Near the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, home to a colony of auks including a puffin named Lockley J. Puffin and his wife Lucy Puffin. The colony also includes, rather incongruously, a walrus named Egbert and a hummingbird named Ruby. The auks live a happy and uneventful life until Egbert in a fit of misplaced hospitality and a bid for popularity invites the owls from the nearby island of Tytonia to come to his birthday party.
“These are birds who happily spend much of their time at sea, eat fish, fly underwater, and are not to be confused with penguins. On Neversink auks could nest safely in the nooks and crannies of the island’s ice gouged rocks, far away from the perching birds of nearby Tytonia, protected from predators by a girdle of ocean, safe from most threats other than old age and an unpredictable sea goddess named Sedna.
So it had been since the Age of settlement. And so it would have remained, many believe, if Rozbell (the owl) had never tasted Lucy Puffin’s fish smidgens.”
I enjoyed my visit to the island of Neversink. Rozbell the Owl is a suitably evil and crazed villain, and Lockley, Egbert, Ruby and the other auks of Neversink are valiant and at the same time reluctant to start a war even in the face of tyranny and mistreatment from the owls. The main thing the book lacked was much of a theme. The plot and characters carry the story. Maybe the theme is “insane, evil, power-hungry owls must eventually be opposed—and deposed?”
Anyway, the auks and owls and Egbert and Ruby all work out their relations and government over the course of the novel, and in the meantime, there’s some witty commentary, fluent description, and decent dialog.
A few examples:
“Lockley had never been so happy to see his large friend (Egbert). He would have given him a hug, except that it is physically impossible for a puffin and a walrus to embrace.”
“The lamentation of swans exploded from the ground and took to the air, graceful and powerful in flight in a way Lockley knew he could never achieve.”
“‘Actually, I meant that rhetorically,’ said Ruby.
‘It’s a word I learned from Egbert. As best I can tell, it’s just a way for creatures who love to hear themselves talk to keep talking.'”
I kept picturing this story as an animated movie in my mind. I think Disney or Pixar or Dreamworks could definitely do something with Neversink. It’s got the characters and the plot, as I said, and they could stick in a moral underpinning about faithfulness and peaceful resistance.