Kindle is a wonderful thing, made even more wonderful by the introduction of the Kindle Daily Deal. That was where I found this book and proceeded to buy it for 99p.
What a premise. A war is looming. On one side, Doctor Henry Ross-Gibbon, an MP and a band of willing followers, on the other, the rat Kingdom. Efren is a ratling born to the Court of Tasting, but his life takes a wild turn when he is witness to the murder of the rat king at the hands of the Doctor. Soon, he finds himself in the middle of a political struggle, and then in the middle of a war. To make things more complicated, he finds that not all humans are the enemy, and becomes torn between love and loyalty.
First off, you're all asking, what on earth is a Twyning? Well, some of you may find this gross. It is a load of rats, about 20 or more, all joined up by the tails to form one big seething mass. Told you.
The book has two first person viewpoints, that of Efren the rat, and that of Dogboy, a homeless thirteen-year-old who lives in a rubbish tip. It is at first difficult to see how the two could link together, but trust me, they do. The chapters alternate between the two voices, meaning that you get each of their story a bit at a time. This is good as you get to see, piece by piece, how their lives will cross over. Efren is possibly the more interesting of the two, simply because he is a rat. There are so many elements to him that make him an excellent character. Not least that he isn't even a normal rat. The way his emotions are shaped; they're just like ours, only he thinks differently. Loyalty to the Kingdom and his King is a forefront of his thoughts. He is a truly selfless character, but he can come across as a little bit cold. The inclusion of Dogboy's voice means that we have something to associate with. His thoughts are like our own. We understand him perfectly.
There are a lot of very clever aspects of the story. The first is how the Kingdom of the rats has been thought through. We thought they were mindless beasts, but in this book they communicate in their minds, they have a Court system that allows the Kingdom to run smoothly and they have a kind of religion in that they worship the Twyning. The second is that the backstories of the children, Dogboy and Caz (a little girl who Dogboy lives with), are very interesting. Caz's particularly fits in with the events of the story, and there are some peculiar things about both of them that will give the reader a surprise or two.
As the story progresses, it drags you in. Your emotions become entwined with that of the young boy and the rat, of all the trouble that they get into. When the war finally starts, you truly feel for all the rats dying, you believe that the doctor is the enemy, even though your human brain is still telling you that rats are vermin. This book is packed with excitement and interest. It can be a little gory at times, just to warn you, but don't let that stop you. It is well worth reading.
Money well spent? I think so. The climax was good, but I wanted the war to end with a bit more of a punch. I wanted something to happen that would really shock me, like some of the events earlier in the book such as the pits and the rescue.
Still, it deserves a good, sturdy 9 out of 10. I would read any of Terence Blacker's books on the merit of this one alone.
Image from www.terenceblacker.com.