Kingdoms of Light [ ** ]
Available at Amazon.com.
Evil goblins have taken over your kingdom, destroyed your best wizard, and hexed all the color away from your world! Do you: 1. Send an army to defeat them; 2. Surrender yourself and your valuables and hope for
the best; or 3. Trust the transmogrified pets of your recently deceased wizard to restore color to your world and incidentally take care of the goblin leaders?
I'll give you a hint: in Alan Dean Foster's Kingdoms of Light, the answer is not 1 or 2. Which leaves us three cats, a dog, a canary and a boa constrictor to save the humans whose names escape me, since none of them retained names or faces in my mind a day after finishing the book.
The odd party's mission seems simple; since the goblins have stolen the color from the world to keep the humans depressed and incapable of rebellion, the animals (temporarily transformed into human guises) have to jump into a rainbow and wander through it until they find white light to bring back to the world. This will create the circumstances that will allow the defeat of the goblins, supposedly; supposedly, since this is never fully addressed. Indeed, the defeat of the goblin horde seems a bit of an after-thought, which is fine, because the war itself also comes across that way.
Why? It's a set-up to give the author a convenient cause to meander through a neat setting (in this case, the kingdoms of light that provide the novel with its title), and to push forward neat characters (animals who get to experience what it's like to be human). On that level, as an exercise in 'What would it be like if' and 'What would happen if', Kingdoms of Light is effective. It's a light adventure (no pun intended), by someone with a bizarre and curious imagination.
I found the novel too quick and too shallow to interest me, and there were some points where I found myself mentally editing or rewriting segments, which is a pass-time I rarely engage in. To me, the implications of non-humans becoming human are worth a novel by themselves without adding an epic quest, particularly when the epic seems tacked on to give the party a convenient reason to be about their journeys.
This doesn't mean Kingdoms of Light is a bad novel... only that it wasn't to my taste. If you enjoy a fast romp through odd and fascinating realms, with characters that used to be animals and still think like them, you'll probably find more in Alan Dean Foster's newest novel than I did.