Charles D Blanchard takes readers into the minds of rats in his literary adventure KINGDOM’S END.
The Crown Jewel movie theatre has been derelict for years but far from abandoned: a highly civilized colony of rats play, fight, mate and plot within its crumbling walls. The colony is headed by a much-beloved father figure, Old Indio, and his wisdom keeps a particularly treacherous species mostly at peace. One ambitious and high-ranking soldier thinks the blind mole has lived too long, however. Matthias is impatient to rise in his ranks, and when he learns that Indio has named him his successor, his greed and pride turn deadly. A lively and twisting revenge plot forms the backbone of the narrative while fascinating glimpses into the daily lives of periphery characters adds to the adventure.
KINGDOM’S END certainly elevates the plight of the rat. The author has crafted believably rodent characters, particularly in the loyal rat Bartholomew and Chantal, a sweet mouse with a tumor on her leg. The detailed scenes of gnawing and nesting habits, as well as mating rituals, evidences sufficient research into rat characteristics. Removing the novelty of the rodent protagonists, however, KINGDOM’S END is a rather predictable adventure. Various characters visit a fortune-teller rat who is used too conveniently to aid and explain the plot, removing a great deal of suspense regarding how Matthias’s coup and Bartholomew’s loyalty will prevail. And the rat’s speech (or “squeak,” which is occasionally used charmingly instead of “said,”) is stilted, mired in lines like: “It’s true it was I he befriended first. He was the only human who treated me like a friend and not an enemy.”
But the rodent novelty and the many engaging characters make KINGDOM’S END an entertaining read despite these flaws. More squeamish readers may have trouble putting their rodent prejudices aside for this book, but it would be their loss.
KINGDOM’S END is a cleverly conceived and executed adventure with plenty of characters to love and to loathe.