March 2015 Book of the Month: Animist by Eve Forward

Sorry, I’ve been MIA. I went on a salamander breeding trip to Omaha to work with my beloved blue spotted salamanders. I just finished my travel book, and had to make it the book of the month.

I am going to break from tradition here… Next month I promise to get back to the book of the month being about something slimy and scaly and lovable, but this month, sorry to say, is about something fuzzy and lovable. At least, I think so. It’s about rats.

I come with plague.

I come with plague.

HOWEVER- the book does feature the best animal on the planet, the axolotl, which kind of takes the place of koi fish as ornamental pond creatures.

If I look pretty, does you feed me????

If I look pretty, does you feed me????

AND it features an awesome reptilian militant character with feathers, which I imagined to look a lot like this:



Anyway. Rats. To be fair, many people have come to accept rats as smart, highly sociable, highly affectionate little critters that are not very different than humans. They express emotions much like us:

However, there are still many people who are a bit freaked out by rats. The book Animist, by Eve Forward, will definitely help people get over those feelings. I know after reading it, I want to run out and buy a bunch of gerbils like I had growing up. I miss those little cuties.


Hi! Rodents are fun!

The plot of this novel is a basic fantasy plot (boy goes on quest, boy overcomes odds, boy finds self along way) with a twisted thread of the pied piper legend tied in there, with the heavy overtones of racism (and/or animal welfare). While I loved the plot (especially the pied piper bit), it could have been a lot tighter. There were lots of gaps and questions left unanswered.

However, the strength of the main characters and the detail with which the author clearly knows animal behavior and physiology made this book great. I love seeing fiction that knows what it is talking about, and this is just that.

Through all of it, though, Animist is a story of a boy and his rat, which anyone who has bonded to an animal can appreciate. His relationship with his Anim (bonded familiar-like critter) is incredibly touching. It brought me to tears at one point, I am not going to lie. There is a race of rat people who refer to his Anim as the “mookchee,” which means something mystical but just sounds adorable. The main character (our animist) spiritually bonds with his rat by accident, and I appreciate the way he goes through some stages of disappointment and denial until he comes around to the fact that he loves his rat.

I decided to read this book because the author, Eve Forward, wrote my favorite book of all time: Villans by Necessity. That book is still the best read EVER. I checked to see if she had written anything else, and found Animist. She apparently wrote Animist first. I have to say, the cover put me off a little (which is in contrast to Villans by Necessity which has a GLORIOUS cover). I am glad I followed the old adage and did not judge a book by its cover.

This is one of those instances where clearly  the artist knew nothing about the book. Not only does the main character look NOTHING like the guy on the cover, I have no idea what is up with the monkeys and the wolves. There is one monkey somewhere in the book for maybe 2 pages. And I think someone says something about wanting to have a fox that looks like a wolf as their Anim at some point.

Anyway, my best friend recommended Villains by Necessity back in the day, which is still  my favorite book. She (at about that time) had a slew of pet rats (she had 2 “females” and ended up with like 12 rats, but her mom was kind hearted and just divided them up by sex and kept them all). I remember how super sweet they were and she would always call “reeeeaaat” to them in a high pitched voice.

So, my point? FULL CIRCLE.


Rat snuggles.