Friday, October 13, 2017

Book Review :: The Wonderling

The Wonderling - Mira Bartok

"Mira Bartók tells the story of Arthur, a shy, fox-like foundling with only one ear and a desperate desire to belong, as he seeks his destiny."

If you're hunting for a summer read to share with your junior schoolers, The Wonderling could just be the one (though ideally this would be consumed in winter, snuggled in front of the fireplace).  Such a cosy, magical and melancholy little book world.  While slow to get moving, The Wonderling has a ton of fun elements that make it worth the ride.  From the mistreated underdog to the various descriptions of food, junior readers and older readers alike will enjoy slipping in to Arthur's world.

Arthur and his collection of companions are very sweet.  They are familiar characters, particularly for those who've delved into Dickens (one of Bartok's influences).  Quintus - AKA the rogue with a conscience, is a particularly fun, Dickensy character.  Arthur himself presents a classic, unwilling hero; anxious and painfully naive - but loyal and honourable till the bitter end.  I will admit to finding him frustrating at times, but he's likeable all the same.  I feel certain he'll develop more inner-strength and agency by book two.  All the groundwork has been laid...

The world is generally well developed, though admittedly a little patchy at times (in that pages are given to certain settings while others are described selectively).  This is a balance that I didn't especially enjoy.  Less of some (the orphanage, for instance - which could be described sufficiently in a page or two) and more of others (the woods, which are skipped through all too quickly).  There are parts of Lumentown that are described beautifully, and others that I couldn't properly picture.  I mean, maybe it's just me.  I'm particular.  My absolute favourite part of the book is the description of Pinecone's home.  Ugggg.  So cool.  I would've stayed here for the whole novel, if I could.

There's a lot going on, with sentient animals, steampunk elements, magical creatures and a hero's journey.   The illustrations are a nice touch, and overall the book is just so beautifully packaged.  I'm excited to see how the book transfers to film.  I expect it will be visually stunning and probably paced more tidily than the book. 

If your kid digs an epic, fantasy adventure, The Wonderling is worth checking out.  Not quite on par with Harry Potter and the like, but fans of the latter are likely to enjoy this one.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

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