Sunday, September 14, 2014

The zoo at the edge of the world by Eric Kahn Gale

Marlin lives in the lush jungles of South America in the very appropriately named zoo at the edge of the world.  His father is the famous explorer and adventurer Ronan Rackham, who has tamed a little corner of the jungle and built an amazing zoo on the sides of an ancient pyramid.  His zoo is an exotic escape for the rich and famous, a place where they can stay in luxury while they explore the animals that have come to the zoo from all over the world as well as the local jungle.  It is an exciting place to live, but Marlin is not completely happy because he has been cursed, or so it seems, with a debilitating stutter that makes other people think he is stupid or mute.  The only time Marlin can talk freely is when he is with the animals, particularly his pet tamarin Kenji.

It is an unusual existence, and it seems as though Marlin is destined to spend his life being tormented by his older brother Tim and some of the zoo workers - but the fates have other ideas.  When his father returns to the zoo with a black jaguar, it seems as though they have secured a scary new addition to the zoo, a man eater who has already attacked and killed someone, but that reputation may in fact belong to another.  For some reason there is a connection between Marlin and the jaguar - a connection that leads to the jaguar bestowing an amazing gift on Marlin, the ability to talk to and understand animals of all shapes and sizes.  Suddenly Marlin is involved in the politics of the zoo on a whole new level, and when trouble comes calling it will be up to Marlin to try and save the day.

The zoo at the edge of the world is a fast paces book that blends together the best elements of mystery, fantasy, and coming of age.  Marlin is an interesting character who sees the world from a unique perspective because everyone thinks that he is an idiot just because he has a severe stutter, and what we discover instead is that he is a very sensitive young man with a huge and caring heart.  Once Marlin receives the gift of talking to animals it becomes clear that he is unaware of his fathers darker side, and that his sense of justice and sense of family are carefully balanced - a difficult position to be in if you have to choose between your family and what is right.

This is a story told in bite sized chapter chunks, with the action moving at a rapid clip - easy to become enthralled by and very difficult to put down.  While the reading ability level is not supremely challenging (apart from the odd word) the character development and plot seem geared towards an older audience which makes it a great read for children, and for 'tweens that may face a few challenges with their reading ability.  The end of the novel is somewhat abrupt, and some other reviewers on other sites have complained that it is too abrupt and that it obviously must have a sequel to this book, but that doesn't necessarily feel like it is the case.  While the story does wind up quickly and seem to rush a little towards the end, that is in keeping with the fast pace of the rest of the novel - and it was still satisfying.  It would be nice to see a sequel in this world, but it is also a nice ending for Marlin if the author chooses not to write another in the series - even though there are some loose ends that could do with tidying up.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • The world around the corner by Maurice Gee
  • Into the land of the unicorns by Bruce Coville
  • Pangur ban the white cat by Fay Sampson
  • Dragon shield by Charlie Fletcher
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Red rocks by Rachael King
  • The mysterious howling by Maryrose Wood
  • Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrownman and Carole Barrowman

Reviewed by Brilla

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