The Mistmantle Chronicles, written by M. I. McAllister, are a series of anthropomorphic fantasy books which feature the life of a pale, honey-colored Eurasian red squirrel named Urchin. They are very similar to Brian Jacques' Redwall series, as all characters are talking animals with no humans featuring. All technology is medieval, and the setting is also medieval, with Urchin living in a castle, and being a page for a lot of the books.
These books are on my definite favorite list.
The Mistmantle books are very well written and keep the same themes of fighting evil and winning through all of the books, yet that theme doesn't get old, because it's different kinds of evil each time (inner doubts that might lead a character to do dark things, for example) that the denizens of Mistmantle have to face. And the Mistmantle Chronicles have important lessons about "evil". Unlike the Redwall series, where animals like stoats and rats and such are automatically evil, animals like squirrels and hedgehogs that are seen as almost always good in Brian Jacques' series can be bad in McAllister's books. For example, there are lots of squirrel heroes in the Redwall series, but in Mistmantle, squirrels can grow up in a loving, understanding environment and still end up on the 'evil' side....showing that it's not always one's origins that determine character (this can be a good and bad thing), which I liked better than the often prevailing "bad guys and good guys" theme of Redwall...not that I don't enjoy Brian Jacques' books, though.
Characters show up in Mistmantle that aren't on the 'good' or 'bad' side, necessarily, yet these secondary characters behave admirably as heroes (Gleaner, for example) even though they don't get along well with the heroic main characters. The books give a message that it's alright to think independently of what everyone else thinks (again, Gleaner) even if what everyone thinks is the popular and "right" way to think. The book's tones also lean strongly towards loyalty and love...but those are just a few of the values the books can convey.
These books are good for children, and can appeal to adults as well. M.I. McAllister has created a great world inside her books.
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Books in the series
- Urchin of the Riding Stars
- Urchin and the Heartstone
- The Heir of Mistmantle
- Urchin and the Raven War
- Urchin and the Rage Tide
- Reading Age: 11+
- Read Aloud Age: 10+
All the creatures on Mistmantle believe in "The Heart". This is some sort of "god" that takes "care" of Mistmantle. It is a deeply loving "god", but does not control the animals in any way. Quite a lot of creatures receive "prophecies" telling them what to do. In Book 1, the bad guy receives a prophecy, possibly meaning there is some sort of evil "god". However this is not explored further.
In the first book, there is a practice known as "culling", in which baby animals with any sort of defect are killed. A small group of parents and others try their hardest to rescue those who are to be euthanized, and many times, they succeed. The evil practice is ended by the end of the first book.
In book 2, there is a bad guy who is an evil magician, who claims to be able to know where silver is on the island, by burning parts of dead animals (i.e. claws, fur, heart).
Despite this, there is a strong distinction between good and evil.
If you like this you might like
- The Tales of Redwall series, which are very similar.
- The Chronicles of Narnia, written by C. S. Lewis, are also fantasy books about another world, inhabited by talking animals.