Review: The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

A thick white blanket covers the wide slopes of the band of hills known as the Razorback Downs…

Podkin is the son of a warrior chieftain. He knows that one day it will be up to him to lead his warren and guard it in times of danger. But for now, he’s quite happy to laze around annoying his older sister Paz, and playing with his baby brother Pook. Then Podkin’s home is brutally attacked, and the young rabbits are forced to flee. The terrifying Gorm are on the rampage, and no one and nowhere is safe. With danger all around them, Podkin must protect his family, uncover his destiny, and attempt to defeat the most horrifying enemy rabbitkind has ever known.”

I stumbled across The Legend of Podkin One-Ear (book one of The Five Realms) as I was leaving Waterstones, my eye drawn by the stunning Waterstones-exclusive cover designed by Fernando Juarez. I almost didn’t pick it up – it was in the children’s section, and there can be some judgement levelled at those who read “below their level.” But if there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s to not fall prey to that particular trap.

Some stories, the best stories, transcend boundaries and labels, and Podkin is definitely one of those stories – this one has just been written so it’s accessible to younger readers as well as older ones. And that’s not to say that the story is simplistic. Far from it. Podkin’s story tackles dark themes head on, from death to violence to survival, and the human struggles and emotions of its rabbit-characters resonate deeply. It reflects life beautifully, in all its light and darkness, and there are lessons for all readers to take away from it; Podkin is a bold story with many positive – and at times, subversive – messages that make it a story I would recommend to anyone.

It makes a change from the epic fantasy fare I usually read, where quality is often associated with the depth and detail of the world and narrative. Podkin by comparison is a much “lighter” read, but part of its power and joy stem from the sheer wonder Larwood infuses in every page. It’s magical and transportive, and its depth is not necessarily in painstaking detail, but rather in the truth of the characters’ emotions and their struggles.

I also want to mention the narrative for a moment. It rolls along at a swift pace, balancing character development with plenty of action. It’s a thrilling read, and Larwood manages to wrap things up neatly in an ending that doesn’t feel rushed or contrived.

The highest compliment I can give to Podkin is that it made me feel like a kid again, swept up by the story in the best way. And I have to mention the breathtaking interior illustrations by David Wyatt which really add another immersive layer to this story. Five out of five stars. I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel The Gift of Dark Hollow (which is published next month) and am busy pushing my fiancé to read this book.

An incredible read.

You can learn more about Kieran Larwood here, and The Legend of Podkin One-Ear is available from here. I read the UK Waterstones-exclusive paperback edition (available here).

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