Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nightshade City Review

Today I will be reviewing Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner. I finished the book over a week ago and have wanted to write and tell you all about it ever since but work and life have been getting in the way a bit lately. This post may end up being a little long, so I won't be sharing another picture of Hilary or the beautiful cover, but I've written about this book before, with pictures, so please see here, here or here if you are curious.

Nightshade City is a Middle Grade adventure story about a subterranean society of rats. I won't go into the plot here, because I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but suffice it to say that there is intrigue, espionage, and political infighting aplenty between the two factions within the rat culture.

One of my very favorite things about this novel is the characters. Their personalities, their voices, their quirks, and their appearances really jump off the page at you. This book is written for children, and the language, voice and writing style is certainly direct enough for them, but there is also a subtle skill with description that really drew me in, even as an adult. Here is an example of what I mean, from when we first mean one of the main characters, Clover:

She was quite lovely, with smooth cocoa skin, and light fur, buff in color and downy soft, more suited for a snow hare than a rat. She had a short, rounded nose and a sculpted, refined muzzle. Eyes the color of citrine offered up various hues of yellowy brilliance, round and open. Despite her beauty, she had an approachable sweetness, modest and shy.


I hope that illustrates my point well enough. Hilary obviously knows her rats. She describes several of them in a similar manner throughout the book, and I must say that one of the things I was most impressed with was her ability to use a different comparison every single time to convey the appearance or color of a particular rat's fur. It's delightful.

Another thing I enjoyed a great deal was the wealth of characters and their truly original names. We've already met Clover, of course, but there is also Juniper, Vincent, Victor, Mistress (or Mother) Gallo, Suttor, Carn, Julius, Cole, Oard, Noc, Lali, Texi, Ragan and Ulrich from the good side. These names are very original and perfectly suited, but I think you'll agree they are slightly outdone by the incredibly clever names of the evil characters. There is Major Lithgo, Major Foiber, Major Schnauss, and of course, the highly detailed and complexly sympathetic leaders, Killdeer, and one of the most memorable villains from children's literature, at least for me, Billycan.

Hilary does an excellent job of sprinkling in just enough backstory in the right places so that we know and understand the characters. We don't get it for everyone, but we do get it for everyone who matters. The pacing is perfect and I love how she weaves three or four different main characters' storylines in such a way that we end up with several great protagonists.

I could go on, instead I will just recommend this book. If you have children who enjoy animal adventures in the vein of Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows, then this book is an absolute must have. If you're just an adult who loves to read and thinks they would enjoy a fun adventure full of adorably charming characters, then I can certainly highly recommend this book.

16 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great review. This is definitely on my list of books to read. I don't usually like animal stories but this one sounds fantastic and Hilary is so sweet. And who wouldn't read a book with an endorsement by Rick Riordan. How cool!

Candyland said...

Sounds like a cute book. Except for the rat part! Jokingjoking.

Christina Lee said...

Oh Matt, I won this book and it keeps getting put behind my other "book club" books to be read. Cannot WAIT! Thx for the rerview!

Shannon said...

Thanks for this great review, Matt!

This is another one that's high on my list of books to read. I loved loved loved The Wind in the Willows growing up, so I'm excited about diving into this.

Thanks! <3

Jessica Bell said...

Sounds like a great book! Thanks for sharing! :o)

Creepy Query Girl said...

I really need to bulk up on my MG reading list and this one sounds like an awesome read! Thanks matt!

Jess said...

I've been hearing about Nightshade City forever, and can't wait to add it to my collection. Thanks for the review!

Hilary Wagner ~ Debut Author said...

Matt, thanks so much for your fantastic review! I love that you loved the book and I really value your opinion! You are so super supportive of us debut authors and all writers in general!!!

Thanks 50 times over!!! And I'm so glad you liked Billycan, he's my main man! :)

xoxo -- Hilary

LTM said...

yay! Sounds fantastic--I'll pick up a copy for Catibug~ :o)

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

gah, i want this so bad! But when i went to stoopid borders they didn't have it. This is why i shop at B&N

Old Kitty said...

Wow!! I love it!! I want to read!! It says - "read for christmas"!!! Thanks for the fab review!! Take care
x

Carolyn Abiad said...

Sounds like stocking stuffer material to me! Thanks for the suggestion.

Rose Cooper said...

Yay for Hilary! She is so awesome! I'm waiting to receive my copy and I think my son will love it (as will I). Thanks for the terrific review!

Elana Johnson said...

I've got this one on my table, and I so need to get to it! Thanks for the reminder.

L'Aussie said...

A great review Matthew. I like animal stories. Always grab the kids..:)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I just started reading Nightshade City yesterday. Several chapters in and I'm enjoying it very much!

Great review, Matt!