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The Five Realms #1
by Kieran Larwood
The legend of Podkin One-Ear has been passed down through traveling bards. On Midwinter Night, a traveling bard arrives at Thornwood Warren. He tells the exciting story of how Podkin One-Ear overcame the Gorm, a fierce, cruel, evil enemy. The legend of the greatest warrior their land has ever known will entertain and surprise readers.
Through the bard’s storytelling, Podkin and his siblings come to life. Podkin, the lazy son of a chieftain, never dreamed of becoming a great warrior. When the Gorm appear in their warren, kill their father, and capture their mother, Podkin and his siblings run for their lives. With the help of a magic dagger, a witch, and a blind mercenary, Podkin and his siblings might be able to defeat the Gorm. As Podkin One-Ear and his siblings flee for their lives, they discover the history of their land and the terrible truth behind how the Gorm came to be.
Told in the style of old legends, Podkin One-Ear contains suspense, monsters, and a bit of magic. The author’s descriptions bring the rabbit world to life. Readers will cheer for Podkin and his siblings as they run from the Gorm and battle their way to save their mother. The Gorm and several of the battles are described in vivid detail and may frighten children. Through Podkin One-Ear’s tale, the reader will see how “you don’t have to be brave or strong or powerful to do incredible things.”
- The Gorm and rats that were changed chase Podkin. “At the front, where their heads should have been, were fanged, drooling mouths, and glaring out of holes in their armor were blank, rust-red eyes . . . the things were now beasts. Iron beasts. Monsters.” Podkin escapes.
- The Gorm have Paz, Podkin’s sister, corned. In order to save her, Podkin cuts a tree down. The tree falls on the Gorm, who have “surprised clouds of breath gushing from behind their iron masks, and then the tree hit with an explosion of snow crystals and a roar that echoed through the forest . . . the riders, nothing could be seen except a twisted shard of armor and a splash of rusty crimson blood on the snow.”
- As Podkin tries to escape from rabbits, who are trying to capture him and turn him over to the Gorm, his ear is pinned to the ground by a prong of a portcullis. “Her brother’s eyes were bulging and his teeth were gnashing in pain.” In order to set her free, Paz has to cut the ear off. “It was funny to be running off into the woods, leaving a part of his body behind. But the funniest thing of all was that even after his ear had been sliced off, he could still feel the burning pain of the portcullis piercing it.”
- A rabbit throws a rock at one of the Gorm’s birds. “. . . When it suddenly exploded with a clang and a puff of iron feathers . . . the crow had been knocked to the ground, stone dead.”
- Podkin hires a mercenary, Crom, to help him free his kidnapped siblings. There is a fight over the course of several pages. “Crom strode right up and cracked him between the ears with Starclaw’s hilt. There was a hollow clinging sound, and Quince folded up into a senseless heap on the floor . . . The huge rabbit went flying backwards crashing into the earthen wall of the burrow, smashing a hole right through it, and bringing half the ceiling cascading down to bury him.”
- When the head Gorm is looking for Podkin and his siblings, “The Gorm Lord grabbed the guard rabbit and threw him across the chamber. He sailed through the air like a broken doll, crashing into a candle stall, and sending sparks flying and hot wax showing everywhere.” The destruction of the market and the children’s escape is described over several pages. Someone throws “little black balls of something” at a warrior. “The balls exploded, filled with black sticky goo that smoked and burned. The warrior roared, dropped his sword and clawing at his face.”
- Crom tells about how he and Podkin’s father learned to battle. During a battle, Crom “was positioned, and he (the enemy) was about to bring his stone ax down on my head. I just stood there, staring up at him in surprise.” Podkin’s father saves Crom.
- Crom describes the battle that caused him to lose his sight. While fighting the Gorm, they went into battle but were unprepared. There was a witch rabbit. “She rode a black rat and called down lightning from the sky . . . her magic took my sight, and for days I lay under a pile of bodies in some kind of trance.” Some rabbits that were fleeing healed his wounds.
- Podkin and his crew sneak into a Gorm camp to free other rabbits (including Podkin’s mother). The battle scene takes place over a chapter. Podkin slashes Scramashank’s ankle. “. . . He slung the dagger sideways, aiming for the spot above Scramashank’s ankle. Starclaw switched through, as if it were nothing more than a blade of grass.” Then a bank of mist appears, and the Gorm “fell to the ground, choking, gasping, and clutching at their throats. Their already terrified beast toppled over, trampling and crushing them in the snow.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- The chief has a cup of “frothy honey mead.”
- One of the kidnappers is described as “clutching a half-drunk bottle of mead.”
- A warren of rabbits were turned into the Gorm, evil and unnatural beings. No one knows what exactly happened; “some say they tunneled too far down and came across something cursed and poisonous. Others say it was the work of witches.”
- The Gorm are not rabbits anymore. One of them is described as “a walking slab of metal and meat, pierced through with rusty thorns and nails. Its armor overlapped in sheets of jagged, dented iron, mottled with rust and splashes of dried crimson that looked very much like blood . . . Skulls hung from its belt. Rabbit skulls, painted all over with evil-looking runes.”
- Podkin has a magical dagger that came from the Goddess. The dagger can cut anything that is not metal.
- A rabbit, who is a witch, uses bones to tell the future. Her warren is safe because “there’s enough glamours and enchantments about this place that Hern himself, god though he be, couldn’t find it if I didn’t want him to.”
- During Midwinter, a holiday much like Christmas, the Midwinter Rabbit visits the warrens bringing gifts.
- The story often contains the phrase, “thank the Goddess,” and Podkin prays to the Goddess. The Goddess made the twelve tribes of rabbits.
- Podkin hides from the Gorm and “gave a small prayer to the Goddess.”
- As a warren of rabbits was digging a new longburrow, they found jutting metal, pulsing metal. Because they thought the metal thing was evil, “our priestess sealed off the tunnel with magic charms.”
- A bard tells a group of children that there is a god of bards and storytellers. “His name is Clarion, and he has been known to whisper the art of stories into the ears of a chosen few rabbits while they sleep.”
- Twin sisters Estra and Nixha, Goddesses of life and death, came to “our world and decided it was the place for them.” However, they had to get rid of Gormalech. They played a game that no one really won, but they came to an agreement. “The goddesses would rule the surface of the world, bringing life (and death) back to it, as before. Gormalech would go deep underground, where iron and all the other metals come from, and between them they would share the place.” Now Gormalech is creating the Gorm and “the Balance is broken.”
- When talking about Podkin gambling, the bard said, “I’m sure lots of people have won lots of things, including the Goddess herself. But for everything they won, I bet . . . I mean, I’m sure . . . they lost even more. Pook won because he had a touch of magic about him when it came to casting bones. Not many other rabbits have that blessing. Whatever tales of glory heard, gambling is for idiots.”
- The forest rabbits worship the god of the forest. When Crom declines leading his warren, the warren moved on. “Maybe the tribe had never been happy at Darkhollow in the first place. Or, more likely, losing their chieftain had been seen as some kind of sign from the gods. Religion made rabbits do some very strange things sometimes.”