©2005 M.I. McAllister; (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group
A great book with astoundingly good narration, any lover's of Brian Jacques' Redwall series will be well pleased with this book. Despite the similarities to Jacques' setting, Urchin of the Riding Stars is extremely well written (perhaps for a more mature crowd) with a great plot.
There are pieces of this story missing, most obviously (and awkwardly) right before Chapter 23, about an hour from the end.
The story takes me back to the time when i was young sitting in the library with a librarian or teacher listening to them read a wonderful story about animals and the way they interact. I am 56, and it is extremely rare for me to find a book or movie that can still suspend my sense of reality.
The animal voices and how the little momma squirlls take care of the baby ones. How the animals have little evil animals in their midst. The way the voice bounces to describe a mother squirl bouncing down the beach or a kings voice quakes ass he is fearful or weak. The voice overs are perfection and totally appropriate.
Without giving anything away, I loved how they interacted with nature. The sky, beach, ocean and other animals. So when a magically blessed by the stars baby squirll is born, and his mother who had traveled far to save him, but died in childbirth leaving him on the shore. Several animals, brother fur/an old squirll, Crispen a youn squirl, and Apple find him on the sands. For you see Apple was contancerous, ornery and full of vinegar. She was a natural mother and upon finding this baby. Apple offered to take care of the infant squirell. Apple is everything that motherhood represents to me, and listening to her croon and cavort around the island caring for the baby squirills is so pure, I sometimes listen to it just to remind myself what real love of family is all about. All the wonderment of raising him, and the adventure of saving things well needing saving, and courage and dishonesty woven in make every moment that describes the young ones, especially Apple's protective ways.
I venture to say if I can enjoy thiss thoroughly at 56, that anyone of any age could. I find most fantasy and animal books hard to emerse into at my old age, and was delighted one still existed that took me away to that magical fantasy land I enjoyed as a young boy. I have over 88 book downloads from Audible, over the last 5 or so years. I have listened to this one the most. It cheers me up and is short enough to listen to in bed with my wife on cold winter evenings in a few nights before slumber overtakes us. Like two little squirells, we cuddle up and enjoy Brother Fur, and Captain Crispen, Apple, Urchin, Needle (porkypine), Krackle,
Who can resist cute little baby hedgehogs and squirrels? Apparently Lord Husk can.
Urchin's mother comes to Mistmantle as a stowaway on a ship, gives birth and dies. A seagull picks up the newborn squirrel and while flying away with him, drops him accidentally. He is found, unhurt, and named Urchin ...
He grows up to become a page to one of the squirrel Lords and works clear his name when he is accused of murder.
One reviewer (of the book at Amazon) claims to like this series better than Brian Jacques's Redwall series. So, I had high hopes of this book. I should never go to a book with expectations ...
If I had not been prepared to compare it to the Redwall series, I probably would give it the full five stars -- though the death of the mother squirrel at the very beginning of the story probably would have brought the final stars to 4 anyhow.
It was an enjoyable listen ... except ...
one reviewer here says there is something missing from the text (about an hour from the end) ... since I am not familiar with the book version of the story, I cannot comment on that. BUT, it seems to me that something is missing at the end. It seemed a bit too abrupt. I may have to request the book from the Public Library inter-library loan just to check out the final paragraph of the tale.
Otherwise a great listen. Lots of likeable, even loveable, characters; plenty of tension.
A word about the narrator: I've listend to a couple of other books narrated by Andrew Sachs and each time an image of Manuel, the waiter in the 1970s BBC comedy Fawlty Towers (written by and starring John Cleese), comes to mind -- then as I listen, I find it hard to believe it is the same person. :-) Love listening to Sachs' narration.
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