I read – and loved! – Tom’s first book,The River Singers, which was published in 2013, snapped up the sequel, The Rising, as soon as it came out and when his latest book, Trickster, was published on the 4th February I bought myself a copy straight away. I enjoyed reading Trickster so much that I stayed up ridiculously late to finish it (cue, bleary-eyed bookseller in the morning!).
Now, I don’t want to sound all gushing or anything… but I just genuinely really like Tom’s style of writing, the depth of knowledge and research that goes into his stories and… well… just his great characterisation and storytelling. He writes nature stories for kids of the twentyteens and he does it really well. Think Farthing Wood, Watership Down, Rats of Nimh, The Wind in the Willows, Joyce Stranger’s stories and so on – but, dare I say it… after all I grew up on all these wonderful animal stories… in my opinion he does it even better. I loved all these other stories – and still do – but Tom’s stories are real. I feel like I’ve learned a whole heap about water voles from reading The River Singers and The Rising but not intentionally; it’s the stories that shine but the ecological information just sort of filters into the brain as well. It’s genius.
Trickster is a story about two brother rats, Ash and Gabble, growing up from being young flapfeet, to I suppose adolescent ratlings, to growing into being full grown rats. Rats. Yes. I detest rats. Now, water voles (the subject of The River Singers) were cute but I’ve always hated rats. I shouldn’t get on with this book at all, right? – No. Wrong. Once I’d got the idea of rats out of my mind, it didn’t matter at all that this was a story about animals that I really dislike; the story is good enough to overcome that. It helped that I had grown quite fond of a kindly old rat in The River Singers and The Rising and it turned out that Trickster is the story of that very same rat.
There is absolutely no need to read the other two books before you read Trickster; it stands completely by itself as a novel. In fact, you might even call it a prequel of sorts as it looks at a young Fo’dur’s life (aka Gabble – the sensible brother) but you don’t need to read these books in sequence at all. I highly recommend that you do read them all but it’s not necessary to have read the other two before you read Trickster.
So, where was I? Yes, Ash and Gabble. Ash is a troublesome young rat; he gets into scrapes, has a very independent, adventurous, even reckless streak and likes to test all the boundaries. Moreover, he’s white and the rest of his clan are more ordinary brown rats, so Ash stands out physically as well as by his behaviour. Gabble is a more sensible rat shall we say and is very protective of his difficult brother and tries to be a stabilising influence, though Ash makes this as difficult as he possibly can. Ash’s adventurous streak takes him and his brother off on food raids before they are ready and exploring territories out of bounds to their rat clan. He brings trouble on his own community when neighbouring rat clans want to fight. Gabble does all he can to save his brother and his clan. Will it be enough?…
Like I say, a great story and it also touches on some good themes; such as fitting in, independence, following one’s own path while being considerate to others, communities, difference and acceptance. There are subtle messages that can be taken from the story, or it can just be enjoyed as the good adventurous story that is. I would recommend it for the 8-12 age range but …well, let’s just say I’m considerably (ahem) outside of that range and I loved it. I’ll recommend it for those aged 8-108 instead! If I had to rate Trickster, it would get a full 10/10 from me.
About the Author
[From the blurb inside the back cover] Tom Moorhouse lives in Oxford. When not writing fiction he works as an ecologist at Oxford University’s Zoology Department. Over the years he has met quite a lot of wildlife. Most of it tried to bite him. He loves hiking up mountains, walking through woods, climbing on rocks, and generally being weather-beaten outdoors.
Where to Buy
You can buy Trickster from your local independent bookshop, or you can buy online from hive.co.uk and still support your local independent bookshop by nominating them to receive a percentage of your sale on Hive. Shop local to keep your High Streets alive. It’s out in paperback, RRP £6.99.