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.
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.
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.
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!