The Kidnapped Mousling Review

Review: The Kidnapped Mousling by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

The Kidnapped Mousling is an enjoyable “furry” sword and planet adventure featuring a bunny warrior, a sentient sword, ghosts, and plenty of heroics. This first complete story arch of the ongoing web serial and two accompanying short stories make a fun introduction to the world of Jiao Tu’s Endeavour.

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed The Kidnapped Mousling. I encourage you to check it out!

Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of review. This in no way influences our opinions. (You can request a review here.)

This review contains minor spoilers.

The Kidnapped Mousling Publisher Description:

On a multigenerational colony ship five hundred years off course, a lagomorph warrior must survive using only his wits and his sword.

Jiao Tu has been hired to rescue a young kidnapped mousling. A tip leads him to the Below, home to the engines that keep the world in motion. His mission has hardly begun when an encounter with a monstrous being plunges him into the midst of a struggle not only for control of the Below but for the world itself.

Teamed with an untested ratling warrior and the ratling leader of a gang of thugs, Jiao Tu must stop the monster and save the mousling—and the world—before it is too late.

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A Note about Furry Fiction

The term “furry fiction” is perhaps the oddest recent genre term, especially given the unfortunate associations with the word “furry,” which range from weird cosplay at best to sexual deviancy at worst.

However, the subgenre distinction is less limited, typifying (rather than fetishizing) stories from diverse genres which feature highly anthropomorphized animals, who talk, dress, and act human. So don’t be put off by the label, if you don’t typically search for “furry fiction” intentionally. If you enjoyed the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, for example, then the animals of Jiao Tu are going to feel familiar and the action, natural.

The Endeavour

Jiao Tu’s Endeavour takes place in an interstellar ark, designed and launched by humans who are sleeping cryogenically. This is revealed to the reader through the introduction—a secret archive not necessarily known by most of the creatures living within the ship.

The setting embraces a blend of sci-fi and fantasy elements typical of sword and planet adventures. Going into the story with a sci-fi framework makes the reader approach each fantastical element with analytical interest: is there a scientific (even if fictional) explanation for the things the characters encounter, or does this world also have room for magic and the supernatural?

I particularly enjoyed The Kidnapped Mousling, which is set in the Below. The environment and the superstitions around the engines of the world kept my imagination engaged. The short stories are both set in the Midlands, which are much more agricultural, although Uitvlugt still drops hints about the shape and layout of the ship that keep the reader aware of the sci-fi setting.

Characters

I enjoyed the character of Jiao Tu. He is not overly complicated: a good guy who does his best to behave honorably. That simplicity of character makes him quickly sympathetic and fun to root for. I liked the wandering wuxia hero angle Uitvlugt designed him around. As the series progresses, it will be interesting to see more of the martial arts world in space.

The antagonist of The Kidnapped Mousling is also fairly straightforward, but possesses a pleasant level of complexity to his motivations. Perhaps that sounds paradoxical at first, but Zabad is bad guy without moral ambiguity. He is bad (and crazy) and that is enough to warrant the hero to stand against him. But he also has intriguing goals that reach beyond generic destruction/terror/evil. His beliefs inform the reader about the world and suggest deeper potential problems the characters might face in later episodes.

Strength of Character

Jiao Tu continues to behave honorably, even when his enemies use that consistent trait to take advantage of him. This conscious choice to follow through on his moral code suggests diligence and strength of character. His behavior is a model against which the mist creature and the mouse Farrah are held.

The mist creature possesses a great deal of anger, but as she grows in self-awareness, she feels guilt over the deaths that she has caused and requests Jiao Tu to kill her. This might look like she is taking responsibility for her actions by seeking to face consequences, but it is an incomplete and limited consequence she wishes to face.

Once she and Farrah are joined, the two of them must show strength of character, not merely act out of anger or regret, in order to triumph over Zabad. The way forward for them following the climax is to act out of responsibility as Jiao Tu does: not to be driven by emotions, or to merely accept punishment and guilt after the fact, but to take proactive measures to learn self-control.

Short Stories

The two short stories are not unconnected to The Kidnapped Mousling. “The Festival of Sweets” takes place when Farrah returns with Jiao Tu to her home. I’m a sucker for a good Christmas-style ghost story, and I found this one neatly satisfying: candy, gifts, and a wholesome thrill.

It also neatly side-stepped recounting Farrah’s return either as falling action or rising action for episode two by making the situation part of the tension around a self-contained story with its own momentum. It built on the characters, particularly Farrah, so I do consider it a vital side story rather than a separate stand-alone piece.

“The Last Oracle,” original to this compilation, connects neatly with “The Festival of Sweets,” by narrating Tian Shu’s backstory. Her tale provides a greater glimpse into the mechanisms and design of Endeavour as well as the mystery of Jiao Tu’s sword.

Check Out Jiao Tu’s Endeavour Episode 1: The Kidnapped Mousling!

The Kidnapped Mousling is an uplifting tale of heroics in a unique sci-fi setting. I am eager to explore further with Jiao Tu and Farrah as Jiao Tu’s Endeavour continues!

Did you enjoy The Kidnapped Mousling?

Periapsis Press is currently running a GIVEAWAY as part of our Summer Indie Spotlight event!

Read the book and leave a comment telling us what you thought for a chance to win a physical copy of The Kidnapped Mousling!

(See full details here.)

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5 Replies to “The Kidnapped Mousling Review”

  1. First and foremost: I have enjoyed reading this as a web serial, and interacting with the author regarding this story and setting.

    My first thought: this is patterned very much after Henry Vogel’s Scout Series, with many short episodes, ending on cliffhangers, that you could easily see in a daily newspaper and look forward to tomorrow’s. Also in a very pulp pattern that I saw in Mr. Vogel, Mr. Uitvlugt enjoys having the solution to a problem cause more problems later on.

    Like Li Ming from Dawn of the Swordbreaker, Jiao Tu has a moral code and strength of character that informs his actions. Unlike Mr. Li, we do not see Jiao Tu go from home to something new–he is already wandering, in that place of somewhere new and at home there.

    If the world is smaller in scope, that makes sense–the Endeavor is a generation ship to found a new colony. However it is still rich and thought out–though we see at this point only incompleteness. There are going to be more factions to meet, more pieces of the puzzle to explore and fit together. And the largest question is beyond the scope of this book! Will the world come back on course?

    Cleverness, diplomacy, etiquette, and perseverance all come in to play here, and Jaio Tu proves to be a Jack-of-all-trades in them. And with the second episode complete, and several more planned, it will be interesting to see more of the society built up within the Endeavor, and what new challenges await the denizens within.

  2. This reader enjoyed the combination of wuxia literature and classic “sword and planet” fare in this adventure-packed anthropomorphic tale, recognizing as a long time Usagi Yojimbo fan no small bias toward a lop-eared langomorph. The addition of mystical tech, horrific monsters, and heart-wrenching plot twists made for a thrilling, fast-paced story.

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