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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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07/19/2006 Archived Entry: "Book Review: The Mistmantle Chronicles, Book Two: Urchin and the Heartstone"

The Mistmantle Chronicles, Book Two: Urchin and the Heartstone
By M.I. McAllister
Published by Miramax/Hyperion Books for Children
Publication date: September 2006

Review by Kathryn Ramage

In the first book of the Mistmantle Chronicles, our hero Urchin, an orphan with a mysterious past, helped to restore the true King Crispin to his rightful throne on the Isle of Mistmantle. As this second book begins, Mistmantle is preparing for Crispin's coronation, when a ship arrives from a neighboring island called Whitewings, bringing Lord Treeth, an emissary from the King of Whitewings, and his retinue. According to Treeth, refugees from Mistmantle, former followers of the usurping Lord Husk, are making trouble in Whitewings; he asks that Crispin send Urchin to aid them, since there is an ancient prophecy on their island.

Lord Treeth explains: "Far, far away in the past, it was said that a time would come when the creatures of Whitewings would be in great need. A squirrel would come to our help, and be the island's deliverer. This deliverer would be... A Marked Squirrel... A squirrel pale as honey... a squirrel, Urchin, like yourself."


Yes. As you may guess if Ginger manages to get a picture of the book cover, our hero Urchin is a squirrel. So is King Crispin, and the other characters are hedgehogs, otters, and the occasional mole.

Urchin refuses the offer, and finds himself kidnapped and shanghai'd to Whitewings anyway. When he gets there, he finds that the story about the refugees making trouble is a lie. There are refugees from Mistmantle, but they are in positions of power. Instead of aiding Whitewings in its dire trouble, Urchin is kept a prisoner at the mercy of a mad hedgehog king who's more interested in finding silver than seeing to the welfare of his island and subjects, and a sorcerer who thinks he can work some magic with a Marked squirrel's pelt. But that old prophecy may turn out to be true after all...

Meanwhile, back on Mistmantle, the King's court faces emergencies of its own when the Heartstone, which only the true heir to the kingdom can hold in his or her paw, is discovered missing, and Crispin has to deal with a revolt of hedgehogs who think that their kind make better governors than silly squirrels do.

Aside from this charming Beatrix-Potter touch of having animals in human roles (emphasized by the illustrations of Omar Rayyan prefacing each chapter), the story is played as a perfectly straight fantasy tale. The situation for Urchin of Whitewings is indeed dire, and there's treachery and revolution going on all over the place. The animal heroes are sweet and sympathetic without being cloyingly cutesy-wutesy. But it seems to me that the title of this book is something of a misnomer: Urchin's side the story has nothing to do with the Heartstone, which is lost and found without his intervention.

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