Day: December 21, 2017

A Story of Hares
by Gary Kilworth

Skelter is a blue mountain hare from the highlands. He lives a relatively good life for a wild hare, even though predators and other dangers must be constantly avoided- not far into the book there is a bloody scene of a deer dying, which firmly introduces the reader to the fact this story doesn\’t shy away from death. Lots of animals die. Even main characters. Just when I was beginning to like them. Well, Skelter is looking forward to the upcoming mating season, when he will box with other hares to earn his right to a female. But men sweep across the fields catching wild hares to use for coursing their greyhounds. Skelters is shut in a cage, transported to the coursing field, has to run for his life. He narrowly escapes and finds himself in the lowlands, a strange countryside very different from the highland slopes he used to live on.

Skelter has to find ways to adapt in the new land. He takes up with some rabbits for a while, then tries to live among some lowland field hares. He becomes companionable with some females and wards off rival males. He has to face prejudices and superstitions galore- in this story, the differences between rabbits and hares are constantly pointed out, hares scorning the smaller rabbits\’ company. Skelter also lives near a badger\’s sett, gets to know a few otters and a short-tempered hedgehog. There are foxes that skulk across the fields, farmer\’s dogs that let them in on what humans are doing, and many other animals in the story. But strangest of all and most threatening is a giant exotic eagle. Through the whole story the eagle is described but never quite identified- the rabbits and hares simply call it a monster- its hunting patterns are different than any other predator they\’ve met, and it threatens them with extinction. Turns out it is a harpy eagle, an exotic pet released when it couldn\’t be kept. All kinds of implications in that part of the story. The oddest part was that the tower the eagle nested in talked to it. The tower talked. That was a bit much.

Well anyway Skelter the hare goes out on this insane quest to find the harpy eagle\’s hideout, learn more about it in case it can help them deal with the predator. And I won\’t tell you more about that part of the story- you\’d have to read it. I can see why this book has been compared to Watership Down. Lagomorph leaving its homeland under duress, searching for a way to find a safe new home. It even gives a few serious nods to the other book: in one place some of the rabbits mention a rabbit in a different warren who tells prophecies of the skies and fields turning red with blood. It\’s as if Richard Adams\’ rabbits lived just over the hills from those in this book, who heard faint rumors of their doings….

But this isn\’t as deep a story. Details of the highland countryside are nice, but later such depictions of nature are less frequent as the story has more action. The characterization isn\’t nearly as good. There were some inconsistencies in the story that bothered me- a hare feeling indifferent to one thing, then hating it later on with no real explanation for the change in attitude for example… Also a few odd spellings or words combined into one- chickensfeet isn\’t really a word, is it? And I’d never seen the word small used as a verb before: “Skelter smalled himself as much as possible.” Maybe some of it was error in the formatting for e-reader?

There were other things that seemed not-so-well thought out. The mythology and culture of the rabbits and hares just had too much going on. In the beginning of the story there was an info dump on hare beliefs- something like a hell full of tempters that dead hare spirits pass through while trying to reach heaven- and I was ready to buy that, to accept it as part of the story. But there’s also ghost-hares that guide the living, hare spirits that get turned into flowers, racial memories that some of the animals access when in a kind of trance (like in Nop’s Trials). In addition, the hares and rabbits have tons of superstitions including human-made objects seen as good luck items. Really reminiscent of The White Bone. It was just a lot of various belief systems and mythologies going on when I would have rather sunk deeply into just one.

It was nice that things were shown solidly from the animal perspective. They observe a murder that happens on a farm, but don’t know what\’s going on, although the reader is able to piece it together. They see a new feature arrive on the land, and something described as a \”rigid bird\” which I thought was an albatross (for a few pages). All the animals speak, although in different languages and dialects, and humans are the ones who make meaningless, superfluous sounds so the animals assume they communicate by gesture only. While reading this book I learned a new term, that applies to stories told from non-human viewpoint (be it animal, alien or other): xenofiction.

I almost feel sorry to give this book a low rating, but I really had to force myself to finish it in the end. There\’s an overly dramatic chase scene and a last-minute encounter with the harpy eagle that ends with unexpected suddenness. I have to say the way the author worked that final encounter into the story was quite clever. I feel like I’ve said quite a lot now, especially for a book that in the end, I didn’t care for that much. If you look on Goodreads, there’s someone who really goes on and on about it.

Read it on my e-reader.

Rating: 2/5          400 pages, 1992

more opinions from:
Thistle Chaser
p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 14.0px; font: 12.0px Times} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 14.0px; font: 12.0px Times; min-height: 14.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL:

Subscribe to my blog:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

VIEW MY PERSONAL COLLECTION:

TRADE BOOKS WITH ME ON:

ARCHIVES: 

2022
January 2022 (12)February 2022 (7)March 2022 (13)April 2022 (16)May 2022 (13)June 2022 (21)July 2022 (15)August 2022 (10)
2021
January 2021 (14)February 2021 (13)March 2021 (14)April 2021 (7)May 2021 (10)June 2021 (5)July 2021 (10)August 2021 (27)September 2021 (16)October 2021 (11)November 2021 (14)December 2021 (12)
2020
January 2020 (14)February 2020 (6)March 2020 (10)April 2020 (1)May 2020 (10)June 2020 (15)July 2020 (13)August 2020 (26)September 2020 (10)October 2020 (9)November 2020 (16)December 2020 (22)
2019
January 2019 (12)February 2019 (9)March 2019 (5)April 2019 (10)May 2019 (9)June 2019 (6)July 2019 (18)August 2019 (13)September 2019 (13)October 2019 (7)November 2019 (5)December 2019 (18)
2018
January 2018 (17)February 2018 (18)March 2018 (9)April 2018 (9)May 2018 (6)June 2018 (21)July 2018 (12)August 2018 (7)September 2018 (13)October 2018 (15)November 2018 (10)December 2018 (13)
2017
January 2017 (19)February 2017 (12)March 2017 (7)April 2017 (4)May 2017 (5)June 2017 (8)July 2017 (13)August 2017 (17)September 2017 (12)October 2017 (15)November 2017 (14)December 2017 (11)
2016
January 2016 (5)February 2016 (14)March 2016 (5)April 2016 (6)May 2016 (14)June 2016 (12)July 2016 (11)August 2016 (11)September 2016 (11)October 2016 (9)November 2016 (1)December 2016 (3)
2015
January 2015 (9)February 2015 (9)March 2015 (11)April 2015 (10)May 2015 (10)June 2015 (2)July 2015 (12)August 2015 (13)September 2015 (16)October 2015 (13)November 2015 (10)December 2015 (14)
2014
January 2014 (14)February 2014 (11)March 2014 (5)April 2014 (15)May 2014 (12)June 2014 (17)July 2014 (22)August 2014 (19)September 2014 (10)October 2014 (19)November 2014 (14)December 2014 (14)
2013
January 2013 (25)February 2013 (28)March 2013 (18)April 2013 (21)May 2013 (12)June 2013 (7)July 2013 (13)August 2013 (25)September 2013 (24)October 2013 (17)November 2013 (18)December 2013 (20)
2012
January 2012 (21)February 2012 (19)March 2012 (9)April 2012 (23)May 2012 (31)June 2012 (21)July 2012 (19)August 2012 (16)September 2012 (4)October 2012 (2)November 2012 (7)December 2012 (19)
2011
January 2011 (26)February 2011 (22)March 2011 (18)April 2011 (11)May 2011 (6)June 2011 (7)July 2011 (10)August 2011 (9)September 2011 (14)October 2011 (13)November 2011 (15)December 2011 (22)
2010
January 2010 (27)February 2010 (19)March 2010 (20)April 2010 (24)May 2010 (22)June 2010 (24)July 2010 (31)August 2010 (17)September 2010 (18)October 2010 (11)November 2010 (13)December 2010 (19)
2009
January 2009 (23)February 2009 (26)March 2009 (32)April 2009 (22)May 2009 (18)June 2009 (26)July 2009 (34)August 2009 (31)September 2009 (30)October 2009 (23)November 2009 (26)December 2009 (18)
2008
January 2008 (35)February 2008 (26)March 2008 (33)April 2008 (15)May 2008 (29)June 2008 (29)July 2008 (29)August 2008 (34)September 2008 (29)October 2008 (27)November 2008 (27)December 2008 (24)
2007
August 2007 (12)September 2007 (28)October 2007 (27)November 2007 (28)December 2007 (14)
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
1976
1975
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950