A Copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The Blurb: “A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.

The last job didn’t end well.

Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.”

So I admit, freely, that the blurb explains almost nothing. But it gives you a solid idea none the less. This sounded like a story of betrayal, revolution, and vengeance. And you know what? It delivers on all these fronts.

Firstly, I ended up grabbing this book because of the cover. It showed animals, and I have a thing for animals acting like people in fiction. I love the Redwall series, for example, and movies like The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down, and the Wind in the Willows. Basically, even as an adult, I love these sort of books.

And honestly, I figured this would not be that dark. I was WRONG.

This is NOT for kids. If Redwall is for kids, this is for those who grew up on Redwall but want something more….gritty. This is the story of The Captain. That is the only name he is given. He is a mouse, who is described as having a “face of stone”. He is grizzled, violent, grim, smokes cigars, and wields a pair of pistols. He is known for being highly intelligent as well.

He is aided by the rat Reconquista, the owl Elf, the stoat Bonsior (and never call him anything BUT a Stoat, or a Frenchman), the opossum Boducia, the salamander Cinnabar, the mole Gertrude, and the badger Barley. And each of these characters has their own wit and charm. Cinnabar, for example, is nicknamed the Dragon and is known as a master gunfighter, faster then anyone else. Boducia is a sniper and camouflage expert. Bonsior is an assassin and thief. And so on.

Each is introduced in a flashback, but its a flashback about the Captain going back to recruit them for “one last job”. This story takes place after another story, but as far as I can tell that other story does not exist in written form, its simply referenced here. And the writing does a solid job of referencing things while keeping everything current.

This book is brutal with its action scenes. At one point, in order to recruit Barley for example, the Captain sends a pair of rats into his store to try to kill him. Barley goes berserk, basically turns the rats into paste, and then nearly kills the Captain. Everything is graphic and bloody and would make GRR Martin proud.

The world is also interesting. The story takes place in “The Garden” which is not really defined, geographically. However, there are references to real world places like France and the like. It makes me wonder just were this story takes place. In our world? In a world like ours? It got me thinking, and that is always a good thing.

The writing just oozes character, and its hard to really discuss this book without gushing over it. I saw no grammar problems or spelling errors, and the pacing was just spot on. At times, in fact, I forgot I was reading about animals. Each character had personality, especially the villains, and by the end of it I wanted more. There was no cliffhanger ending however, and everything was resolved by the end.

Overall I give this a solid 4/5. If you want a gritty but humorous story with a great setting, fun characters, and solid action, give the Builders a look. Bonsior would be most happy if you did, and trust me, you want to make him happy.

The Builders by Daniel Polansky – A Review
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