There is nothing better than a classic coming of age story; the young hero, reluctant at first, grows into the leader he was born to be as the adventure unravels. Throw rabbits into the equation and I’m unlikely to be getting a huge amount of sleep until I can be sure the bunnies are safe and sound (I’ve seen Watership Down, thank you very much).
Podkin, son of Lopkin, is the privileged heir to Munbury warren and spends his days lazing in his room, avoiding lessons, and generally doing whatever he likes. When the warren is invaded by the evil, iron-clad Gorm army, Podkin is stuck wandering through the snow with his annoying sister, Paz, and constantly hungry baby brother, Pook. The sacrifices that Podkin has made (he isn’t called One-Ear for nothing, you know) and the battles that he has fought since then have become legendary throughout the Five Realms, told as bedtime stories to little rabbits by bards and parents alike. We join one such bard, on Bramblemas Eve, as he settles in to tell his version of the tale.
I loved the narrative method; whole chapters are given over to the bard’s story with small interludes to show how the tale is received by its cotton-tailed audience, making you feel as if you have joined them around the fireside. I suspect this would make the book particularly good for reading aloud as well, though the chapters are a little on the long side so finding a good place to stop could be a little tricky.
Finding an acceptable place to put this book down is made even harder by the seven double page illustrations inside. I kept wanting to read on just so I could get to one and stare at it for a few minutes. I had the Waterstones paperback edition that, controversially, doesn’t name David Wyatt as Illustrator on the front cover, which is a real shame because I think these are the best illustrations I’ve seen in a very long time. I know he’s a baddie but I totally need a print of the armoured Gorm for my office.
The good characters are suitably lovable; reading about baby Pook has brought my annual desire to have a house rabbit come back round a few months early, and it’s much harder to fight now. Meanwhile, the Gorm warriors are imposing and frightening, the magical elements are mysterious.
Almost too mysterious actually. I had to re-read the main, climactic scene because I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening, and this ruined things a little. I’m still not sure I quite understand what was going on there (it might just be me but I’m thinking that if I couldn’t get it, there must a few 9-12 year olds out there that would struggle too), and it’s this that stops Podkin and his legend not achieving a full star rating.
Definitely worth a read – The Legend of Podkin One-Ear proves that the hero’s journey storyline is as enthralling as ever. Particularly with added rabbits, obviously.