GENRE(S): Fantasy, YA, action adventure, animal
PUBLISHER: Amazon Digital Services
Theo and the Forbidden Language is reduced priced on 12 Jan 2015!
Theo and the Forbidden Language by Melanie Ansley is the tale of a rabbit and the beginning of his quest to save his world and all sentient animals, except he doesn’t quite know it yet. Theo is an ordinary rabbit in his community, even a bit lackluster perhaps, except for his special talent of word catching, which is forbidden and lands him in trouble. Retrieved from the verge of expulsion from his community by a bear named Brune, our hero learns he has been selected to become an apprentice to become an Ihaktu warrior and that his world is on the cusp of war. With Brune, Theo embarks on a grand adventure with all of the requisite narrow escapes, battles, camaraderie, and intrigue.
Described by Ansley as a cross between Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings, Theo and the Forbidden Language is an ambitious undertaking. Making rabbits, bears, monkeys, and vultures into believable heroes, and villains, on the scale of Frodo and Gandalf is no small task, and yet Ansley delivers.
Told with a deft hand, Theo and the Forbidden Language does not miss a beat and hits all of the highs expected in the first novel in a series, while still setting the stage for the rest of the series. The prose is sharp, clear, and beautiful, full of memorable imagery, “with the moon nothing but a curled wood shaving in the sky.” Theo is perfectly imperfect and brave and smart enough to be lovable, while his companions, Brune, Indigo, and Manneki provide the appropriate combination of challenges and support to guide and push Theo along.
The story is well crafted and the action carries the reader effortlessly to the end. It is ultimately about hope and fighting for a just cause, and yet it does not shy away from difficult subjects and conflict. The world building is detailed and fresh, and yet only inserted into the story where it is needed. It is challenging to find anything negative to say regarding Theo and the Forbidden Language. Perhaps the one criticism that could be leveled is that it is too well written, at the risk of eliminating every potential edge that makes the best indie fiction unique. One feels as though they are watching a seasoned and much-loved writer hit all of their expected marks, rather than a first-time novelist. It would be interesting to see what a writer as skilled as Ansley could do if she took more risks. But this series may not be the place to do so.
Theo and the Forbidden Language is an exquisitely written adventure ride with delightful characters and an epic story arc. C.S. Lewis and Richard Adams may have competition when it comes to terrific books about talking animals. Theo and the Forbidden Language is perhaps most appropriate for YA or older middle grade readers, but fantasy (and rabbit) lovers of any age will find more than enough to sink their teeth into.
Five stars, a stunning debut.
Theo and the Forbidden Language on Amazon
Jennifer Ellis is the author of A Pair of Docks and A Quill Ladder, a fantasy adventure series for kids and adults, and In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation about a kinder and more romantic dystopic future. She lives in a ski town and works as an environmental researcher. Find her at www.jenniferellis.ca.