You Can Solve Mysteries Without Boxcars (Bet You Didn’t Know That)

Several months ago, when I was at NCTE I had a break and made my rounds of the booths in my normal covert way.  Here’s the deal:  I feel like some publishers frown on giving away galleys to their rivals.  Maybe they don’t understand that I’m just a much a fan of The Mortal Instruments as the next English teacher.  Anyway, I have a complex system that involves stealth, and holding things in front of my badge.  But either way, I always feel guilty picking up galleys.

That’s why I enjoyed Tor Publishing house so much.  Even after I introduced myself and my company, their rep not only talked at length to me about our blog, my favorite books, but also plied me with galleys, and got Bill Willingham to sign me a copy of his new book Down the Mysterly River.

When Bill asked who I wanted to have my book autographed for–I said myself, of course!  I wish I hadn’t packed all my books so you could see the inscription.  Apparently I am very ‘selfish.’

I like to set the stage of my book review by warming you up with pointless, boring anecdotes.  Ready for the real thing?!

Down the Mysterly River begins by introducing us to Max ‘the Wolf,’ a boy scout slash master sleuth.  His mystery of the day is ‘Where Am I and How Did I Get Here?”  Being that he’s a boy scout, and they’re always prepared and such, he isn’t too concerned about how he ended up in a large forest with a talking badger.  Banderbrock (the badger), is pretty certain that he died, and that this is the afterlife, but he’s none too sure, and McTavish the nasty-tempered barn cat and Walden the black bear are iffy on their details as well.  But Max is an experienced detective, and he slowly puts together the pieces of 1) why he’s in an afterlife surrounded by talking animals 2) and why hunters wielding magical blue swords want to destroy him (and his friends).  Their group sets out to reach a wizard’s sanctuary–down the Mysterly River, natuarally–misnamed by McTavish, who is more brawn than brains I’m afraid.  The book isn’t shy about violence, more than you’d expect for most middle grade lit—the Blue Cutters purpose is to remake or ‘cut’ the creatures of this world into ‘better’ or ‘more pleasing’ forms of themselves, and they aren’t above a little torture or murder to do so.  I would like to make a judgement call that it’s no worse than Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter–but I’m also not acquainted with any children, so I’m not certain what’s considered appropriate these days.  I can tell you with certainty that it wouldn’t have bothered me at ten.  Most importantly though, this is definitely a book for people that enjoy talking animals, drawings, and some fantasy elements in their children’s books (and luckily I do).  The story is quick-paced and the main characters are all lovable and vaguely familiar (you’ll see why at the end, don’t make me spoil it for you).  Overall, a very enjoyable read–and if I knew any children, I would definitely recommend it to them.


About rhymenocerous

rhymenocerous combines a fondness for hip hop with her love of the serengeti. Her soft spot for kids in space is eclipsed only by her passion for time-travelling children. She eats too much cake and frequently pretends her dachshund speaks French. View all posts by rhymenocerous

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