Illustrated with his own line drawings, Milway’s The Mousehunter is a first novel of the most ambitious scope (and length). Incident is heaped upon incident as the plot becomes more and more convoluted and what seemed to make sense is once more undermined as events gallop off in a new and unexpected direction. Set in the town of Midina and on the piratical high seas, this unhistorical fantasy has a sort of 17th-century feel about it yet the people of Midina, embrace, in all seriousness, a mouse culture in which Mousekeepers are employed and the different species are collected by enthusiasts who all refer to ‘The Mousehunter’s Almanac’ written by collector Isiah Lovelock, the most powerful citizen of Midina.
Humble Mousekeeper Emiline, searching for an escaped Sharpclaw (one of the most feared of all mice due to its huge, dagger-like claws) overhears a conversation between Lovelock and one Captain Drewshank about taking on the notorious pirate Mousebeard – and it’s an adventure she can’t resist. Once on board she teams up with another Mousekeeper, Scratcher, and the two come through adventure after adventure (with a little help from various mice). While Milway’s characterisation is thin, the richly intricate and rumbustious plot laced with humour and invention makes up for it and the result is a novel that young readers will enjoy getting immersed in.
With so many useful kinds of mice (Messenger mice who can fly, Boffin mice, Magnetical mice etc) a copyediting mouse would have been a useful addition to ‘Lovelock’s Almanac’, providing this novel with a much needed service. Such infelicities (one of many) as ‘He… took hold of the gates and pushed them open with a loud squeal’ (p.28) might thus have been avoided.