Theo is an ordinary rabbit, at least, that's what the residents of Willago think. After becoming the apprentice of Father Oaks, not only does Theo learn the art of healing, but also something far more forbidden. Theo becomes an omatje, a word catcher who is able to understand written language. Deemed long ago as sorcery, his fellow rabbits imprison him after finding out his secret. That is until he is rescued by a bear named Brune. Theo learns that bigger things are happening outside Willago, where humans are pacifying the animals, removing their ability to think and talk for themselves. With the help of Brune and the Princess Indigo, Theo must travel with his companions in an attempt to save his fellow animals, but Theo must keep the biggest secret of his life, or risk his friends turning against him.
I always enjoy reading fantasy stories that involve talking animals, and this book was no exception. I loved the idea of reading being a forbidden language, as it seemed like the animals had been brainwashed to stop them from making themselves smarter. Stories with an animal protagonist are usually intended for young children, but I loved that even though the majority of the characters were animals, the novel was overall quite dark, with themes of death, imprisonment and starvation. I l thought Theo was a brilliant protagonist, as although he was a fat little rabbit who had lived a peaceful life and had no idea how to use a sword, he took everything in his stride and was willing to step outside of his comfort zone to help the other animals. It also showed that being an efficient fighter is not enough to win a battle, and that knowledge is power.
Indigo was one of my favourite characters as she is a strong female warrior, and teaches Theo that just because they're rabbits doesn't mean that they can't be efficient fighters. As rabbits are usually prey, I loved the idea of a rabbit being able to fight creatures twice their size. Indigo is both fierce and patient, and I loved that although they were tired after travelling all day, she still took the time to teach him how to use a sword.
Although I loved Theo, Brune, Indigo and Manneki, I felt that there were too many characters for me to keep up with, and found myself forgetting the species of certain minor characters. As the books target audience ranged from middleschoolers to teenagers, I feel as if this could be a problem for them also, and think that less minor characters would have made the story easier to understand.
I found the pace of the story to be quite slow in places. The majority of the novel is a journey, and I found that at certain points, little was happening to push the main plot forward. However, there were certain sub-plots that I was eager to find out the reason behind them, such as what the tortoise shell that Theo was given was for. I loved that the story built up to a huge battle, and it was easy to get lost in the story once the action was underway. This last section of the novel was action packed, and it was easy to get lost in the story and feel like I was part of the battle. The author portrayed the feelings of the armies perfectly, which is something that is usually only touched upon briefly in battle sequences. The terror of the army knowing they were going to lose was portrayed perfectly, and I loved that even the pacified horses were too scared to go on the attack.
I recommend this book to fans of Watership Down and Lord of the Rings, and anyone who loves to read fantasy stories.
Theo and the Forbidden Language can be purchased HERE