Please welcome guest reviewer, Court Cope!
Summary: Triumphant heroes and brilliantly wicked villains do battle on the island of Mistmantle in the first book of a new heart-stopping adventure series in the great tradition of Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows. Illustrations. (Summary and image from goodreads.com)
My Review: I'm a massive fan of anything animal related, especially when those animals are anthropomorphic, wield swords, solve mysteries, and are heroes and villains, following in the vein of Brian Jacques' Redwall series.
While I love the Redwall books (do not get me wrong, they are some of my favorites), what I love about Mistmantle is that anyone can be a bad guy. If a rat comes walking along in the Redwallverse, he is almost instantly a baddie. However, in the world of Mistmantle, inhabited mainly by squirrels, hedgehogs, moles and otters, anyone can be turned, anyone can fall, which I think adds to the suspense, mystery, and reality. There is still evil, and there is still good, but there is also grey.
The characters in this book are incredibly well-rounded. They are eager, earnest and flawed. Those who try to be good have their faults, they stumble, they come short, but they keep trying, while those who follow a darker path or do cruel things have good cause (in their eyes), and come upon it bit by bit. It is a book filled with intrigue, betrayal, adventure, friendship, and heroism, with characters you can relate to, hate, feel sorry for, and laugh with.
I also must commend the illustrations by Omar Rayyan. It was these illustrations, in fact, that led me to the book in the first place, as I came upon a small postcard set of several of the main characters. They are expressive and compliment the story.
While Urchin of the Riding Stars works well as a standalone, I also recommend the entire five book series, as each one goes deeper into this magical world, fleshing out already solid characters and delving into varying themes and adventures.
My rating: Four stars
For the sensitive reader: There are several deaths throughout, though nothing horribly gruesome. The main villain is haunted by someone he murdered, which can be a little intense, and likewise the opening scene is a squirrel in childbirth.