Monday, February 20, 2012

Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham

Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham is my first audiobook this year. With a short commute to work, I find myself listening to audiobooks only on longer trips. This one was all right but not fantastic, both in terms of the story and the narration. I loved the voices that the narrator used to differentiate the characters, but his "normal" narrator voice was a little choppy, like he was over-enunciating the words. As for the story . . .

Max the Wolf is a boy scout who finds himself in the middle of a forest, with no clear idea of how he got there, or of anything that has happened to him in the recent past. As he starts exploring his surroundings, he meets a talking badger named Banderbrock, who has also just found himself in the unfamiliar forest. The two are later joined by McTavish the Monster (actually a fierce barn cat) and Sheriff Walden, an easygoing black bear. They are pursued by the Blue Cutters, a mysterious group that seems intent upon harming newcomers to the woods, and the four friends must make for a sanctuary where they can find safety and answers to their questions.

This was a fun book to listen to, and I did enjoy it. However, I had a few problems with it. There were a couple of instances where the writing stumbled -- a character would do or say something, and then do or say the opposite a moment later, with no stated reason for the change. Also, while I liked the solution to the mystery of why Max and his friends were in the forest, I found the very end of the story strange and unsatisfactory. One more nit-picky detail: the narrator establishes early on that the story is set in the autumn (and the action takes place within the space of a couple months at most), but there's also a reference to cottonwood "snow" and the group finding strawberries to eat -- both of those things usually happen in early summer, months before the stated time of the book. Sure, it's fantasy . . . but it took me out of the story. And, apart from the talking beasts and other colorful characters, the world of the story is supposed to be similar to our own, with the same sorts of plants and wildlife -- so, strawberries in September break the stated "rules" of the book.

Despite my little quibbles with the book, I would recommend it to readers who enjoy this sort of adventure story and find the description appealing. The bad guys are well-done, and the mystery, while not constantly at the forefront, makes a good explanation in the end for some of the things that seem puzzling throughout.

(Review copy borrowed through my library system.)

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