Review: Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham

Title: Down the Mysterly River 

Author: Bill Willingham

Publishing Information: September 13th 2011 by Starscape

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 333 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Fans of Bill Willingham, tales of adventure and anyone appreciative of a good coming of age tale.

Max “the Wolf” is a top notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat)—all of whom talk—and who are as clueless as Max.

Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t guess. But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he’s landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world…

I am a huge Bill Willingham fan and I LOVE his Fables series so I was quick to snatch this up as soon as I realized it existed. This book is not set in the Fables land but it has a fun fairy-tale essence that many readers will appreciate.

Max “the Wolf” finds himself walking alone in the middle of a forest with no memory of what has befallen him. He is wearing his scout uniform so he assumes that he has been separated from his group and is merely lost in the woods in a familiar place. Soon after he comes across a few talking animals, Banderbrock, who is a warrior and a badger, McTavish the Monster, a barn cat with a serious attitude problem, and Walden a sweet sheriff who just also happens to be a bear. These animals have also lost their way and have no memory of how they came to be in the wood. The group is attacked by a group of men with blue swords and soon find that these men are an evil enemy. They are called Cutters and their job is to find new arrivals to the land and cut them into completely different beings, they remake them into creatures that have no memory of their prior life with completely new personalities quite different from the ones they started with. This group needs to stay close together if they have any chance of getting past the Cutters and getting to a place of safety.

This story was wonderful; right up to the last 25-30 pages I really loved it. Then the story changes completely and becomes something I really didn’t enjoy. I felt let down, and a little sad at how they tied things up. However, I did enjoy the way in which they set it up for a sequel to follow because I really want the characters to get back some things they lost and move forward to their next adventure – I can’t explain here or I would give away too many spoilers!

I have to say that I LOVED McTavish, he was a rogue and spoke right to my heart. I also found the difference in narrative very refreshing, I am so used to strong female characters and paranormal romances that the young male point of view was a nice breather. The novel was both an adventure and a fairy tale but most of all, this was a wonderful coming of age story that focused on unlikely friendships, courage and overcoming your fears to defeat the enemy.

I recommend this book to fans of Bill Willingham, tales of adventure and anyone appreciative of a good coming of age tale. This book was first published in 2001 and it has been re-released with illustrations from Fables artist Mark Buckingham!!

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2 thoughts on “Review: Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham

  1. Haha, I was going to ask if you'd read Peter and Max yet, I couldn't remember! I haven't read EITHER yet, but really need to. I had Peter and Max from the library, but lost it when I switched to a new Kindle, so I need to check it out again. Saving this one for when I'm in a good middle grade mood.

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