Jabberwocky by Theodore Singer.

Stars 2 out of 5.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and I really wanted to like this story more than I did.

The premise sounded interesting enough: A young man decides to undertake an epic quest which had been passed from father to son for 500 years. The quest is to find and kill the fantastic beast called Jabberwocky. Even though he has never been further away from home than a 2 days travel distance, he is enthusiastic about what he believes to be the biggest adventure of his life. He will encounter many strange and fantastical creatures on his journey and realize that his quest is not as much about a mystical monster, but about discovering his own worth.

So yes, this had the potential to be a very good tale of self-discovery where the hero, young and idealistic in the beginning of the story, slowly grows up and becomes a real man. Unfortunately, the realization fell short of my expectations.

I feel like a need to put a disclaimer here. I love stories with a strong and memorable voice. If the protagonist doesn’t jump from the page and straight into my head in the first chapter, chances are that I won’t finish the book. Unfortunately, Jabberwocky has no voice.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s well written. The descriptions are beautiful and often even nostalgic. It feels though, that the author sometimes gets carried away by the strange places he is describing and the action slacks off. It’s a short novella, but I had to force myself not to skip ahead in some passages.

My problem is that I couldn’t empathize with Astreus. I couldn’t “see” him. Even after I finished the story, he remained a faceless name for me. It’s hard to follow a character you don’t care about.

I think the main reason for this is that the writing is too formal and indifferent shall I say? The author uses exactly the same voice to describe the city of cats and the island of immortals. But in the first place, Astreus just spends some time helping a cat in exchange for information on the Jabberwocky, whereas on the island, he encounters his first love and his first betrayal that almost brings him to suicide. Where is the passion and the desperation of this? I felt absolutely nothing.

My other problem is that the dialogues feel stilled and staged. Once again, everybody Astreus encounters talks the same, whether it’s a cat or an old noble who spent most of his life locked in his castle. A highly educated cat with a passion for chess cannot use the same words and phrases as a noble who barely knows how to read and write.

It’s a quick read and I liked exploring some of the places the author’s vivid imagination has created, but the novella would have been much more enjoyable if the writing had a bit more “life” to it.

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