rats are humanised to a certain extent, the grime and grit of their surroundings is vivid and pungent, and proved incredibly evocative for me – Blanchard really succeeds in drawing the reader into this world he's created.

The rats come and go – some stick with the reader throughout the book, and some fall by the wayside as the book continues. Part of me feels that it would have been nice to have some of the looser ends tied off, but on the other hand, it seems like a far more accurate reflection of life to leave some characters' journeys unfinished, and some mysteries unexplained – and perhaps left should Blanchard ever choose to revisit this world in future stories. An original tale told in an extremely engaging and unique fashion, Kingdom's End is a fantastic read that stands well with its counterparts in the rather small furry fiction section, and combines politics with a strong plot, compelling characters and excellent world-building.

Does it mean I'll look at a rat a little more kindly the next time I spy one? I remain undecided…

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading, I'd recommend Promise of the Wolves (Wolf Chronicles 1) by Dorothy Hearst – which tackles family, loyalty and trust by exploring the interactions between wolves and humans. You could shelves Kingdom's End next to The Twyning by Terence Blacker.

You can read more about Charles D Blanchard here

Bookinterviews.jpg Charles D Blanchard was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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