Duncton Wood" is a very difficult book to describe, not because it's not about anything but because it's basically about everything. Adventure, love, hate, destiny, terror, the mechanics of how evil arises both within a society and within an individual, romance, play, disaster, the clash of species, hope, faith, mystery, abyss-deep horror, nature and character. And it's all from the perspective of moles.
My overall impression of this book is more positive than this review will probably imply. It's not a bad book, but it's not as good a book as it could and should have been. It's a first novel, and it shows. The author betrayed his lack of faith in his writing in several ways that I personally found rather annoying.
First, the book is about moles. Moles? Really? Yes, moles. The rodents. Moving on.
There is a lazy "world building" technique that mediocre fantasy authors sometimes employ; they take something familiar and give it a different name. A rabbit might be a long eared hopper; a mile becomes a footday; a month becomes a moon cycle. In this book, it took the form attaching the word "mole" to everything. Moledays, moleyears, molemonths, molefeet, molemiles, molethises, molethats, whatchamamoles, and whoozitmoles. It all got a bit silly. Were henchmoles and guardmoles really necessary?
The plotting felt tedious at times. There were periods where you really felt like all the characters were just hanging about waiting for something interesting to happen. No, check that. The characters literally were sitting around waiting for something interesting to happen. The book even said so. The length could have been cut by a third and the novel probably would have been better.
If you are fond of Watership Down and hoping for a similar experience, you won't find it here. The rabbits in WD were rabbits, not humans in rabbit guise. The moles here are humans. Sure, they have poor eyesight and eat worms and beetles, but they are simply small furry humans. This isn't necessarily a criticism, just an observation.
Yet, in spite of my complaints, it isn't a bad book. It's okay, if a little too slow in parts. Not a great read, but at worst a harmless one.
It's amazing to me how well the author has created a whole world and religion in this book. This is the first of a series about a group of moles struggling to survive in a hostile world. It's easy to forget that they're moles and to start thinking of them as people.
If you've read Watership Down, then this is a book that you'll really enjoy. The first book was the best, but I've read the first 3.
The novel, part of an extended six book cycle, centers on Bracken and Rebecca, two moles living in the ancient system of Duncton Wood, which has come under the domination of Mandrake, Rebeccas father, and Rune, an evil mole whose scheming and plots is poisoning their community. Once a great community, Duncton Wood is in decline, and the great standing Stone, the worship of which once formed the center of their communal life, is no longer honored, or visited on Midsummer or Longest night. Into their lives comes Boswell, a scribemole from the Holy Burrows of Uffington, and these three (Bracken, Rebecca, and Boswell) become connected through many journeys, much suffering, and great love.
Very unique tale & most definately an enjoyable read!
A CLASH OF GOOD AND EVIL IN THE SAVAGE KINGDOM OF MOLES
Absolutely marvelous. My mother recommended this book to me many years ago and I was hesitant to read it -- moles?? But I had read Watership Down and she said it was even better. And she was right! It also has a spiritual message which if you are at all spiritually-oriented, you're likely to appreciate - as long as you're able to accept essential facets of spirituality without apart from your specific religion. After 30 years, I'm reading the second volume of the series now (Duncton Quest) and unfortunately it's not as good -- the good has become too good and the evil too evil. But it's still difficult to put down. A reader can easily get attached to individual moles as one would to actual animals -- but with somewhat human consciousness.