Wagner, Hilary Nightshade City
Holiday House 2010 262p 17.95
978-0-8234-2285-2 ms/jr Fantasy VG
Nightshade City is the name of the new colony of rats under the command of Juniper.In a classic battle of good versus evil, Juniper hopes to defeat the evil dictator Killdeer and restore peace and harmony among all of the rats who reside in the Catacombs.
Nightshade City has it all: an evil dictator rat, Killdeer, who controls by instilling fear in his colony, a worthy group of rats which hopes to overthrow him, the reluctant Clover whose own father was killed by Killdeer during his bloody coup and who Killdeer has chosen to stand by his side, the ruthless aide Billycan and a support cast of rats who come to life in this novel that is sure to please young readers of series in which animals are personified. Hilary Wagner makes a rat sound beautiful, and that’s a feat! She even adds a touch of humanity to rats by making them appear less threatening. Her funniest line appears on p. 29 when young Vincent says to his brother, “I smell that rat again.” The high interest level lies in the feud, in the rebellion, in the subterfuge, and in the way that Wagner weaves her plot and characters together creatively. There is drama when Juniper’s former girlfriend runs into Billycam, and although the book is predictable for children, we are happy that Vincent will end up with Clover and that support character Maddy will be reunited with Juniper. We are delighted when Killdeer meets his demise, and we are sad when earthworm Noc is discovered spying for Juniper and is thrown to his death. Unlikely friendships are formed between rats and earthworms as they attempt to win back their land, and that is pure fun. Finally, Wagner doesn’t “dummy down” her vocabulary for a middle school student. The reading teacher will happily recommend this book to all students because contemporary fantasy entertains. She created an ending which allows for a new series, and readers will be hooked! Unfortunately, there are several errors. On page 18, “exclaimed is misspelled. On page 26, there should be commas surrounding “of course”. “She, of course, complied.” On page 66, the word “towards” should be “toward” and on page 161, “tranquil” is misspelled. This book is a wonderful choice as an alternative to the Warriors series. Young teenagers will enjoy comparing the two; middle school librarians will find that the book doesn’t stay on the shelf! Squaresky(2), Martha
rats fight their rat dictator in underground city