In this second book of the fantasy Wood Cow Chronicles series, a group of rebels face a threat to their existence in a world populated solely by animals.
In many ways, Johnson’s series departs from derivative fantasy novels. All of the characters here, male and female, are animals; magic is absent; and the tasks the characters take on are often as ordinary as navigating a harsh landscape. There is, however, Fropperdaft, a supreme evil ruler, and in this second volume of the series, two main characters—Emil and PorNart—have escaped from his castle in a balloon. They stumble upon a group of rebels who have been secretly freeing slaves from a fortress prison and leading them to safety and freedom. However, the rebels’ existence is revealed to the tyrant Fropperdaft. He sets out to destroy them by unleashing overwhelming numbers of his armed minions. The rebels hatch a desperate plan to fight back, knowing that all they’ve worked for could be destroyed and that they could themselves be captured or killed. Johnson gets high marks for conceiving this unique world. Animals that one might expect to be good on Earth, such as cows, are good here, while those that seem nasty, like buzzards, also hold true to form, which will help readers make out the fantasy world. Unfortunately, the author provides little back story in this book, instead merely offering a few footnotes instructing readers to reference the first volume, Helga: Out of Hedgelands (2014), if they need some background. Names, references and events go whizzing by at breakneck speed, which may leave readers confused and frustrated.
A unique fantasy world worth visiting, but not without first taking in the previous volume.