Book reviews: 'Mistmantle Chronicles' and 'Mouseheart'
With temperatures down, and entertainment options becoming more and more—homegrown, let's say—it's a good time to catch up on that new-to-you material that aligns with your interests. Here are two of those lesser-known but deserving properties, marketed toward youth. For those of you who were sold on The Secret of NIMH, Redwall, and everything in between, at first view.
The Mistmantle Chronicles by M.I. McAllister has jacket flaps that compare it to The Wind In The Willows and Watership Down, although as you can see from the first installment's cover, there's much more of a Redwall yen in this series. As they say, though, DON'T judge a book by its cover, as the experiences of brave squirrel Urchin on the titular island carry their own identity. This flies in the face of origins that speak to many favorite role-playing games, as he evolves from his discovery on an empty beach to his eventual destiny in foiling a royal coup.
Camaraderie and species characteristics also run heavy in this, as in Redwall, however there is a noticeable amount of personification of reactive emotion and atmosphere as well, where dread and evil are given concrete outlines. Given my frequent mention of the property in the paragraph, you can gather the audience to which Mistmantle speaks. Dig on into this if you're part of that audience, since Miramax has purchased movie rights [albeit in 2004], and some sort of photo-play is probably not far off.
On the NIMH front, we have Mouseheart, from the keys of Lisa Fiedler and the art pens of Vivienne To. There's another unforeseen destiny in action here, as protagonist Hopper escapes the mouse cage of a Brooklyn pet store and literally descends into the rat nation of Atlantia. It has the façade of a Camelot, as there's no shortage of secrets and mystery that need solving, such as the whereabouts of the siblings with whom Hopper escaped, and why the numerous cats just outside the boundaries never attack.
The story sports intriguing twists as such, particularly for a young people's novel, and a near-uncharacteristically thoughtful ending. There's no slouch on its promotion; though mouseheart.com is no longer active, the series gained enough traction to, like Mistmantle, earn its own wiki. It's another experience that's high on the consideration list, if not on everyone's fantasy radar.