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Friday, October 9, 2015

"The Borribles: The Borrible Trilogy Book 1" by Michael de Larrabeiti (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 OVERVIEW: What is a Borrible? Borribles are runaways who dwell in the shadows of London. Apart from their pointed ears, they look just like ordinary children. They live by their wits and a few Borrible laws-the chief one being, Don't Get Caught! The Borribles are outcasts-but they wouldn't have it any other way....
One night, the Borribles of Battersea discover a Rumble-one of the giant, rat-shaped creatures who are their ancient enemy-in their territory. Fearing an invasion, an elite group of Borrible fighters set out on what will become known in legend as The Great Rumble Hunt. So begins the first of the three epic adventures in Michael de Larrabeiti's classic trilogy, where excitement, violence, low cunning, greed, generosity, treachery, and bravery exist side by side.

FORMAT: The Borribles is the first book in the children's/YA urban fantasy series. It is a gritty urban fantasy filled with adventure. It was first published in 1976, but was republished July 10, 2005 by Tor Teen. It stands at 224 pages.

ANALYSIS: It is time to jump in the way back machine and take a look at another 'oldie but goodie' book. This time I am featuring The Borribles, which is the first book in The Borrible Trilogy. The Borrible Trilogy is a gritty children's/YA urban fantasy series.

I am surprised at the amount of people who have not heard about The Borribles. When I first read the book in 2012, I was over the moon about it. It was unlike anything I had read at the time and that was almost 36 years after it was first published. Immediately upon finishing it, I started talking about it to others and it was surprising the amount of people who answered with "What are Borribles?" or "I have never even heard of this book".

To answer the question - a Borrible is a runaway child. They look just like regular children, but they have tiny pointed ears (which are easily covered by knitted hats). Once their ears are pointed, they stay a child forever unless their ears are clipped. Borribles are smart, witty, and capable of surviving in the world without the assistance of adults. Their biggest fear is being captured by adults and having their ears clipped, which will turn them into boring, dull individuals.

Borribles form their own groups, which are like tiny little clans. These groups protect each other at all costs and even have their own claimed territory.

The first novel, Borribles, starts off with the Borribles of Battersea encountering a giant rat-like creature. These rat-like creatures is typically only found in enemy territory, so the fact that it ventured into the Borribles of Battersea land is frightening and could be an indication that an invasion is near. In an effort to prevent an invasion, several brave Borribles volunteer to go on an epic journey. The Borribles tells the tale of this epic adventure.

One of the first things that stands out about The Borribles is it is an extremely violent, gritty novel. I was surprised when I learned that many people classified it as a children's book. It definitely has a lot of violent, bloody scenes and the life the Borribles live is not all rainbows and butterflies. This book would probably be classified as a YA book by today's standards.

What is there to like about The Borribles? It has a detailed, solid plot that moves at warp speed. It was amazing just how fast I was getting through the novel and before I knew it, it was over. The adventure scenes are detailed, but not to the point that they are over-fluffed up. Readers are given a sense of adventuring alongside The Borribles, but they aren't experiencing every, single mind-numbing part of the adventure.

When the novel ends, there is a desire to pick up the second book right away. And I highly recommend doing that, as one novel completes and blends right into the second novel. It also helps to relieve some of the nagging questions some readers may have about the Borribles and their world.

In addition to the detailed plot and fast paced action, the characters are surprisingly fleshed out. Considering the length of the book and the sheer number of characters (there are a lot more than 6 or 7), one would assume that the characters would be just one-dimensional individuals, but they really weren't. I honestly formed true bonds with the characters and by the end of the book, I have to admit there was a small part of me that wished I could become a Borrible.

There is another aspect of The Borribles that I really enjoyed. It was the social commentary within the book. I read the novel as an adult, so I was able to appreciate the subtle hints and examples of social inequalities, pure greed, and other social problems. Many times authors try to beat the reader over the head with their point-of-view and opinions, but I didn't really get that with The Borribles. It was enough to make you think about things, but it didn't interfere with the plot or go overboard.

Now, there is probably a concern that a book written in 1976 might not be relevant in today's world, especially an urban fantasy. The Borribles really fits in with today's world. Sure, some of the social commentary might be a bit dated, but for the most part, The Borribles is just as good when read today as it was back in 1976. This is probably because the world in the novel is unique. People will be able to relate it to London, but there are aspects that make it unique and fun to read.

Overall, I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed The Borribles. It wouldn't have been a book I would have thought I'd have enjoyed as much as I did. I wish more people knew about it and gave it a try, but I really think in terms of urban fantasy it is a classic. So hope in your time machine and give it a try, you won't regret it!


Anonymous said...

I've been looking for under the radar older works of science-fiction and fantasy to read, lately - thanks for the head's up! The Borribles sounds like something to try on, especially if the world-building is unique, as you say.

Cindy said...

You are welcome. I am glad you are enjoying the lookback series. I plan on highlighting titles every 2 weeks (roughly).

The world-building isn't completely out of the box start from scratch, but it has a gritty London-esque feel with run down buildings, occasional horse drawn carriages, and cars. It was unique in the sense that it gave it a twist on London that wasn't just your average every-day portrayal.

And considering its only 250 pages, it isn't like you put a huge time commitment into reading it.


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