Uki and the Outcasts

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Podkin One-Ear | The Gift of Dark Hollow | The Beasts of Grimheart

Uki and the Outcasts was written by Kieran Larwood and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story, set in our far future when humans are extinct and rabbits are the dominant species on the planet. The novel is the fourth instalment of The Five Realms series and follows Podkin One-Ear (2016), The Gift of Dark Hollow (2017) and The Beasts of Grimheart (2018).

As the Bard continues his journey north, his is approached by another figure from his past and Rue starts to learn that there is more about his mentor than he ever could have imagined. The Bard is a member of a secret society called the Foxguard who exist to protect the world from a sinister cult who are known as the Endwatch. As rumours of cultist activity emerge, the Bard and Rue are forced to head across the icy wastes to investigate.

As they travel, the Bard begins a new tale about a hero who once also had to face the Endwatch. Uki was mistreated by his clan due to the fact that he was born with half-black, half-white fur. When an incident within the tribe leads to his injury, Uki and his mother are forced to flee into the wilds where they will surely die. Luckily, Uki’s life is saved by a mysterious spirit from a different time. Iffrit binds himself to Uki, giving him new powers, but needs something in return.

Iffrit was once a gaoler, but the four evil spirits that were imprisoned with him have now escaped. Uki needs to travel the world in order to recapture them, before they can spread war, plague, famine and death across the lands. He soon gains help from Jori, an assassin exiled from her clan because she will not kill, and Kree, an abnormally small rabbit who rides a tailless jerboa. But will three outcast rabbits be enough to take down an ancient evil?

While I was a huge fan of Podkin’s adventures, I am pleased to say that Uki and the Outcasts is the strongest instalment of this series to date. As the Bard and Rue move out of the forest and into the vast realm of Hulstland, it quickly becomes apparent just how huge Larwood’s world is. As Rue arrives in the small town of Pebblewic, he becomes a kind of everyman for the reader to relate to. Like Rue, the reader had no idea how varied the world could be. Life in Hulstland is very different to that in Gottland, from the construction of buildings to the religious beliefs of the rabbits who live there. It also seems far more dangerous, making the Bard’s interludes incredibly intense.

While the framing of Uki and the Outcasts is the same as in the Podkin novels – with the Bard’s adventures providing a wrap-around for the stories that he tells – this novel felt a lot faster to find its feet on both sides. The Bard’s tale quickly builds intrigue as the reader comes to learn of his ties to the Foxguard, and his tale introduces a new hero – Uki – whose story gets off to an incredibly dramatic start.

While Podkin’s battles against the Gormalech could be dark in places, the nature of Uki’s quest – a mission to find and imprison the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – made this novel seem even more grim. There were parts of this tale where I did feel that Uki and the Outcasts might even be a bit scary for young and sensitive readers. While Scramashank and his mutilated army were frightening, the series is increasingly starting to feel as though it is Watership Down as viewed through the eyes of H.P. Lovecraft. The plot is fast-paced and highly engaging, taking the time to introduce Uki, Jori and Kree before dispatching them across plains filled with fierce tribal rabbits and into a pair of cities at the brink of war.

My biggest disappointment with Uki and the Outcasts was its ending. As with Podkin’s adventures, it is clear that the Bard intends to spread Uki’s tale over two or three novels. Due to this, the book ends on a rather abrupt cliff-hanger that leaves Uki’s story half-finished and the Bard in seemingly grave danger. If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you know that I have strong feelings towards endings such as this. To me, this always feels like a cheap trick to make readers buy more books, which a novel should be enthralling enough to do on its own merits. This is especially frustrating due to the fact that I do want to find out what happens next, and will probably have to wait a whole year to do so!

In terms of characterisation, I felt that Larwood did a fantastic job in Uki and the Outcasts. While I was a bit sad to say good-bye to Podkin and Paz, I did grow attached to this new group of protagonists far quicker. Uki is similar to Podkin in many ways, but is a lot easier to like. While Podkin began his adventures as the spoiled and entitled son of a chieftain, Uki began as the underdog. It was immediately easy to sympathise with him because he was so innocent, yet was treated horribly by his clan due to the colour of his fur.

I was also really pleased by the way that the female characters were treated in this novel. While Paz was frequently overlooked in Podkin’s tale, despite being massively more competent than the hero, both Jori and Kree were very strong and independent female rabbits. They had already undergone many trials before meeting Uki, and Jori in particular contributed a lot over the course of the story. It was nice to see that victory was not purely down to Uki’s actions in this story. Every character had very different skills and all were used to help on his quest.

The novel also introduced a new villain in the cultist leader, Necripha. Although she does not appear much in this tale, I am very curious to see what her ultimate goals are. Unlike Scramashank, who was a being of violence, Necripha comes across as being highly intelligent and calculating. I am interested to see what kind of an impact she will have on Uki’s quest in the coming sequels.

I think that about covers everything. All in all The Five Realms is clearly going from strength to strength. This is currently one of my favourite series for younger readers and is one that I would certainly recommend. I really can’t wait to see what adventures Uki, Jori and Kree will have next.

Uki and the Outcasts can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

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