Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fiction Review: Finnegan's Quest by Gloria Piper

Finnegan's QuestI was lucky to score a review opportunity for another of Gloria Piper's books on Goodreads at the end of November just as I was wrapping up my NaNoWriMo 2013 novel.

Occasionally, I'll volunteer as a back up reviewer for review rounds rather than participate in them directly, because it gives me some leeway to select books I am more likely to enjoy and helps someone out when their original reviewer can not complete their review. (For more about review groups, take a look at my Read for Reviews: Pros, Cons and Ettiquette post)

When I saw Gloria's post asking for help, I jumped right on it. I loved her Train to Nowhere, so I already knew I liked her writing style, but I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this story. Train to Nowhere is a sci fi, dystopian; Finnegan's Quest is an allegorical coming of age story. But I must say, I wasn't disappointed. Read on for my review.

Finnegan's Quest by Gloria Piper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full length novel, but reads like a fable. Beautiful language use. Well edited.

I love the easy and humorous way this story is told, while still communicating a deeper message.
Finnegan's Quest is like Animal Farm, but more entertaining. There's a mystery to solve and Finnegan and Crookshank are well on their way to solving it.

Young Finnegan, leaving home for the first time, believes his mother's lessons are just fine for a kit, but he's fully grown now and such things like "don't talk to strangers" and "pay attention" just won't cut it. Nope, he's in the market for a great teacher, a guru who can unlock the mysteries of life and the universe. Someone glorious and strong and impressive. Someone like Duh Fuz, the most fearsome beast of Squiggly Wood. But Spirit has someone else in mind for Finnegan's guru...

Crookshank is an old crow with a gimpy leg, compliments of a run in with Duh Fuz in her younger days, but you won't find her complaining. Though it's crooked, occasionally achy and not much good for walking, her leg is in tune with the vibrations of the universe. A useful gift that gives her insight into the world and her fellow critters. And sometimes, if she listens just right, she can tune right into the guiding voice of Spirit.

Finnegan and Crookshank as student and teacher are a great duo. Finnegan is naive and optimistic, but is beset on every side by those who would lead him to harm, to self-deprecation, to chain letters, and to get rich quick scams. He becomes the focal point of Squiggly Woods as critters from all walks of life work to convince him that their way is best, that their leader is all-knowing and that only by following can happiness be gained. But luckily for Finnegan, Crookshank is there for him. Her quick wit and timely interventions don't make Finnegan think like her, but they do help him learn to think for himself and recognize when things aren't what they seem to be.

The rest of the characters in this tale are equal parts cautionary and entertaining. The city rat who walks with a twitch because it's in. The whirly gigs who twirl until they are dizzy and moan "woe is me" at the results. Buford the bullfrog preacher. Duh Fuz, the terror of the wood. And Dame Squeeze, a ferret who has it all figured out. And I love how even the smallest of characters brings a valuable lesson.

I knew I loved this book only a few paragraphs in and though some of the lessons in it are tough or touch on serious issues like religious fanaticism, drug abuse, and predatory marketing, all were delivered in a whimsical and enriching way. The messages and warnings are there, but the storytelling is brilliant and lyrical.

As for the quality of the writing, it's excellent. The pacing, the flow, the plot: everything works. The story is obviously well-edited and well-planned. I found only one error in the whole thing, and I was looking for them. I've read best sellers with more than that.

Overall, I loved this book. It's one of those books that I know I'll return to many times, worth reading again and again because there will always be some new thing to discover with each retelling. I highly recommend this story to those who enjoy allegory, animal characters, humor, and enrichment.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

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