Title: Ratgirl: Song of the Viper
Author: Gayle C. Krause
Publication date: January, 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult
From the author:
Sixteen-year-old streetwise orphan, Jax Stone is an expert at surviving in a dangerous city, where rats rival the homeless for food and shelter, but she’s an amateur at fighting the immoral mayor when he kidnaps her little brother. Desperation demands she quickly master the role of courageous opponent. She uses her hypnotic singing voice to lead rats to their death, and all the children to safety, in a dying city cursed by the deadly sun.
Readers need to be aware that this is not a new publication. As far as I can determine, it was first released in early 2013 under the publisher label of Noble Romance Publishing which later went out of business under a black cloud. This may be a debut from Trowbridge Books but only in the sense that this book has not had the Trowbridge label on it until now. At the current time, Ratgirl is the only book published by Trowbridge and information about this “independent publishing house” is very limited. It may or may not be a self-publishing venue. I bring all this up only because it would be easy for someone to purchase this not realizing they’d already read it in its earlier edition.
Having said that, I do think Ratgirl is well worth a reader’s attention. Ms. Krause has created a clever adaptation of the old Pied Piper fairy tale set in a future world in which global warming has turned life upside down. Metro City lives under the thumb of the tyrannical Mayor Culpepper and most of the people lead a meager existence in the sewers along with an enormous population of rats. In this world where the daytime sun kills with its intensity, the promised land is the New Continent, Antarctica.
Jax is a girl who has learned how to survive in the tunnels and sewers by day and on the streets as a picker by night and is able to protect her young brother, Andy, from the worst of their environment. That protection means nothing when the Mayor suddenly sends his guards to kidnap all the children and Jax sets out to rescue them with the help of a few friends. What she learns about Culpepper’s plans for the city, and the captured children, is frightening but a shocking development will change everything.
One of this author’s strengths is in character development, not only in Jax and Andy but also in their friends, particularly Astoria, Cheinstein and Rafe. Later, we get to know Colt but is he a really a friend or in the employ of the Mayor? And where does a guard named Alder fit in?
Another aspect of the story that appealed to me is the requisite love triangle. I could enjoy this one because of who the three people are and the credibility of the set-up. For once, the romance elements are believable and sustainable both in the triangle and in the other relationship. That second attachment, refreshingly, is allowed to grow naturally and does not become the be-all and end-all of the story, again making it credible.
My one real complaint about this book is the almost complete lack of worldbuilding and the confusing timeline. There are many instances of still-working items such as CDs and players and, other than the Air Caravan, very little to indicate a distant future and its likely trappings. Printed books have become valuable because they became obsolete in 2040 but paperbacks can still be found for collecting and trading, much beyond the expected shelf life of a paperback. The museum’s exhibits end with the 1957-2011 space race with no explanation. Even the method of cooling air involves today’s ductwork and revolving fans yet we find out in the very end that the time is indeed far in the future. There is also no explanation of how Antarctica became such a haven or how it came to pass that Culpepper would be able to take control of the city without any apparent opposition only three years earlier.
I believe Ms. Krause intends to publish a sequel and I hope many of my questions will be answered then. In the meantime, readers can relish this modern rendering of a favorite fairy tale.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2014.
About the Author
Gayle C. Krause is a member of SCBWI, YALITCHAT and The Cliffhouse YA Wonderwriters.She writes across the genres. Her first publication credit was a short story in Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2 (2006). “The Storyteller’s Daughter”, her YA historical short story, was featured in Timeless, A YA Historical Romance anthology from Pugalicious Press (2012).Her new YA novel, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper was published in February 2013 (Noble Young Adult).
During the course of her writing career Ms. Krause has served as assistant editor for Underneath the Juniper Tree, a dark fantasy online magazine developed for young teens, a children’s book reviewer for Children’s Literature .com and she offers a critique service for children’s writers at First Peek Critique. (www.gayleckrause.com)
She also runs a blog that encourages new children’s writers through contests, book reviews and author interviews. http://thestorytellersscroll.blogspot.com.
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