Some might consider what I’m about to do cruel.
First, I’m going to rave about The Mistmantle Chronicles. I’m going to tell you that they are everything I look for in a book. They are:
- a) a delight to read
- b) beautifully written
- c) shaped by a deep and rich Christian worldview
And then I’m going to tell you that they’re difficult to find. Not so difficult that you can’t find some of them, but elusive enough that you may search for months for a copy of the last book. You may scour eBay and every used bookstore in your area, in the hope that someone didn’t realize what they had and let it go. You may briefly contemplate spending $120 on Amazon for a paperback copy*. You may even email the author directly with a plea for help. And you still may not find it.
(It took me months and an interlibrary loan. But the book was worth the wait.)
I wondered if it was fair to introduce you to something so delightful and gripping and then announce that you might not be able finish the series. But I decided to introduce you anyway, because these books are among the best our family has read, and also because I have this slim hope that somebody someday will have the good sense to reprint them. And if we’re all out there requesting it at libraries and talking it up online and perhaps emailing the publisher, maybe that will help? Let’s start a Mistmantle Movement, people!
Here is the premise of the story: Urchin, an unusually pale squirrel, is discovered in the shallows off Mistmantle Island just after his birth. No one knows where he came from or what happened to his mother, but he was found on a night of riding stars, when portentous things are said to happen. The books follow Urchin as he grows and faces challenges of different sorts, but while they primarily center around him, McAllister also weaves the stories of other animals, both good and evil, into Urchin’s story.
The Mistmantle Chronicles meld the gospel-rich worldview of (Scripture, of course, but also) The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wingfeather Saga with the warmth and coziness of Redwall. M.I. McAllister’s characters are far from formulaic: they exhibit the unexpected quirks and details that inflate them from two dimensions to three. They live; we believe in them. And though the challenges the characters face are deep and hard, they often resolve them by looking to the Heart (the God of their world) for strength and guidance.
These books do have some dark themes—the first book deals with the subject of “culling,” a sinister plot to kill any babies who are weak or deformed in any way—but McAllister handles these gracefully, and always with an eye on what is right and good. These are stories that will bend our affections toward the good and lovely, and they are worth searching out, however long our quest.
*Those of you who read ebooks won’t suffer this hardship: the digital version is available for $6.99.
[A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog, Little Book, Big Story.]