Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Wonderling - Mira Bartok

Synopsis: Have you been unexpectedly burdened by a recently orphaned or unclaimed creature? Worry not! We have just the solution for you!

Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name -- a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck -- it is the only home he has ever known.

But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name -- Arthur, like the good king in the old stories -- and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny. (synopsis and picture from goodreads.com)


My Review: This book was okay.  

From the cover, the art, and the premise, it looked like it had everything going for it.  An interesting world filled with humans, animals, and those that are in between, called Groundlings, and a main character destined for greater things. But from there, the wonder wilted.

I needed a little more.  What are the rules?  Where did these Groundlings come from?  Why do some people have animal parts or are half and half or more animal than human, and what makes them the way they are?  I liked the idea, but I needed more foundation, needed a little more history.  I know that in magical worlds, not everything has to be explained, but rules are important.  I'll return to this in a moment.

One of my central criticisms is in our main character, a one-eared fox Groundling named Arthur.  He never made a choice for himself, 99% of the novel.  He was very reactionary, only doing things because others prodded him until he had to.  Truth be told, it made Arthur a bit of a pansy.  He was sweet and innocent, but he needed to choose to fight for himself or others, and he never did (except one brief moment at the start and another right near the very end).  A character can be reluctant, especially near the beginning of a story, but they cannot remain that way if we are to relate or care for them.

That being said, I did continue to read this book because it was interesting enough that I did want to see what happened.  I liked how the theme of music was important and brought everything together.  I loved how there were little drawings scattered throughout the tale--they felt old fashioned and fit the tone of the book, which was very Dickensian, and had a strong Oliver Twist vibe.  That also being said, it did tend to drag on a bit too long, at nearly 400 pages, which, for the type of story we had, was much too long.

And the ending was a trifle confusing as well.  I won't spoil anything, but back to rules.  We need rules so we can understand a world properly, and when the climax came, I found myself going, 'well, okay, but what does that mean?  Why is that important?'  I didn't understand why the big reveal about our main character was so big because it had no context (and I felt he hadn't really earned it, whatever it was).   

If you want an adventure story with an interesting world and a Dickensian feel, this is a good one.  It wasn't terrible, and it had its moments, it just doesn't fit the caliber of what, to me, makes a great and memorable children's book.

My Rating: Two stars

For the sensitive reader: The main character is bullied and he and others are in danger throughout the story, and there are strange and spooky worlds and villains that might be frightening for younger readers.

1 comment:

Jordan @ForeverLostinLiterature said...

Oh dear, I've been wanting to pick this one up but I hadn't heard much about it. Sorry to hear it wasn't that great! I definitely get frustrated when not enough is explained about a world--it's a pretty important aspect. I'll probably still check this one out at some point, but maybe it won't be quite as high of a priority. Great review!

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