The Mousehunter by Alex Milway
|The Mousehunter by Alex Milway|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 420||Date: January 2008|
|Publisher: Faber and Faber|
I wasn't aware there were still sailing boats plying the seventeen seas. I didn't know there was a place called Old Town, charming except for being enclosed, and the smell of the corpses littering the docks and the gibbet, and I certainly didn't know anything of how a manic collector of mice could incite such a rollicking adventure as pirates face off at sea, giants and erratic submariners join the fray, and political shenanigans and curses engage all, with a young girl thrust into the centre of the action in a nice, tomboyish way.
We must then be in the world of fantasy, but an enjoyable and engaging fantasy, set in a complete world, as the quantity of pictures, diagrams and encyclopaedic mice references prove.
The collection of mice is certainly a noted one – featuring the ninja-style Sharpclaw, whose escape first thrusts our heroine Emiline into our attention, the Spiny Rock Mouse (not recommended for sitting upon), and the Nervous Night Mouse of Grin-Grin. Even flying messenger mice are in these pages.
If that wasn't enough of a unique setting for our lead protagonist, being the down at heal mousekeeper to the expert collector Lovelock, there is also the presence of the mice in the beard of – who else – Mousebeard the pirate? With a gruesome goad to Lovelock, he causes the collector to splash his cash and employ the privateer Drewshank to seek him out. And Emiline will not be the only stowaway passenger on his ship…
The adventures seem at first to be a rollicking ride, which is very well sustained, however I did find to some extent that everything and anything was thrown at the ship and the heroes just because the author felt he could. If I'm guilty of expecting a stricter sense of narrative realism in my juvenile fantasy it won't be for the first time, and I might be barking up the wrong tree, but it was there a little – however successfully everything, unlikely or not, comes back in the end to the mice.
Still, the story soon expands away from the shipload of characters to feature more, based on land and with a great twisty saga that expands way beyond this volume, into the second and possibly beyond to a third in the series. However mature and elderly the protagonists are, and whatever age the back story has to go back through to get to the crux of the story, the narrative never branches away from being perfectly accessible to an audience of 8-12 year olds.
The ship-based activities seem rather realistic, the rest of the scenes and scenarios are brilliantly set, and the characters are very well defined as well – never doing anything unlikely, or over-heroic. This is a very nicely written world, as I say, but most importantly, all the action and adventure is very entertaining, and really does form a great read..
The book is a marked success for the first-time author and illustrator, then, providing, to repeat, such a well-rounded world and fully fledged adventure. The square block shape is eye-catching, and the chunky 400+ pages should not put anyone off as the large print and sprightly reading style means they whiz by faster than you could say Blinking Mouse of Bobo, to quote.
The book loses just a little for the possibly too-oddball adventures, and for the clunk you feel when you realise there is more to come – and what can only seem like an over-long wait before the sequel is in our hands. Apart from that the book is very well worthy of a Bookbag recommendation, and we would like to thank Faber and Faber for sending a copy to us to review.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mousehunter by Alex Milway at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mousehunter by Alex Milway at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.