Monday, January 21, 2019

The Katurran Odyssey - Terryl Whitlatch & David Michael Wieger

Summary: "The Katurran Odyssey" is a remarkable visual achievement, filled with spectacle, fantasy, and wonder on every page. This epic tale of faith, hope, and selfless heroism is illuminated by the stunning illustrations of Terryl Whitlatch, the principal creature designer for the Star Wars prequels, and is brought to dynamic life by the storytelling of screenwriter and author David Michael Wieger.Bo-hibba is a remote island in a faraway time and place that is populated by animals who are at once fantastic and startlingly real. The island's survival is threatened by the Long Winter, and not even the High Priest's ancient ceremony of renewal can put an end to the suffering from the hunger and the cold.

Katook, a small but courageous young lemur, lives in the village of Kattakuk. When he dares to enter a forbidden area on the island and witnesses a shocking act, the outraged priests banish him from the island forever. Forced to journey across the vast sea in search of a new home, Katook encounters great perils and marvels on his quest and undergoes profound tests of trust and friendship. At last, he finds the place where the secret of the Long Winter is revealed and where he must confront his greatest fear if he is to save his family and his island home.

Like such classic works of fantasy as Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," Rien Poortvliet's "Gnomes," C. S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia," Brian Jacques's "Redwall" series, and Brian Froud's "Faeries," "The Katurran Odyssey" creates a mythic world imbued with beauty, adventure, and transcendent imagination. (image and summary from

My Review: I've had this book for years, and it has also been years since I last read it, and I found myself wanting to delve into this unique world again and see if it held up to when I first read it.  I love original worlds with their own cultures and gods, and I also love following the story of little outcast lemur Katook, and his friendship with the very vain quagga, Quigga.

What really makes this book is the art.  Terryl Whitlach is a masterful animal artist, and has worked on several movies (including Star Wars, of which I have another book of hers detailing all her creature art for that world), and Brother Bear, another favorite of mine.  She has a fantastic knowledge of animals (and even made up creatures) that is so inherent in her artwork that you just can't help but adore, the fluid motion and poses and the sheer number of animals she illustrated for this world.

And that's another cool thing about this book.  Every animal in it (except one or two that are fantasy-related) are real animals, whether they are alive now or extinct.  You can have extinct fare like thylacines, moas, and quagga aside much lesser known currently existing animals such as sables and gerenuks and fossah.  It's truly a feast for animal lovers, and Terryl's art is just spectacular.

The story itself is fine.  It's enjoyable, but it's not stellar.  I do really like the world that was crafted, a world inhabited entirely by animals (and mostly in their animal states too, meaning four legged animals walk around on four legs.  Some do wear clothes, but it's mainly the monkeys, as they fill the human niche of this land, writing books, riding larger animals as steeds, crafting buildings, etc).  It's a typical hero's journey story, which I have no qualms with, but I think the art outshines the actual writing.

It did bring into question several things I didn't feel were fully addressed.  Back to the monkeys riding other animals--is this slavery?  Because we know these animals are cognizant, even our main character's friend, a quagga, explicitly tells Katook he will not be ridden.  Another question I was left with was where is the predator/prey line drawn?  Both were included in this world, but I couldn't tell if the predator animals were able to communicate/if they were seen as equals?  In some scenes you see them walking about in the market with prey animals, in others, they are the attack dogs for royalty. It was just something that, for a world that went into as much detail as it did with the monkey cultures, I felt a little more of a solid line could have been drawn on some of these other important facets of worldbuilding.

But overall, the Katurran Odyssey is well worth the time as we go with Katook on his journey in this world filled with strange gods and cultures, masterful art and design, and a unique look at different animal species.

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: the priests in Katook's village are pretty threatening and scary, and along his journey, Katook is thrown into peril after peril, kidnapped, enslaved, and hunted.


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