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A Reader of Fictions: Best of Friends - Pearl Bailey

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, May 25, 2012

Best of Friends - Pearl Bailey

The Prince Who Fell from the Sky

Author: John Claude Bemis
Pages: 258
ARC Acquired from: Random House BFYR via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
In Casseomae's world, the wolves rule the Forest, and the Forest is everywhere. The animals tell stories of the Skinless Ones, whose cities and roads once covered the earth, but the Skinless disappeared long ago.

Casseomae is content to live alone, apart from the other bears in her tribe, until one of the ancients' sky vehicles crashes to the ground, and from it emerges a Skinless One, a child. Rather than turn him over to the wolves, Casseomae chooses to protect this human cub, to find someplace safe for him to live. But where among the animals will a human child be safe? And is Casseomae threatening the safety of the Forest and all its tribes by protecting him?

Middle-grade fans of postapocalyptic fiction are in for a treat with this fanciful and engaging animal story by the author of the Clockwork Dark trilogy.

First Sentence: "The forest was green with summer when the bear lumbered up from the creek bed where she had been cooling off."

As you may know by now, I don't generally read book blurbs before starting books. I saw the tag dystopia and requested this immediately without knowing pretty much anything. Despite the bear on the cover, I was still really confused when I started reading and it was a bunch of bears talking to one another. Very strange.

In a dystopian world where humans are thought to have died out, the animals have gone all Animal Farm. Wolves are the rulers of this landscape, controlling boundaries and determining which predators are allowed to stay in their territory. The wolves' control stems from their strength, the fact that they're pack-based (there's a lot of them) and that they helped kill off the last humans, decimated by an infection and who knows what else. All the wild animals have serious contempt for Faithfuls, basically pets.

The bears have an uneasy truce with the reigning wolf pack in the area. Casseomae, an old female bear, is chatting with a rat, Dumpster, one day, having just saved him from some hungry coyotes, when something crashes to the ground nearby. Inside the thing are some of the Skinless (aka "Old Devils" or humans). The crash has killed all but one, a Skinless cub. Casseomae's mothering instincts kick in and she determines to save this creature, which every other animal in the forest wants to kill, except for Dumpster and later a dog named Pang. This odd team works together to save the child.

I never really got over the sense of strangeness as I read this. In no way is it bad, and I think the concept is fascinating, but it never really worked for me. Partly, I think that this is largely because it doesn't seem to be targeted at a particular age group. It's being marketed as middle grade, but I question that somewhat. The fact that the main characters are animals, and the child's age, which is indeterminate but seems young, would recommend the book to children. However, the violence of the story (especially since it's animals being hurt) would lead me to think it would be best for older readers, who might not be so interested in an animal tale.

The Prince Who Fell from the Sky is rather reminiscent of Ice Age, although humans are the ones dying out in that one. Even the main character grouping is fairly similar to Ice Age: child, bear (to replace mammoth - able to carry others and fight), rat (similar to the sloth in usefulness physically, but Dumpster is also a compendium of knowledge), and dog (not as useful as the sabretooth I'll admit). It's kind of like a dystopian mashup of Ice Age and The Incredibly Journey. So if that sounds appealing to you, definitely check this out.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: " 'You're wrong to think that,' Dumpster said. 'I scratchin' thought it myself. But if you had seen all that this bear has done to protect the cub, you would feel about them as I do. Besides, he's more bear and dog now than Old Devil.' "

"If only the world wouldn't get in the way
If only people would just let you play
They say you're both being fools
You're breaking all the rules
They can't understand, the magic of your wonderland

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Blogger Wendy Darling said...

Aw, it's too bad this was such a disappointment to you! The concept sounds so interesting. I LOVE middle grade fiction when it's done well, but I often have trouble with many of the books I try, and it's often because of one of the points you mention above: the target audience for the age. (I really liked BREADCRUMBS, for example, but I never really got a handle on what age group it was really aimed towards.)

Thanks for the honest review. I appreciated reading your reaction.

Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

May 25, 2012 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

Honestly, I love middle grade and I love animals, but I don't think I could handle all of the violence of this one. I'm just too sensitive to that stuff.

May 25, 2012 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Middle grade just can become sort of a catchall category it seems like sometimes. This is too mature for children, but the characters are too young to call it teen. Let's draw a cover and call it middle grade!

This book wasn't bad, but I just couldn't deal. I think other people might like it. I don't have much perspective on that, really, though, as I haven't seen any other reviews for it.

May 30, 2012 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Violence is always SO much harder to take when it's happening to animals. If a person dies in a book or movie, I'm like oh well. If a cat or horse or dog dies, I'm ready to leap into the scene and kill whoever dared murder such a lovely creature!

May 30, 2012 at 12:05 PM  

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