Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood illustrated by David Watt

"Stories belong to the teller', says the bard. 'At least half of them do. The other part belongs to the listeners. When a good story is told to a good listener, the pair of them own it together."

"Stories aren't all about fighting and revenge,' says the bard. 'You have to have a bit of character development in there as well. Some suspense, some atmosphere. A little bit of romance."

Podkin is the son of Lopkin, the chieftain.  He has a sister called Paz and a brother called Pook. Life in Munbury longburrow is good and this is an especially happy night because it is Bramblemas eve and tomorrow there will be presents! Then, in the space of a few minutes, this warm scene explodes into one of violence and death. The Grom have arrived. They are after a small dagger called Starclaw. It is one of twelve special gifts given to the first tribes at the start of time.

Who are the Grom? Once they were small grey rabbits but something in the river got into their veins or perhaps they tunneled too far down and "came across something cursed and poisonous. ... They turned into something else. Something evil and unnatural."

Pod, Paz and little Pook are now on the run and it is winter, it is bitterly cold and while Starclaw is indeed a special weapon it is powerless against the metal bodies of the Grom.

The power of this writing comes from the atmosphere created by Kieran Larwood. You will see, hear, smell and touch every scene and person in this vividly created world.

It is the bard who tells this ancient tale. He has arrived on a different Bramblemas eve with a story to tell to the eager listeners in Thornwood warren.  It is an evening of storytelling, legends and turnip soup.

Here are some text extracts to give you a sense of this writing.

Scramashank the Gorm Lord "This wasn't a rabbit any more. If it ever had been, it was now something else entirely. A walking slab of metal and meat, pierced through with rusty thorns and nails. Its armour overlapped in sheets of jagged, dented iron; mottled with rust and splashes of dried crimson that looked very much like blood."

Lady Russet - she has been enslaved by Scramshank. "Before, she had been a plump, bristling bundle of life, with zinging fur, a bubbling giggle and eyes that sparkled like glimmers of summer sunlight. Now her skin hung off her face in folds. Lines of worry creased her brow; her eyes were hollow, haunted, red-rimmed, as if she'd been crying. Crying for a long, long time."

Bridgit's home.  Paz describes this wonderful place of safety and comfort where Podkin's wounded ear receives tender care. "She saw lots of clay pots and jars, all labelled in with neat Ogham writing, some overflowing with herbs and bulbs: wild garlic, rosemary, foxglove, rosehip and lots of mushrooms, like ink cap, blusher, penny bun, brittlegill and angel's bonnet." I was excited to discover these are all real mushroom names.

The Legend of Podkin One-Ear has been published with many different covers. Which one appeals to you?

You can listen to chapter one here.  Here is an interview with the author.  I would follow The Legend of Podkin One-Ear with Varjak Paw, Mouseheart, and the wonderful Redwall series by Brian Jacques. The evil Gorm that we meet in Podkin reminded me of the Creeps in Ollie's Odyssey.

The Legend of Podkin One-Ear was the winner of the Blue Peter Award in 2017.  Here is a set of reviews by young UK students and you can read other reviews with more plot details by clicking on the review quotes below.  I highly recommend The Legend of Podkin One-Ear - for me it is absolutely a ten out of ten book and I am rushing off to pick up the sequel - The Gift of Dark Hollow. The third installment (The Beasts of Grimheart) will arrive later this year.

An original fantasy with warrior rabbits, fierce foes, sibling loyalty, riveting adventure, and genuine storytelling.  Kirkus

A wonderfully told tale of adventure and adversity, packed with courage, heart and hope. Kieran Larwood has created a rich fantasy world in a time long after humans have left the world, complete with it’s own religions, superstitions and traditions.  Miss Cleveland is reading

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