Nightworld; The Aphorisms of Kherishdar; the Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series; DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall; A Taste for Rabbit; The Heir of Mistmantle; Whortle’s Hope; and Time to Smell the Roses

reviewed by Fred Patten
©2008 Fred Patten

Home -=- #18 -=- Reviews
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Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

Title: Nightworld
Author: Brian Carter
Publisher: Century (London), Jul 1987
ISBN: 0-7126-1660-8
Hardcover, [vii] + 354 pages, £11.95

   This could be called a historical novel since it is set in 1948. England is just emerging from the trauma of World War II. The rural social customs described have endured for hundreds of years, and are just starting to disappear under the influence of ‘modernization’. Yet, as Carter explains in his Author’s Foreword to this “saga of the sea cliff badgers”, The illegal and excessively cruel ‘sport’ of badger baiting is still with us despite the efforts of the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups. Badgers are dug out and either killed on the spot or taken elsewhere to be savaged to death by dogs. (pg. [vii])

   Clenching on fur and flesh the heavy iron tongs dragged the badger sow from her underground chamber. The metal jaws were clamped to the side of her neck and as the man at the end of the long handles lifted her body weight, muscle and hide were pierced and torn. In a contortion of panic she twisted and savaged the tongs but already they were hoisting her clear of the sett. Then the clamp opened and she rolled free onto hard mud. The spasm of pain corkscrewed and she tried to turn her head and lick it but the dogs had begun to go about their business. Five terriers swarmed over her, slashing at her hindquarters with their teeth. A bolder one attacked her face and bit her snout. The sow sneezed blood. (pg. 1)

   To the villagers around Froward Point on the South Devon coast, badger baiting is a manly sport that is as traditional and natural as life itself:

   “Bloody rain,” the man said softly, leaning against one of the legs of King Arthur’s Tower. “We don’t like rain, do we, you little rascals?” he added, addressing his dogs.
   Then he cupped his hands and lit a cigarette and loosed smoke from his nostrils. The Jack Russells gazed up at him in adoration while the daws in the top of the roofless tower shifted on their ledges. Tugging the collar of his raincoat up round his ears the man wondered if the badgers would be leaving their setts to grub for food. The old brocks didn’t like the wet any more than he did. Maybe it was time to shake up a few over Runnage and December Point. There was the Boxing Day baiting to consider. Three animals were the traditional requirement of the Mary’s Haven Badger Club. That loud-mouth Stoneman from Lansworthy was supposed to have a pair of really gutsy dogs, long-haired tan-and-whites like his Gritt and Jimmy. He licked his lips. They’d need animals in prime condition to test the terriers, and good weather if the business was to be a success.
   “Bloody rain,” he murmured.
(pg. 31)

   The badgers have fatalistically accepted being preyed upon by Man as part of their Earth Mother religion. They have learned to keep a low profile, only coming aboveground after dark—into the Nightworld—to forage for food. But the men now dig them out of their setts during daytime. All the setts in a seven-mile radius have been opened at least once, except for the Big Sett which has been protected under dense thorny cliffside bracken:

   Dug at two levels Big Sett was vast and ancient. Sixteen holes provided access to an underground labyrinth of tunnels and galleries which linked family chambers, rest chambers, and the sleeping quarters of the boars and sows. Two families were in almost permanent residence although neighbours and relatives occasionally visited and the vixen, Cowtail, had moved in as a lodger the previous winter. (pg. 3)

   The main animal character in Nightworld is Aspen, a young badger, daughter of Hawscrag and protective older sister of timid Birdcherry:

   The mouldy reek of the sea enveloped all the other scents of Nightworld. Briefly Aspen put her nose to the honey tuft fungus on the tree stump. Minute beads of moisture clung to her whiskers and body hair. She came out of the trees and turned to Birdcherry.
“How do you feel now?”
“N-nervous,” Birdcherry replied with a little laugh.
“Come dawn we’ll use the sett above the beach near the old quarry,” Aspen said. “There are blackberries in the hedge by the stream in the bottom of the coombe.”
“You know I l-love blackberries,” Birdcherry said.
(pg. 15)

   The Big Sett is home to about a dozen other badgers. Cowtail the vixen is tolerated in it, and Fingo, a feral cat who scrounges in the neighbourhood, sometimes visits. “The Fellowship of the Nightworld,” Fingo calls it, and the different animals coexist well enough:

   There was a brief touching of noses before Fingo and Aspen walked together. Coming up the zigzags onto Froword they met Cowtail.
“’Ere—what’s wrong?” said the fox.
“Nothing’s wrong,” Aspen smiled.
“That stranger don’t like me,” Cowtail went on, sniffing first the badger then the cat. “He growled at me when we met underground.”
“Perhaps he’s not used to you.”
“Maybe, maybe. The big boar badger’s got nasty teeth and a nasty glint in his eye. He could do this vixen a mischief.”
“You’d better stick to the round houses in the pines,” said Fingo.
“They’re not safe for cubs,” Cowtail said. “And I’ll have my cubs underground.”
“Then you’d better be polite to Greybob,” said Aspen.
“Yes—polite to Greybob and Ashblacken and old sore-arse Cragbriar and Hawscrag. Life in Big Sett can be very boring.”
“But safe for foxes,” Aspen said.
(pgs. 68-69)

   Nightworld is two parallel adventures. Aspen is the central character of the animals’ story. There are many scenes of animals’ conversations, and of badger social life in the Big Sett. There are changing badger romances. A stranger, a giant pale-furred boar, moves into the area; the sows wonder whether to invite him into Big Sett while Greybob worries about being challenged as sett-master. Aspen is as much a priestess as the animals have, and there are many professions of their beliefs:

   All badgers knew Earth Mother was waiting behind the final breath to guide them into an eternity of summer nights free of danger. (pg. 4)

   The humans’ story centers around David Garrison, a fifty-year-old ex-Army war artist whose wife is in a Swiss tuberculosis sanatorium. Garrison has just bought an isolated cliffside home, Coastguard Cottage, for its cheapness and picturesqueness, and as a base to begin a series of drawings to make a visual catalogue of the entire coast from St. Mary’s Head to the Marl estuary. (pg. 21) Garrison’s landscape and wildlife art is highly regarded, and he needs to sell as much as he can for his wife’s medical expenses. He is charmed by the nighttime foraging of the badgers from under their briar patch (which makes great nature art), and is horrified by the local sport of killing them as bloodily as possible just for exciting entertainment. His protests are put off with varying degrees of rudeness as the meddling of a do-gooder ‘foreigner’.
   Garrison becomes the rallying point of those who want to protect the badgers; mostly upper-class landowners and two ten-year-old children, Billy Drew and Sheena Nelson, who are considered budding juvenile delinquents and ignored by most adults. The men of South Devon led by Frank ‘Strawberry’ Rawson, the chairman of the Mary’s Haven Badger Club, treat the complaints—including the refusal to allow trapping of badgers on their property—as the moralising of ‘bloody toffs’ which they have the ancient right of commoners against the gentry to ignore as much as possible. Badger baiting is not illegal in 1948, and the laws against trespass are minor misdemeanours. Garrison’s determination to protect the badgers turns into a battle of wills and cunning between him and Strawberry Rawson, who plans to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mary’s Haven Badger Club by finally digging out the Big Sett.
   Nightworld is full of lyrical descriptions of the beauty of South Devon’s landscape and wildlife, from both the humans’ and the badgers’ viewpoints. If the novel is Carter’s polemic against the continuation of rural badger baiting into 1987, he does not let it get into the way of an excellent story.

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

Title: The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
Author: M. C. A. Hogarth
Illustrator: The author
Publisher: CreateSpace (Scotts Valley, CA), Mar 2008
ISBN: 1434891127
Trade paperback, [3 +] 57 pages, USD $20.00

   Kerishdar is the empire of the Ai-Naidar people; tall and slender tailed felinoid aliens of a society that spans five worlds and several thousand years, with laws and customs that have served us for as long as we have walked these earths. (pg. [1]) These twenty-five short aphorisms or ‘incense stories’, penned by an almost-nameless Calligrapher, are designed to illuminate these customs and unwritten traditions; an attempt to explain what it is to have an Ai-Naidari soul.
   This slim and lovely ‘chapbook’, barely two pages per aphorism, emits the essence of an ageless, peaceful culture that seems similar to the legendary Baghdad of Haroun al-Raschid of our Earth. I entered the round building through the great arch and into cool brown shadows and intimate spaces scented with paper and leather and ink, an incense headier than a temple's. Near the threshold I was greeted by a slim Ai-Naidari whose robes served to anchor him; he was old enough to seem ethereal, the thin velvet of his pelt worn almost to translucence, (pg. 1), begins the first aphorism, Ishan, defined as appreciation of fullness of a thing's span, from its inception to its ending; implies that it is worthy at every moment of its existence, and acknowledges that it is different in the beginning from how it is at its peak and how it is at its end, and that this too is part of its worth. The Calligrapher spends half a day in the Library, in the scrolls and pages and parchments and maps, for to be a calligrapher is not solely to paint words beautifully, but also to choose beautiful words. I brought a stack to the garden in the center of the library, to the sunlight and the delicate flower buds and the benches and tables there. I read as the light blanched, until the shadows of the graceful arcs of the trees crossed my spine… and still, I wrote nothing in my notebook, no basis for a new aphorism, no new thought on what it was to be who we are. (pgs. 1-2) Then, at the Librarian’s advice, he spends the rest of the afternoon at the temple of the Maiden helping out at a joyous youth ceremony. The combination gives him his inspiration, for Wisdom begins in full living.
   The twenty-four other aphorisms are of a piece. The quality that makes one a superb leader, a contrasting note without which one would lose the appreciation of that which one is experiencing, […] the vast body of knowledge that exists outside yourself […] which can only be accessed through other people, […] anything or anyone alien, from people and worlds to emotions and thoughts, and similar attributes of the Ai-Naidari culture and thought are expressed in this graceful volume, which might be described as a collection of poetry although it is in prose form. From Masks to Souls to Family to Love to Ascension, in five hundred words or less per aphorism, the Ai-Naidari philosophy of life is illuminated for the benefit of we aunera—aliens.
   A traditional chapbook would be a cheaply printed small volume meant to be used carelessly and then discarded. There is nothing cheap about this elegant trade paperback, printed on high-quality paper and embellished with graceful calligraphy on nearly every page, plus five full-page full-color illustrations. The Ai-Naidari are very humanoid aliens, and while they may not be especially anthropomorphic as we appreciate the term, their lives are so colorful and exotic by our standards that none of us should consider the reading of these incense stories, so-called since, as a small stick of incense can perfume an entire house, these stories are short but linger, as a frivolous extravagance.
   Maggie Hogarth originally posted these aphorisms on her Stardancer website during 2007. Almost five dozen Patrons donated the costs of having this booklet professionally published. Many thanks to all concerned.

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

the Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series
by Gilbert Morris


Title: Book 1: What the Cat Dragged In
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (Eugene, OR), Mar 2007
ISBN: 0-7369-1964-3
Paperback, 250 pages, USD $10.99


Title: Book 2: The Cat’s Pajamas
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (Eugene, OR), Mar 2007
ISBN: 0-7369-1965-1
Paperback, 251 pages, USD $10.99


Title: Book 3: When the Cat’s Away
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (Eugene, OR), Jul 2007
ISBN: 0-7369-1967-8
Paperback, 245 pages, USD $10.99

   Introducing … Jacques the Ripper: A tough-minded feline—fierce, enormous, with a very inquisitive mind.
   And …
   Cleo: A multicolored cuddler with long, silky hair. Cleo is as affectionate as Jacques is tough, and her favorite mode of transportation is draped over the shoulder of the nearest human.

   For several years I have been saying that the only genuine ‘cat detective’ mystery novels are the Joe Grey series by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. Joe Grey and his feline companions actively investigate crimes and secretly provide evidence to the police. In the other annual ‘cat detective’ series such as Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy novels and Carole Nelson Douglas’ Midnight Louie books, the cats may talk to each other and other animals, and prowl around the scene of the crimes, but the murders are actually solved by the human amateur detectives.
   Now a new ‘cat detective’ series has debuted: the Jacques and Cleo, Cat Detectives murder mysteries by Gilbert Morris. How do these compare with the others?
   As cat detectives, horribly! The three novels to date are adequate as low-key murder mysteries with a strongly Christian theme (Harvest House Publishers specializes in wholesome Christian fiction), but the cats have even less to do with them than in the other series out so far.
   Mary Katherine (Kate) Forrest is a 29-year-old religious widow with a 12-year-old son, Jeremy, and the two titular cats. She works as a Wal-Mart cashier in Memphis. Jake Novak is also 29, an ex-soldier and Chicago policeman who is trying to write the Great American Novel. The two, who are very distantly related, both inherit a large house with a fortune on the beach in White Sands, Alabama, provided they live in it and care for the previous owner’s bizarre mixture of pets; a raccoon, a ferret, a lop-eared rabbit, a parrot, a python, a pit bull, and others.
   Despite this promising setup, the novel focuses upon the humans 90% of the time. The animals besides the cats are completely ordinary. Jacques, a rare Savannah cat who looks like a miniature black panther with a surly disposition, and Cleopatra, a ‘Ragdoll’ who likes to drape herself over people, talk only to each other in italics when they talk at all, which is about once every thirty or forty pages in dialogue that is both cute and clueless:

   It’s bad news, Cleo. I don’t like changes, and it’s pretty clear that our People are going to move us to a new place.
   Cleo was washing her chest assiduously with strokes of her red tongue, but she paused and watched the Woman and the Boy stuff some items into a box.
   It’ll be a nice place, Jacques. Probably someplace with green grass and lots of birds to catch.
   Jacques glared at Cleo, his amber eyes glowing like live coals. It’s just as likely to be someplace with big dogs and fleas. I like it here, but does she ask us what we’d like? Jacques switched his tail angrily. I’m going to be in a bad mood, Cleo. (WCDI, pg. 40)

   When one of Jeremy’s new middle school classmates is murdered and Jeremy is suspected, Kate is naturally worried. While she prays to God, the two cats try to cheer her up in their own ways:

    You’re terrible. As long as you get food enough to fill your stomach, you don’t care about anything else. Our Person takes good care of us. You ought to be more concerned.
   What can I do? Jacques lifted his head and glared at Cleo.
   You can show a little affection to her.
   The muscles on Jacques back rippled and he licked one paw as he studied her.
   You go show her some affection. I’ll do something useful to make her feel better.
   Like what? Cleo was afraid she knew.
   I’ll go find her a present. I bet if I can catch a baby rabbit or a bird and give it to her, it’ll cheer her up. (pg. 145)

   Jacques does no real ‘investigating’. He just prowls in a normal tomcat manner, and something he finds—which any natural cat might be attracted to—is the evidence to prove whom the real killer is.
   The Cat’s Pajamas involves murders at a movie being filmed on location in White Sands—Jacques and Cleo are written into it—and When the Cat’s Away has murder at an International Cat Show in the beach resort community where Cleo is catnapped. All three books feature Kate and Jake as the main characters and amateur detectives. (Jake gets a PI license in The Cat’s Pajamas.) The cats appear more often in the sequels, but still show no real awareness of the mystery to be solved, just in making Nice to “the humans they own” when they are emotionally stressed.
   The fact that all three novels were published almost simultaneously suggests that they were written at the same time and published closely together to imply being a successful series. As murder mysteries, they are all right. But as ‘cat detective’ novels—save your money and your reading time.

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

Title: Flight to Starfall (DreamKeepers vol. 2)
Creators: David Lillie and Liz Thomas
Publisher: Vivid Independent Publishing (Columbus, OH), Apr 2008
ISBN: 0-9786990-1-7
Trade paperback, 102 pages, USD $19.95

   DreamKeepers Volume 2 is such a close continuation of the story in Volume 1, Awakenings (reviewed in Anthro #13) that it hardly seems to need a separate review. The chase is off and running! The four demonic-pursued animal youngsters, Mace and Whip from the Orphanage and Lilith and Namah from the aristocracy’s elite Sabbaton Towers (Mace and Lilith looking like a puppy and kitten; Whip and Namah looking like original fantasy creatures), are just about to be told what is going on by their adult rescuers Igrath (blind hawk), Scinter (snake), and Grunn (shark), when they are attacked by a demonic assassin. The youngsters are immediately teleported for their own safely to an abandoned fortress atop Eduro Peak in the distant Starfall Mountains. But the demonic villains are right on their trail, which leads to more hair’s-breadth pursuits and escapes through the frozen mountains.

   That’s in Chapter 4, Forgotten Fortress, which leads off Volume 2. Chapter 5, Pawns Dispatch, is divided between the metropolis of Anduruna where the adult Good Guys are hiding out amidst the crowded Harvest Festival from Anduruna’s Shock Troopers (who are unknowingly taking orders from the Dark DreamKeepers to kill Our Heroes), and the youngsters’ running escape through the Starfall Mountains from demonic minion Wisp and her monster that is mostly a giant tongue with eyes. Chapter 6, Restoration Unveiled, is more of the same with the action intensified.
   Those who enjoyed Volume 1 will not be disappointed with Volume 2 unless it is in the lack of more background information. The action is so intense that you almost overlook the fact that it is all action. The few new details, such as the introduction of Anduruna’s army, the Shock Troopers, are nice visual dressing but do not explain any more than we learned in Volume 1. The evil Advisor Tinsel Nanaja is still out to doublecross everyone. Nabonidus, one of the demons, is seen more fully, but aside from being a personification of evil he is still an enigma. Wisp, his childlike agent, is more fully realized (“Wisp redeemed? Thank you! Thank you!—Can I have a monster?”) but she does little besides follow his orders to hunt down the youngsters. What Volume 2 offers is lots of thrilling chases in the icy mountains, with the bonding of the two twosomes of Mace & Whip and Lilith & Namah into a smoothly-working team of four; and the crowd scenes of Anduruna during its Mardi Gras-like Harvest Festival with their no-two-alike anthropomorphized citizens (except for the twin Indigo Spanish-speaking fox girls).
   David Lillie and Liz Thomas, who got married while finishing this volume, have another winner here. Volume 2 does not really stand on its own, but anyone interested in reading it is going to start with Volume 1 anyway, available from the same publisher. The art fills each page (there are no margins), the colors are lush, the paper is glossy, the album format is perfect for bookshelves. Lillie and Thomas have added new dimensions to their layering of art upon art such as depth of sparkle on surfaces and water effects to take full advantage of the slick paper. The album has a richness that is seldom seen in graphic novels, especially those from small self-publishers. Get Volume 1 if you have not already. If you have, you have probably already ordered Volume 2. Meanwhile, follow Prelude, the weekly adventures of the youngsters before this adventure started, on the DreamKeepers website.

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

Title: A Taste For Rabbit
Author: Linda Zuckerman
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc. (NYC), Oct 2007
ISBN: 0-439-86977-3
Hardcover, 310 [+2] pages, USD $16.99


   Some time ago, all the rabbits disappeared from Wildwood Forest. The predators were not concerned at the time because the forest was full of mice, voles, squirrels, and other unintelligent prey. But as A Taste for Rabbit begins, a devastating winter has gone on for months and the normal game of the forest has run out.

   Harry the Fox, standing at the end of the line that coiled like a snake through the snowy streets, peered up at the sky—gray, leaden, low to the horizon. It had been snowing for weeks, with no end in sight. He pulled up the collar on his jacket and dug his bare paws into his pocket, feeling once again his last few icy coins. This will be pointless, he thought. By the time I reach the market, there will be nothing left.
   As the line shuffled slowly forward, the volunteer members of the Foxboro Cleanstreets Department, bundled in their brown uniforms, approached and began to work; but after a short time, the snow, falling with a silent ferocity, buried the newly cleared paths under a blanket of white. Harry watched as the volunteers shrugged and gave up in disgust, dropping their brooms and shovels, which quickly began to melt into the white streets and soon vanished.
   The snow kept coming.
(pg. 1)

   Harry is a loner who wants nothing to do with his brother Isaac, the corrupt Managing Director of Foxboro. But Isaac comes to ask him to investigate an old rumor about the rabbits having migrated into a distant ancient fortress when they disappeared. Nobody cared at the time, but if the fable is true, the rabbits could keep the foxes from starvation. Isaac has already sent out scouts—who have disappeared.

   “There is something strange going on at the fortress, the one that protects that rabbit warren,” Isaac continued, ignoring Harry’s comment. “You’ve heard the rumors, haven’t you? Well, I’ve sent several scouts to the area. They … have not returned. There could be a food supply behind those walls that would get us through the rest of the winter. Hundreds, maybe thousands of rabbits …” He stopped.
   Harry waited for Isaac to spit it out.
(pgs. 8-9)

   Harry agrees to investigate the rumor and to find out what happened to the missing scouts; partly for the large payment offered, partly for the chance to become a hero in Foxboro, but mostly for the satisfaction of having Isaac indebted to him.
   The next chapter introduces Quentin the Rabbit and the rabbit city inside the huge old fortress of Stonehaven. It used to be a pleasant community until rabbits began mysteriously disappearing. The city’s leaders have passed more and more laws to prevent the disappearances. Quentin and his friends Zack and Frank have noticed that Stonehaven is turning into a militaristic dictatorship with curfews and identity cards, and an increasing number of abusive uniformed guards. Is it a coincidence that the disappearances, which have not stopped, are now most often of critics of the new regime?
   The chapters alternate back and forth between Harry’s and Quentin’s stories, each adding to the picture of the overall animal civilization of Wildwood Forest. Foxes, badgers, weasels, ermine, raccoons, and similar small predators (and omnivores) are assumed to be the only creatures to have intelligence and civilization. Voles, mice, squirrels, and similar small herbivores including the vanished rabbits, are no more than unintelligent food. Meanwhile, the ‘Newrabbits’ inside Stonehaven believe themselves to be the only civilized animals in the world. Intelligence developed as a mutation among the feral rabbits, and those who became smart migrated to the distant fortress to develop their hidden community, leaving the remaining dumb rabbits in the forest to be hunted to extinction. The increasingly unpleasant dictatorship in Stonehaven has driven some dissidents to escape the fortress, leaving rabbits like Quentin and his friends to wonder if the rebels can really survive in the forest or if they have been eaten by the legendary huge predators there.
   Quentin’s chapters tell what happens among the rabbit community. Harry’s chapters are centered outside the fox community, around the deep-forest hostel called Inn the Forest which he makes his headquarters in his search for the rabbits’ fortress:

   There were approximately a dozen tables scattered about the room in a roughly defined semicircle around a crackling hearth. [Harry] noted a quiet family of ermine, a few fierce-looking older rats eating alone, and a youngish bespectacled badger in tweeds, but the rest of the guests were raccoons, in twos and threes, of varying ages and gender combinations. When the wine came, he sniffed it cautiously and took a sip. (pg. 78)

   Two of the Inn’s guests, the flamboyant actor Gerard the Weasel and the taciturn salesman Elton the Badger, insist on joining Harry as traveling companions when he leaves. Harry, already suspicious that his mission is a setup to make him the fall guy for Foxboro’s starvation, tries to discover whether one or both of his companions are spies of Isaac’s; while Quentin, Zack, and Frank are brutalized by Stonehaven’s sadistic guards and wonder if they can escape to the rebels.
   Of course Harry and Quentin eventually meet. Once past the shock of meeting an intelligent rabbit, Harry must struggle with the moral dilemma of whether it is ethical to eat intelligent beings to save his own community from starvation. Meanwhile, both Harry and Quentin face betrayal from their own species. To quote the blurb: Harry and Quentin both know that something has gone horribly wrong in the forest. With their lives at stake, can they trust each other? Are you safer with the enemy you've just met or the brother you've hated your whole life?
   The publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books, is an imprint of Scholastic Inc. While there is no age advisory, A Taste for Rabbit reads like a Young Adult novel with the emphasis on ‘Young’. The rabbits’ ‘hidden’ fortress is unconvincingly close to the other animals’ towns. The big ethical question of whether eating intelligent ‘people’ can ever be justified is kept at such an intellectual level that it feels more like a classroom debate topic than a personal life-or-death issue. Communities of foxes where everyone is named ‘xxx the Fox’, or of rabbits where everyone is named ‘xxx the Rabbit’, seem overly simplistic. Purists may object to the description of weasels and ermine as separate animals. The characters do feel like anthropomorphized adults, though; they smoke cigarettes and get drunk.
   The novel is brought to a satisfactory conclusion, but the main characters are left preparing for new adventures, so there will probably be a sequel.

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

The Heir of Mistmantle
Book Three of the Mistmantle Chronicles
by M. I. McAllister

Cover of Item 1
Cover of Bloomsbury (UK) edition
UK edition
Illustrator: Gary Blythe
Publisher: Bloomsbury (London), Mar 2007
ISBN: 0-7475-7515-0
Trade paperback, 373 + [3] pages, UK £6.99

Cover of HEIR OF MISTMANTLE (US edition)
Cover of Miramax/Hyperion (US) edition

US edition
Illustrator: Omar Rayyan
Publisher: Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children (New York), Oct 2007
ISBN: 0-7868-5490-1
Hardcover, 316 pages, USD $17.99

   In Urchin of the Riding Stars (2005) and Urchin and the Heartstone (2006), reviewed in Anthro #9, readers were introduced to Mistmantle Isle and the mysterious young pale-furred squirrel who twice saved its animals from oppressive tyranny. Urchin does not get title billing in this third adventure, but that is fair enough. Urchin still has a prominent role, but no more so than several other animal characters. It might be said that Mistmantle Isle itself—or its citizens, comprised equally of red squirrels, hedgehogs, moles, and otters—is (are?) the hero of this third adventure.
   The Heir of Mistmantle is complete in itself, but familiarity with the previous books, especially Urchin of the Riding Stars, will definitely help. In that adventure, the evil Captain Husk who had murdered his way onto the throne of Mistmantle was overthrown, and Captain Crispin (squirrel), Urchin’s patron, was chosen as the new king. In the second novel, the squirrel Cedar who had helped Urchin escape treachery on neighboring Whitewings island comes back with him to Mistmantle. She and Crispin fall in love, and she becomes Mistmantle’s new queen.
   The Heir of Mistmantle opens with the birth of the royal couple’s first child, Catkin. The whole isle rejoices, but just as the animals gather for the infant squirrel’s formal Naming Day ceremonies, multiple disasters strike. The babe-in-arms and the old nursemaid who was caring for her both disappear. Just as the search for them begins, animals start to collapse from a plague. The isle has been suffering from a long-lasting heat wave that would have sapped strength and shortened tempers at the best of times, and it is followed by a complete change in the weather that produces torrential rains. Many moles who live in burrows are flooded out. The first novel established that the whole island is riddled with tunnels and secret passages, and all surface buildings are threatened as the waterlogged ground becomes soft and underground passages collapse. Animals looking throughout Mistmantle for Catkin and her nurse Linty must be pulled from the search to form rescue brigades to shore up buildings or pull moles from their burrows before they are buried by cave-ins.
   As the misery continues, some animals start feeling that it can’t all be natural. They begin looking for scapegoats. Crispin may have been a good Captain but the duties of kingship seem too much for him. The Queen is a foreigner; what if she brought the plague with her? What if Linty was really an agent of the evil Husk? Nobody actually saw him die; he just disappeared; so maybe he has been in hiding and has been preparing new plots against the animals. Efficient monarchs would not have let their baby be kidnapped.
   The story switches back and forth between different groups, notably the distraught but resolute king and queen, several groups of young searchers including Urchin and his best friends, the hedgehog maid Needle and the squirrel novitiate priest Juniper, and the leading gossips and troublemakers. A year or more have passed, and Urchin and Needle are now adolescents and about to be admitted into Mistmantle’s court if not for the disasters that postpone all ceremonies. Juniper is ready to become a full priest, but kindly Brother Fir has become so feeble he may not be able to conduct the ordination, especially since Juniper has serious self-doubts about his worthiness due to his unknown parentage. Supporting characters from the first and second novels like Urchin’s foster mother Apple and bluff old Captain Lugg (mole) are present, and new characters like the irrepressibly enthusiastic, boat-building Fingal (otter) are introduced.
   As the disasters run their course, several characters learn or have important truths about themselves revealed. Juniper discovers his hidden past. The mystery of Husk’s disappearance is resolved. King Crispin may have been chosen for his bravery and honor, but he emerges as a skilled orator as well. Here he has to address a crowd that has been stirred up against him, and he soon wins them over:

   He paused while a few murmurs of thanks and approval ran through the crowd, listening hard for any resentful mutterings and the pockets of silence.
   “I know it’s been hard,” he went on. “If you have complaints, if you are discontented, if you feel our problems could be dealt with better than they are now, animals of Mistmantle, tell me. Tell me now! I am your king, and I am here to care for you. Tell me your needs. Help me to help you!”
   There was silence. A few animals shuffled their paws.
   “Then everything’s perfect?” he said. There was a little uneasy laughter.
   “Last night,” he went on, “I was forced to cancel a meeting with a delegation of animals who had problems to discuss with me. Good creatures, will you talk to me now?”

   “Then is all well?” demanded Crispin. “Disease has carried off our dear ones, my daughter is still missing, burrows are flooded. Is all well?”
   Animals looked at each other. A bright-eyed young squirrel, one of the choir, piped up, “No, sir, but it’s not your fault!”, and there was more nervous laughter.
(U.K. ed., pgs. 258-259; U.S. ed., pgs. 217-218)

   Unlike many series novels which all seem to be rewrites of the first in the series, The Heir of Mistmantle has refreshing differences from its predecessors. The disparity between the animals seeming humanized on two legs at some times and animallike on all fours at others is more present than ever, but it seems more deliberate and natural now rather than a careless error:

   “You won’t have to be all dignified all of a sudden, [Captain Arran tells Urchin]. Even the king still runs up the tower walls if he feels like it.” (U.K. ed., pg. 29; U.S. ed., pg. 19)

   If you have enjoyed the first two Mistmantle Chronicles, you will like The Heir of Mistmantle even more. There is plenty of drama and suspense, but a different kind of danger. The story is more character- and less action-driven. This is published as a children’s novel, but all ages will find it good reading.
   As with the first two novels, the British and American editions have different illustrators. Gary Blythe’s drawings for the U.K. edition are nice decorations, but anthropomorphic fans will definitely prefer Omar Rayyan’s detailed illustrations of the cast in action in the American edition. The books may be more popular in America than in Britain; the British edition of The Heir of Mistmantle is only in trade paperback while the American is in hardcover, while the next book in the series, Urchin and the Raven War, has been announced in an American edition only (October 2008).

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

Title: Whortle’s Hope
Author: Robin Jarvis
Illustrator: The author
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books (London), Nov 2007
ISBN: 0-340-85512-6
Paperback, 378 pages, UK £5.99

   Robin Jarvis began his career as a British Young Adult horror novelist with two trilogies, The Deptford Mice (1989-1990) and its prequel, The Deptford Histories (1991-1995). These six novels chronicled the centuries-old history and gruesome fate of the cute mice, bats, and squirrels of ancient Deptford, just outside of London. Jarvis then switched to trilogies about human monsters (The Whitby Witches and Tales from the Wyrd Museum are completed; The Hagwood Books and Intrigues of the Reflected Realm are in progress), implying that the animals’ story had been fully told.
   But in 2004 Jarvis returned to the denizens of Deptford with The Deptford Mouselets, another prequel but set only “a year before the thrilling events of The Dark Portal”, and featuring juveniles rather than adults. Fleabee’s Fortune, the first book of this trilogy (reviewed in Anthro #4), was not about mice but about the sewer-dwelling rats who were preparing to prey upon them. Young Fleabee was the only ratgirl who was rather nice and rejected the evil influence of the rats’ dark god, Jupiter. At the novel’s end, the reader is left wondering whether Fleabee will discover the benevolent influence of the Green Mouse, or whether she will succumb to Jupiter after all, or be subverted by the three pre-Jupiter rat-gods who want to restore their own foul religion of Hobb.
   Whortle’s Hope, also set a year before The Dark Portal, The Crystal Prison and The Final Reckoning, features the innocent fieldmice who live in the farmlands near Deptford. Whortle’s Hope is the lightest of Jarvis’ novels; a bucolic comedy showing the mice relaxing in their community of Fennywolde—For the fieldmice there was no better place in the world. In the summer their great field was everything: home and playground, larder and golden cathedral. In the winter they dreamed of it and were only truly happy sitting atop an ear of corn [wheat to Americans], viewing the surrounding ripe, rippling sea. (pg. 30)—with only a few ominous hints about the horrible fate that will soon overcome them.
   Young Whortle Nep, Figgy Bottom, Samuel Gorse, Todkin and Hodge are the five juvenile members of the Wolf Killers, a ‘no girls allowed’ club in their mousy hamlet hidden under the field of wheat. They have recently gotten their mousebrasses, the symbol of the religion of the Green Mouse signifying that they have just entered adolescence. They are happily engaged in typical boys’ activities, when a special event is announced:

   “The Fennywolde Games,” Samuel explained, “are going to take place in seven days’ time. Whoever wins them is going to be Head Sentry for the rest of the summer.”
   “Head Sentry!” Young Whortle whistled. ‘That’d be summat grand to be. Just like bein’ a warrior, in the legends of Captain Fenny and almost as good as bein’ King of the Field.”
   “What did Mr. Woodruffe say about the entrants?” he asked.
   “Everyone with a mousebrass is eligible,” Todkin answered.
   Young Whortle’s paw clasped the brass amulet he wore around his neck. Not long ago he and his friends had come of age and had been given these important symbols of family, protection and destiny in a very solemn ceremony. They all wore them with pride.
(pgs. 16-17)

   Most of the Wolf Killers do not plan to compete against Fennywolde’s older teens, but Young Whortle really wants to enter—and win. His friends are dubious since Whortle is the most inept of them all, but they loyally decide to help him train so he will have a chance:

   “Young Master Nep!” [Todkin] began, assuming a schoolmaster-like tone. “Let me take a few moments to remind you of the nature of the Games. Firstly, they last for three whole days. There are twelve events and each entrant must participate in six of them. In no particular order, these events are: the Ditch Vault, the Meadow Race, which is compulsory to all, the Raft Race, the Ditch Leap, Ditch Swim, Tree Climb, Wrestling, Slingshot, Barley Swing, Pebble Lift, High Jump and Tail Hang.”
   ‘My tail can cling on to a cornstalk as good as anyone else’s,” Young Whortle piped up. “An’ for longer than most as well, seein’ as how I’m so light.”
(pg. 20)

   At first their plans are developed in a spirit of fun & games…

   “What we need for the raft is a great big sail,” Todkin said.
   “I could ask my mum to sew us one,” Figgy suggested.
   Hodge assumed a sly and secretive voice. “Leave this to me.’’ He cackled with a melodramatic twirl of his whiskers. “I know where we can get one—mwahahahaha.”
(pgs. 90-91)

   …but after they are sabotaged by Figgy’s mean older sister and her bratty friends, they become fixated on seeing Whortle win at any cost. Unfortunately, in their determination to outcheat the cheaters, they lose track of the fact that most of Whortle’s rivals are innocent competitors. Whortle does not want to win dishonestly, yet he hesitates to let his mates down after all their hard work on his behalf.
   Intermixed with the daytime preparation for the Games are the adventures Whortle has each night with three mysterious figures who appear near Fennywolde’s large pool. Woppenfrake, Firgild, and Willibard are semi-supernatural water voles, the immortal custodians of the fieldmice’s forgotten past. Whortle learns from them the true history of what was originally Fenlynfield, settled by the exhausted mouse warriors who survived the war between the followers of the Green Mouse and the sadistic pre-Jupiter rat gods Hobb, Mabb and Bauchan. To Whortle this is all ancient history and fairy tales, but the three vole brothers know that the gods of the Raith Sidhe have been preparing for centuries to strike again. The voles are preparing Whortle, without his knowledge, to organize Fennywolde’s defense. It is in their conversations behind Whortle’s back that the hints of what is to come are planted:

   “The folk of Fenlynfeld will have much to mourn.”
   “But not yet, not this summer. Let them enjoy this last year of peace, untouched by sorrow.”
   “Yes, one last year—before the evil comes.”
(pg. 253)

   Readers of The Crystal Prison, Book Two of The Deptford Mice, will know what they are referring to. But that is in the future. Whortle’s Hope is a mostly jolly tale of juvenile fieldmice having an Our Gang-style childish adventure, and a good place for readers new to The Deptford Mice to enter the series.
   Jarvis says on his website that, “Right now I'm commencing work on the third of The Deptford Mouselets. It’s called Ogmund’s Gift and features the mysterious bats of Deptford. Ogmund is the unruly nephew of Orfeo and Eldritch—he'd rather be a mouse, but instead must learn to harness his growing magical powers.” Fleabee’s Fortune and Whortle’s Hope were published over three years apart, so we should not expect Ogmund’s Gift soon.

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

Cover of Item 1
Title: Time to Smell the Roses: a Hermux Tantamoq Adventure
Author: Michael Hoeye
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons (NYC), October 2007
ISBN: 0-399-24490-5
Hardcover, [5 +] 273 [+ 1] pages, USD $15.99

   Time to Smell the Roses is the name of both this fourth Hermux Tantamoq adventure, and of the fabulous new scent that has just won Reezor Bleesom the title of the Prince of Perfume in mousedom’s popular press. Bleesom’s new aroma, made from only the exclusive Rosa Fragrantissima in squirrel Androse deRosenquil & Son’s vast commercial gardens, promises to make his new perfumery the new leader of squirrel-community Thorny End’s rose-based businesses. But the fragrance has toppled cosmetic magnate Tucka Mertslin’s own scents from the sales charts. No Hermux Tantamoq fan will doubt that the ruthless businessmouse will stop at nothing to eliminate this threat to her commercial empire.
   Hermux, a young watchmaker and amateur detective in the mouse metropolis of Pinchester, reads about Reezor’s success (as well as the finding of an anonymous squirrel’s body on the beach at Thorny End) in the morning newspaper, while planning his wedding with Linka Perflinger, the aviatrix whom he has gotten to know in his previous adventures. Hermux is worrying how to pay for even the intimate wedding that Linka wants, much less the lavish wedding that all his friends and relatives expect him to invite them to. The conflict between the two sets off their first fight:

   [Linka] began to drum her nails on the counter. To Hermux this was not a good sign. He and Linka had been through some fur-raising adventures together. They had survived bullets, bombs, even cases of dynamite. In hindsight, being tied to a case of dynamite had been easier than enduring the look of disappointment in Linka’s eyes. (pg. 15)

   It looks like Hermux’s financial problems will be solved when imperious old Androse deRosenquil summons him to Thorny End to repair the city’s famous Old Clocktower. But deRosenquil, whose younger son Buddlin was recently killed, really wants Hermux to find his older son Plank who disappeared fifteen years earlier, to put a son back into the deRosenquil and Son business.
   Hermux, who needs the Clocktower job, agrees to look for Plank as well. This puts him front and center in Thorny End to encounter some squirrels’ anti-mouse prejudice, Tucka Mertslin’s sabotage of Reezor Bleesom’s new mansion’s rose garden (with the help of her toy-boy mad scientist Dr. Wollar), a disappearing and reappearing mystery corpse, secret tunnels, giant spiders and killer bees, a plot to eradicate the Rosa Fragrantissima, and the trigger-happy guards of the hostile Institute for Positive Thinking on deserted Jeckel Island. With the help of Linka, Terfle, and the almost-feral squirrel boy Twigg, the peaceful Hermux again finds himself thrust into foiling Tucka’s latest scheme and becoming a hero.
   Michael Hoeye’s fourth Hermux Tantamoq adventure, following Time Stops for No Mouse (2000), The Sands of Time (2001), and No Time Like Show Time (2004), brings back mouse Hermux’s adventurous girlfriend Linka, his pet ladybug Terfle (who shows an unsuspected artistic talent), and their old nemesis Tucka Mertslin, plus all the other supporting mice of Pinchester and the new squirrel city of Thorny End. It is as fast-paced and witty as ever. Hoeye has a talent for wry personality descriptions:

   Killium Wollar might have been a nice-looking mouse if it weren’t for his appearance. And he might have been a likeable mouse if it weren’t for his personality. He was just too smart for his own good. Or anyone else’s. (pg. 19)

   that could serve as devastating put-downs:

   For Tucka Mertslin the moment of truth came every day at 4:45, and it lasted for exactly fifteen minutes. That was about as much truth as Tucka could stomach in one sitting. (pg. 9)

   As usual, frequent mentions of fur, whiskers, and other mousy or squirrelly attributes—for instance, She tickled one of his ears with the tip of her tail on pg. 35; and [Thirxen Ghoulter, taxidermist and coroner] was a squirrel a few years past middle age, but due to the hazards of his profession, he looked considerably older. He suffered from chronic fur loss as well as several itching and splotching disorders of the skin. He pushed his glasses up on his head and gave his ear a quick scratch before offering his paw to Hermux. on pg. 82—keep the characters emphasized as anthropomorphized animals at all times. The novel is divided into a lot of short chapters—70 of them—with snappy titles like The War of the Roses, Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and Cutting Coroners that you have to read with the chapters to appreciate. Each chapter has a different appropriate heading decoration, and the text is full of newspaper clippings, perfume bottle labels, typed and handwritten letters, signs on trucks, and so on.
   Hoeye’s Time Stops for No Mouse was one of the publishing sensations of 2000, another example of a novel self-published (as by Terfle Books) after every major publisher had rejected it, that became a best-seller. Hoeye had no trouble reselling it after that, and it and its sequels have been published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Time to Smell the Roses stands well on its own, and if you like it (as you are sure to do), the previous books are still in print. It apparently takes Hoeye about three years to write each novel, so we can look forward to the next around 2010.

Nightworld The Aphorisms of Kherishdar The Jacques and Cleo: Cat Detectives series DreamKeepers: Flight to Starfall
A Taste for Rabbit The Heir of Mistmantle Whortle’s Hope Time to Smell the Roses

Anthropomorphic books for review should be sent to Fred Patten, at:
Golden State Colonial Convalescent Hospital, 10830 Oxnard Street, North Hollywood, CA, 91606

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