Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 321 (12/21) -- Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 by David Petersen

I'm on record of being in favor of more sword-and-sorcery stories in the world, and I'll extend that to just more tales of derring-do and flashing swords, even without the sorcery. (Though the addition of sorcery is always preferable.) I don't require that the swords be wielded by humans, either; there's been some very good fantasy with sword-swinging rodents -- I could mention Mary Gentle's Rats and Gargoyles. So I was happy to see David Petersen's first story of the Mouse Guard, Fall 1152 a few years back, and reviewed it here.

His doughty mouse warriors are back for a second round of adventures, as the seasons turn in their vaguely medieval world, in Mouse Guard: Winter 1152. There's still no sorcery -- this is a realistic talking-mouse story, damn it! -- but Petersen's central characters are dealing with the aftermath of the nastiness in the fall, as they trek around the mouse cities to the southwest of the Guard's HQ Lockhaven (which is not the capital of the divided mouse territories, but is the closest thing to one they do have).

So Saxon, Kenzie, Lieam, Sadie, and Celanwe trudge their wee bodies through the snow to Sprucetuck -- a city of scientists and librarians, as required in pseudo-medieval fantasy stories no matter what the species -- to ask their leaders to attend a summit in Lockhaven called by Lady Gwendolyn in the near future, to try to forge a stronger peace among the cities. (They also come begging for "elixir," some sort of cure-all that is, of course, in short supply.) On the way back to Sprucetuck, things go wrong, and the party is forced to split up.

(The Mouse Guard stories are perfectly serviceable, but they do tend to make the mind wander to gaming or other fantasy stories -- there's something vaguely generic to them, down to the fact that I have trouble telling the cute l'il characters apart.)

Winter 1152 is more quotidian than the first series -- it's about survival under harsh conditions (out unprotected in the winter, in the not-entirely-abandoned tunnels of the enemy weasels, under attack from an owl) rather than unearthing a major plot, but the dangers are as real, and as deadly here as in the Fall. I still agree that Mouse Guard get a lot of mileage -- possibly too much -- out of Petersen's detailed, heroic, precisely colored art and the still-novel idea behind it, but these are fun adventure comics that you can share with your kids, or keep for yourself. It might not be Bone -- despite some surface similarities -- but, then, what is?

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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