This is a great fantasy novel in all the best ways. I found myself comparing it a little bit to a Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman with a dash of Douglas Adams. Originally written in German, it definitely has the feel of a traditional fairy tale a la the Brother’s Grimm.
The story revolves around Echo the Crat (yes, Crat, that is not a spelling error) who has been captured by the local Alchemaster of Malaisea, his name is Ghoolion, and Echo is being held and fattened up so that the Alchemaster can obtain his fat for his potion library.
As the story rolls along, we find out more about Ghoolion and how Malaisea became the illness capital of the Kingdom of Zamonia. We find out more about Echo and what it means to be a Crat. Echo has the opportunity not only to eat to his hearts content, but also to explore Ghoolion’s castle – a place the locals fear and dread.
Along the way, Echo makes friends with Leathermice (a vampiric race of mice/bats), Theodore T. Theodore (an owl with a speech impediment), Cooking Ghosts, a Snow White Widow, Ugglies, a mossback Toad and a whole host of other fantastical residents of Malaisea. There is a method and means to Ghoolion’s madness that unfolds as the story unfolds.
I try to read widely and from all genre’s. This book was given to me as a gift and I am glad I got it because I doubt I would have grabbed it off the shelf under my own volition. You know how it is – you go to your favorite bookstore and you tend to gravitate to those shelves that usually yield you a reliable selection. I am not a discerning enough fan of fantasy to always grab these novels, so often, I am introduced to authors through friends giving me gifts or making recommendations.
I have also discovered something about readers – unless they are fantasy fans from the outset, many readers are adamantly opposed to dipping their toes into this genre. I’m not sure why. Partly I think it comes from an inability or unwillingness to suspend belief. Partly because readers feel that the fantasy genre somehow translates to children’s writing. Another(no offense intended here) the genre is associated with fan geeks. For me, it has been because there aren’t many stand alone pieces in the genre. They all revolve around a series and one feels that once you have committed to one book, you just have to read the rest.
This is the beginning of a series. However, I would be very comfortable in advising those who find the ideas and story intriguing, that it can be read as a stand alone novel. There is resolution at the end of the story as well as an opening for future works. And for those who love the genre, there are future works.
The other thing I loved about this story is that it is written by a European author and translated into English. I always find it refreshing to read authors who are from other countries. Their viewpoint on the world enriches me as a reader and engages my imagination as a writer to explore the world in different ways.
This is a book for all ages. It can be read to children (although there are some parts that small children would consider frightening or scary.) It is a great novel for an older elementary schooler to cut their teeth on in adult fiction. It is great for adults because the story is engaging and fun with a bit of black humor. An easy 4 stars for all to enjoy.