________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Urgum The Axe Man.

Kjartan Poskitt. Illustrated by Phillip Reeve.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2008.
413 pp., pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99489-7.

Subject Headings:
Fantasy fiction.
Wit and humour, juvenile.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Todd Kyle.

***½ /4

   
cover Urgum and the Seat of Flames.

Kjarton Poskitt. Illustrated by Philip Reeve.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2008.
295 pp., pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99323-4.

Subject Headings:
Fantasy fiction.
Wit and humour, juvenile.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Todd Kyle.

***½ /4

excerpt:

They had been out at the Unicorn Hunt, and like all good barbarian social events it had involved fighting, bragging, brawling, partying and completely losing track of the time. The one thing it hadn't involved was actually catching any unicorns but they weren't going to let a small detail like that upset their fun as they galloped home to the cragg.

"Yarghhh!" shouted Urgum again. "Wouldn't you agree lads?"

"Yarghhh!" agreed the seven sons.

Urgum's chest swelled with pride. This was GREAT! Nobody else in the desert would dare to gallop along the thin ledge that ran around the rim of the Forgotten Crater. Behind him the boys had started up their favourite battle chant:

"ARE WE SCARED?

NO!

DO WE CARE?

NO!

WE'RE COMPLETELY MENTAL!" (From Urgum The Axe Man.)

 

      In Urgum The Axe Man, prehistoric barbarian Urgum is the last of the "true" barbarians and the last believer in the barbarian gods. Tired of saving his life in order to maintain their existence, the gods decide to warp time. Urgum returns from battle to find that 10 years have passed and that he now has a 10-year-old daughter named Molly. Molly wants to be a true barbarian as well, but, as the gods wish, she is also likely to turn him a little softer than he likes. Once Urgum accepts Molly and gets to know his emotions, he and his daughter join forces to defeat the "civilized" world's tax collectors, proving that true barbarians are often the more civilized.

internal art

      Urgum The Axe Man is a zany, hilarious, imaginative, and highly boy-friendly novel, featuring illustrations quite numerous for a book of its length as well as shouted dialogue presented in graphic form. A few quintessentially British expressions aside, this is a book that will connect well with Canadian readers craving something absorbing and entertaining, if not highly insightful. The narration is as hilarious as it is complex, winking at the reader through long and twisted passages that never cease to fascinate.

      Not for the faint of heart, Urgum The Axe Man features a multitude of casual violence, gore, and guts, but balances it well with excellent — if exaggerated — character development, especially the progressively charming Molly and the irrepressible Divina, Urgum's "softhand" (civilized) wife. Like the inimitable Roald Dahl, Poskitt seems capable of presenting cruelty and violence without making them scary — Urgum comes across more like a hell-raising buddy with a huge soft spot.

      While some may despair that this turns what we are trying to teach kids on its head, well, others would probably say that a good dose of wild, exaggerated irony never hurt anyone. Urgum The Axe Man is a near-perfect book for kids needing something to appeal to their oft-lost sense of harmless mischief.

      Urgum and the Seat of Flames presents more of the same. In this sequel to Urgum The Axe Man, the gods are worried that Urgum is going too soft, and so create Orgo the Gorgo to challenge him to a real fight.

      Both books are highly recommended.

Highly Recommended.

Todd Kyle, a former President of the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians, is currently a library branch manager in Mississauga, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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