Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Prince Who Fell From The Sky - John Claude Bemis

Title: The Prince Who Fell From The Sky
Author: John Claude Bemis
Publisher: Random House, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 258 pages
Genre: Children's Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Started: September 7, 2012
Finished: September 13, 2012

From the inside cover:

In Casseomae's world, the wolves rule the Forest, and the Forest is everywhere. The animals tell stories of the Skinless Ones , whose cities and roads once covered the earth, but the Skinless disappeared long ago.

Casseomae is content to live alone, apart from the other bears in her tribe, until one of the ancients' sky vehicles crashes to the ground, and from it emerges a Skinless One, a child. Rather than turn him over to the wolves, Casseomae chooses to protect the human cub, to find someplace safe for him to live. But where among the animals will a human child be safe? And is Casseomae threatening the security of the Forest and all its tribes by protecting him?

Middle-grade readers who are fans of post-apocalyptic fiction are in for a treat with this inventive and engaging animal story by the author of the Clockwork Dark trilogy.

The premise for this sounded really intriguing so I decided to pick it up. I wasn't sure what to expect since 'animal stories' can be a hit or miss depending on how the author handles it. I've heard this described as a dystopian version of The Jungle Book, which is true, but thankfully it goes beyond that in a good way.

First off, the book is narrated from the point of view of the animals involved, and they can't speak to the boy and vice versa. I love that the author chose to write it this way rather than from the point of view of the boy, or have the boy and the animals magically able to talk to each other. Since having it from the animals' point of view allows for a deeper complexity due to their limited knowledge of humans, there's an incredible amount of world-building that goes on here, which is something you don't see very often in middle-grade books.

I loved all the animal characters, they were surprisingly well-rounded. Casseomae the bear grieves her litters of stillborn cubs and is extremely maternal but also very strong-willed. Dumpster the rat is hilarious and rough around the edges. Pang the dog is honourable and dedicated to serving the Companions (humans). I was a little disappointed we didn't really get to know the boy, we don't even find out his name, but granted this story isn't really about the boy, so it's excusable in this case.

Wonderfully well-written with intricate world-building and amusing characters. Readers who like animal stories that are ready to graduate to something more sophisticated will love this, as would readers that enjoy sci-fi stories with a unique spin.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the cover art. The colour scheme of purples and yellows/oranges are really appealing, and the illustration is well done. The boy does look a bit older than he's portrayed to be, but that could just be me.

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