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Monday, June 11, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews Mouse Guard - Fall 1152


Mouse Guard, Fall 1152

Author: David Petersen

Publisher: Archaia Studios Press

ISBN 10: 1-932386-57-2

ISBN 13: 978-1-932386-57-8

This little gem of an art-book was serialized last year in the form of six small bimonthly “comic books” of 24 8” x 8” pages each. Each page is painted in a detailed realistic art style reminiscent of Arthur Rackham or Brian Froud. The collected complete work, plus bonus artwork, is a squarish hardcover of 192 pages; more of a fine-art graphic novel than an illustrated picture book.

The story is an adventure fantasy set in a medieval world of anthropomorphized mice, although they are drawn realistically, without clothes. (It is hard to tell the main characters apart except for the colors of their fur: red, gray, and brown.) Lieam, Kenzie, and Saxon, three young Guardsmice whose duties include the protecting of mice from the predators of northern European forests, are assigned to find out what happened to a peddler-mouse traveling between the towns of Rootwallow and Barkstone. They learn that he was eaten by a giant (to mice) snake, which they track down and kill in the first of the six chapters. But hidden in the peddler’s wares is a map showing the secret defenses of the Mouse Guard’s headquarters, indicating that the peddler was a traitor. The three Guardsmice set out to learn to whom the peddler was going to deliver the map. They discover a full-sized plot to take over the forest mouse nation, which leads to a civil war and the dramatic siege of the Mouse Guard’s castle in Lockhaven.

Mouse Guard has been receiving rave reviews throughout last year and this from critics ranging from comics-shop owners to librarians and Publishers Weekly. There have many comparisons of the story with the animated fantasy movie The Secret of NIMH, and Mouse Guard would make an excellent movie of the same type. The adventure, although rather shallow and stereotypical, is suitable for young fans of Tolkienish heroic fantasy, with lots of swordplay against huge predatory beasts and mouse traitors. The quality of Petersen’s artwork and the adult art-book presentation elevate Mouse Guard from a children’s book to one suitable for all ages. The appurtances of a media hit are already being planned; a first sequel, Mouse Guard, Winter 1152, will begin serialization this July, and PVC action figures of Lieam, Kenzie and Saxon will follow a month later. Read the first story now in what is sure to become a successful series.

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