Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew, by Ursula Vernon
8/10, a cute and engaging children’s adventure story
Disclaimer: I work for Sofawolf Press, publisher of Ursula’s comic "Digger," Artistic Visions sketchbook, and novel "Black Dogs."
Nurk is Ursula’s first foray into the world of children’s literature. To her established fans, the story will be a delight. Her whimsical, sarcastic humor and lovely illustrations are up to her usual standards, and the characters are fun, adorable, and engaging. It’s a cute story, complete with mistaken identity, kidnapped princes, grounded boats, and a star-nosed mole.
I enjoyed Nurk thoroughly, not least because of the humor Ursula scatters through it. A lot of it (specifically, his grandmother’s diary) is aimed at adults, and will no doubt go over the heads of kids (for example: "The best plan for any sensible adventurer is to sweep in, take the throne, live like a king for a few weeks, and then sneak out in the middle of the night before people start asking unpleasant questions about road maintenance and tax relief."). But the story is enough to keep kids engaged, a good adventure tale along the line of "The Hobbit," with Nurk the reluctant hero swept into a quest that is–at first–beyond his capabilities, learning about himself as he rises to the challenge.
For adults, the story won’t be quite as engaging as "The Hobbit." Though all the trappings are there, the stakes for Nurk are never so high as to make the adventure compelling. At every step, he is driven mostly by a vague discontentment with his own life and the memory of his grandmother Surka, who was, according to her own diary, an accomplished adventurer. The perils in Nurk’s quest come quick and fast, and toward the end, they seem rather random.
But it’s a fun story, for all that, and definitely worth a read. Your kids may have questions like "what’s tax relief?" after reading it with them, but, you know, best they start asking it now.