Image © David Petersen
There seems to be an urge in some creators to make the smallest, humblest animals into heroes, and David Petersen’s mice are among them. We can look back to C.S. Lewis’ Reepicheep as an earlier example, and the Brian Jacques books about Redwall are full of heroic mice. Petersen pushes the cute factor all the way in his drawings, as seen above. These are actually considerably cuter than real mice, but his talent allows me to believe they are also brave warriors, a surprising achievement. Of course they are anthropomorphic, little humans in word and deed for the most part, but somehow it works.
In this third hardcover volume we are following heroes of an earlier era in this world’s history, 37 years earlier than the first two volumes, which is many generations in mouse life. Celanwe and Em embark on a quest across a lake that is an ocean to them in search of a fabled weapon, the Black Axe. It was removed to a distant icy land by a mouse who was bent on conquest, and not heard from again, but the Black Axe is important to the well-being of the mice in the civilized land they have created, surrounded by predators and danger.
The writing in this book is excellent. I found it often moving. The art is charming, and except for the overly cute mice extremely realistic, bringing the mediaeval settings, architecture, clothing and lifestyle of the book to life in amazing detail. The lettering and design work on the title pages and maps is impressive. The subtle coloring adds greatly to the story. Some of the fonts used are rather hard to read, but while that slowed me down at times, it did not interfere with my enjoyment of the book. It’s a gem for fantasy fans and fans of great art and storytelling. And an amazing achievement for one creator.