Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Herk, are you all right?"
"That was a good try, son! You're legs just aren't cooperating."
"Life isn't cooperating."
Ha, good comeback. I might have to pinch that for future use myself!
Surprisingly dark all-ages fantasy from Doug TOMMYSAURUS REX, CARDBOARD, BAD ISLAND, GHOSTOPOLIS TenNapel, which would greatly appeal to fans of BONE and AMULET.
He does like to stretch the little readers, our Doug. I've commented before that he doesn't shy away from relatively complex storytelling, nor indeed such topics as the traumatic death of loved ones. I think it's to be applauded actually. Kids have far more developed imaginations and inner worlds than we give them credit for, and this type of storytelling is a fine medium to be introducing those type of concepts, in small, digestible doses.
Just be aware, though, despite all that, that this might verge on being too scary for the weeniest of younger readers, not least because the villainous Lizzarks with their fangs and claws, plus their bulbous eyes are a rather fearsome sight! Even Whackers, who's not remotely faint of heart, was somewhat perturbed by their appearance whilst I was reading it to her!
So, young Herk is a Nnewt, who lives with his parents, younger sister and unhatched eggs (who can speak!) in a peaceful rural Nnewtown. He's got a disability of sorts, as his legs aren't able to take his weight, so he has to stay in the hatching pool chatting with the eggs, who are just like babies and so drive him mad, or drag himself around the house with his arms, which is rather hard work. Whilst everyone is telling him he's probably just a late developer, and he'll soon be up and about, deep down they all know that's not the case. Not even his father's magic can help, for his dad is the town magician, though mad inventor might be a more appropriate designation. So was Herk born like that, weak of lower limb? Well, yes, but for a very good, hmm... bad... reason no one knows about. Yet. And as his beloved sister says, he might have little legs, but he has a big heart. He's going to need that.
Urch, the greatest hunter in the region and protector of Nnewtown, meanwhile, is away foraging for food and resources for the community. In truth he's been lured away. So when a raiding party of Lizzarks descend on the village, it's murder and mayhem for the poor residents, and Herk himself barely manages to escape with his life. Other members of his family... they weren't so lucky. There's actually a very poignant and touching sequence as the souls of the massacred Nnewts head upwards into the night sky, beginning their journey into their astronomically astounding afterlife and certain people are reunited... Their sorrow in finding out they have passed on is ameliorated in part by knowing they can at least journey on together forever, but also by the joyful realisation of who isn't with them... and thus must still be in the land of the living. For now at least...
This is just the beginning of Herk's adventures as he has been seemingly targeted by a particular Lizzark Wizard. And so he's headed on a very peculiar odyssey which is going to test his mettle and show him more of the world than he ever believed possible - and that's just in the first volume! Along the way he's going to learn precisely why, indeed who, is responsible for his malformed legs, and he might even discover some family he never knew he had... Urch, meanwhile, is simply hell-bent on revenge. He's determined that the Lizzarks who destroyed his town will pay a heavy price. The odds are somewhat stacked against him mind, to say the least. Plus there's one other survivor of the devastation, but their path lies in a very different direction...
Despite the death and danger lurking round seemingly every tree, there is a great deal of childish - and I mean that in a good way - humour in this work, as there is in all of Doug's books. He really is a wonderful storyteller of great range. I was particularly amused by an argument between Urch and sidekick Odetto, concerning whether a sandwich which has cheese and ham in should be referred to as a cheese and ham sandwich or a ham and cheese sandwich. You can tell Urch is thoroughly exasperated by Odetto's perpetual habit of reversing standard convention in such cases wherever possible. Odetto's logic though when he gets into full debating mode has a certain veracity which is difficult to argue with. Even when Urch tries to let it lie by changing the subject Odetto still can't resist getting the last back to front words in...
"Odetto, I won't let even your incessant word-twisting ruin our time amidst the flora and fauna!"
"Fauna and flora..."
NNEWTS BOOK 2: THE RISE OF HERK has just arrived!