When a mysterious bard arrives on the eve of Bramblemas at the warren of Thornwood, he is greeted eagerly as he promises to tell the tale of Podkin – a legendary rabbit warrior – as he battles the evil of the Gorm: ferocious, mutant, ironclad warrior rabbits intent on world domination. In this fantasy world inhabited by walking, talking rabbits, there are many stories told about Podkin, but the one he is about to tell is different because this one is the real one.
As a book written for children of 8 or over, The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood isn’t perhaps the typical novel that I review, but I came across it during my work as a Primary school teacher here in the UK and was intrigued enough to give it a go. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed with what I got. Larwood has written a fast-paced and fun fantasy adventure.
Podkin, naturally, is the central character, but really his elder sister, Paz, and baby brother, Pook, are equally important. This trio are the characters we spend the by far the most amount of time with. Podkin is the eldest son of Munbury warren’s chieftain, and as such, is the next in line to be chief himself. He isn’t your typical hero. At the start of the story, he stands in stark contrast to his sister: he is lazy, self-centred and incompetent, having spent his life avoiding any and all responsibilities or lessons, while she is hard-working, caring and has learnt all the lessons that he should have, including sword play. Throughout the story, we see a definite shift in personality for Podkin as he starts to become the rabbit of legend. Pook, as a baby, has no particular skills or abilities, but his shenanigans, combined with his extraordinary luck, serve as the comic relief and brought many a giggle in a book with some surprisingly dark turns considering the age it is targeted at.
As a book primarily aimed at children, the prose is quite simple in this book. Despite its simplicity, the description and world-building in this book is remarkably effective. I found the opening chapter, with the old bard trudging through a midwinter’s landscape particularly evocative, building wonderful imagery in my head. The simplicity of the writing also serves to keep the pace of the book high, an undoubted bonus with the target audience in mind, while for adults, it keeps it makes the story easy to pick up and dip into: keeping it light and fun.
Personally, I only have one complaint about the book: parts of the ending felt rushed and a little unsatisfactory, though it does set up for a sequel quite nicely. In particular, I was a little disappointed in the final fight between Podkin and Scramashank – leader of the Gorm – as it was over and done with very quickly, despite the build-up. I understand that a children’s book isn’t going to be awash with violence, but I felt that a couple of pages really was just too short!
Overall, I would highly recommend this book. Children, obviously, will enjoy it, but I would hope that adult’s looking for a light-hearted fantasy adventure would see the magic in this story and would encourage them to at least give it a go. I, for one, am looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series: The Gift of Dark Hollow.
Oh, and one final thing: the artwork that is littered throughout the book is fantastic. I loved seeing detailed and wonderful drawings of the characters and scenes throughout.
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