A Boy and a Rat — Book Review

For years, I’ve been a huge fan of Brennan and Riz. #RizTheRogue cracks me up with his over-the-top personality. The author features Brennan and Riz in many of his microfiction pieces on Twitter, often using the hashtag #RizTheRogue inspired by various prompts, including #vss365 (very short story 365).

And who and what are Brennan and Riz?! These stories are contemporary fantasy following folklore and faeries with a young man (Brennan) and a rat (Riz), or at least an incredibly ancient magical being in the form of a rat.

Fun, fantastical, atmospheric and peppered with horror, I love The Strange Tales of Brennan and Riz, and this is the prequel. Going back in time to when it all began, this book shows how Brennan and Riz became supernatural detectives (years later), and how they met Valarie, a supernatural reporter and sometimes ally (it’s complicated).

Setting

⁃ North England – This book is from a local publisher (Sixth Element) and it feels like an adventure. From road names to the descriptions, there is so much authenticity to this book.

⁃ The supernatural settings felt eerie and intriguing. It didn’t go overboard in description, leaving enough to the imagination for me to picture it as I wished, but when the scenes were tinged with paranormal, it felt nightmarish and bewitching. There was a sense of familiarity for horror and fantasy tropes with a distinct twist on it.

Characters

⁃ Brennan, introverted and smart, this young man is at a crossroads in his life. His parents have ideas for his future, and he doesn’t have the heart to let them know he’s not enthusiastic about their plans. Seeing this formative tale was an excellent setup for the future stories featuring the mystery-solving pair .

⁃ Riz, an eldritch mystery in rodent form, he’s greedy, crass, a bit bite-y, and hilarious. Where Brennan is the straight man, Riz is pure chaos. I adore this character in all his flawed glory. He’s very three-dimensional and intriguing.

⁃ Merrick, Brennan’s best friend, this young man is an interesting mirror image. Brennan sees a side of his best friend that no one else does, or perhaps no one else looks deeply enough. The tension in their relationship as they navigate the discovery of the paranormal and react differently was handled with relatability and realism but given a dose of phantasm.

Emotional Impact

⁃ This story had me laughing at parts and crying at others. I felt the hope of being a new adult and all the challenges of coming-of-age, and I love that this is just the beginning.

⁃ I appreciate that this book story wasn’t stuck on teenage drama. I thoroughly enjoy The Strange Tales of Brennan and Riz featuring Brennan at his prime in adulthood. The story felt true to the character’s younger age without being cumbersome—it’s truly written for adults. I hope you check this story out (and the rest).

⁃ Sometimes with stories I joke that I hate denouement. The resolution of the conflict has passed but there’s still 25% of the book left for them to ponder their navels—this book is not like that. It is framed well and has an ending that left me satisfied but wanting a bit more. As a bonus, the edition I read has a short story at the end more in line with the Monster-of-the-Week type tales of his other work. That was the cherry on top: not a necessity, not an epilogue, but a dessert wine for the mind.

Conclusion

A Boy and a Rat features local flair, intriguing tales on folklore, and some intense horror moments. It strikes me as perfect for fans of Supernatural, October Daye, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, and Harry Dresden (because I, too, like those things).

This novel was a striking prequel to the stories I love while also being an exciting setup for what is yet to come—The War with the Fae.

Speaking of the Fae, the author’s approach to the otherworldly really draws me in. I feel like I learn something each time and that I had a vibrant escape.

I hope you enjoy A Boy and a Rat as much as I did! Check it out on Amazon!

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