Good morning my valued
minions readers! Today I have a little ripper for you. It’s been a while since I’ve brought you a little ripper. But here one is. It’s a rippingly, shreddingly, gnawingly good read. It is Book 1 of The Illmoor Chronicles…The Ratastrophe Catastrophe by David Lee Stone. I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley, for which I am truly grateful. You might have noticed the button over there indicating that this book is also part of my Fairy Tale Makeovers Review Series, as it is based on a fairy tale. See if you can guess which…
The Ratastrophe Catastrophe follows a …colourful…cast of characters as they deal with a series of events that threaten to bring life in the city of Dullitch to a veritable standstill. Simple farm lad Diek Wustapha is key to these events, in that it is he who is chosen by an ancient being of dark magic to be its new vessel. After being commandeered by this ancient being, Diek finds that his flute playing suddenly ratchets up a notch (hooray!) but this newfound talent seems to come with the added complication of a compelling voice invading his thoughts and making him complete tasks that are somewhat ethically questionable (boo!). Meanwhile, the Duke of Dullitch has his own problems. Big, hairy, rat-faced problems. The city has been overrun by rats of all sizes and the Duke can find no other alternative than to advertise for mercenaries to neutralise the problem. Enter Gordo and Groan, Jimmy Quickstint, Tambor the ex-sorceror and ex-town-councilman and of course the newly supercharged Diek, and you can be sure the problem will be dealt with in the quickest possible timeframe with the least amount of disruption to the people of Dullitch. Or not.
* you don’t mind a bit of a rat infestation to liven up your town’s calendar of events (and drive out those pesky tourists)
* you’d happily swap some of the children around your dwelling in payment for a thorough and successful pest control program
* you’ve ever been considered woefully inept at a particular task…only to have your talent bloom like the last flower of the season to the astonishment, jealousy and mild-to-middling unease of those around you
* you adhere fervently to the motto “Never trust a simpleton with a flute and a parade of children trailing after him”
This was an unexpected fun, funny and surprising read. I requested it thinking that it would be a dark, twisted retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story, but instead found it to be a complex and hilarious politico-slapstick comedy of (mostly) errors. I expected it to be a middle grade read, but the language and the plot are tricky enough as to place it almost at adult level in some places. There is some wonderful satire based on the internal workings of a town council, and much of the humour is extremely dry – incidentally just the way I like it! – but I can’t imagine a middle-grade audience settling into the humour in the way I did as a grown-up.
The characters are a parade of wonderfully flawed and suspicious individuals. There’s the barrowbird, purveyor of insults and spurious advice to its unlucky owner; Burnie, the translator turned town councillor who could easily be one of the cleverest of the bunch despite being a troglodyte; the unfortunate, pint-sized Mick, unwilling associate of unsuccessful adventurer Stump; Vicious, the Duke’s pet dog (at least we think it’s a dog); not to mention the inimitable mercenery duo of Gordo Goldaxe (dwarf) and Groan Teethgrit (barbarian). And that’s mostly just the supporting cast!
This reminded me of nothing so much as the early episodes of the TV series Blackadder, and there are certainly a few “cunning plans” bandied about throughout the pages of this book (with generally the same success rate of those dreamt up by Baldrick). Now obviously, given that this is based on the story of the Pied Piper, the reader generally knows how the story is going to turn out. The author has thrown in so many supporting characters however, that there really is plenty of new stuff here to get your teeth into.
I am very pleased that this is just the first in a series and I’ll be scouting about to get my hands on The Yowler Foul-Up which is book number two, and of which there is a small excerpt at the end of this edition. Oh, and it would make the perfect choice for category eight of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with wordplay in the title. Click on the attractive button for more information about the challenge and to board the Safari bus!
You want my advice?
(“Yes!” they chorused, “Tell us, Bruce!”)
Don’t bother with the middle graders – buy this one for yourself.
Until next time,