Thursday, January 18, 2024

Impossible Creatures - Katherine Rundell

I've been desperately trying to finish a jumper whilst the weather is so cold, partly to wear partly because it's nice and warm having it on my lap whilst I knit. It's currently soaking prior to going on the board and I'm looking at the pile of read books that have built up.

Impossible Creatures is one of a lot of books that I started late in December and took a while to finish - mostly because I kept getting distracted by other books and life. It is the Waterstones book of the year and has picked up a few other titles along with overall glowing reviews. I'm here to add another one to the pile. I really liked this book - not quite as much as my colleague who described it as being akin to rediscovering the excitement of reading for the the first time - but a lot. It is very definitely a children's book (9-12) but the sort that anyone of any age could enjoy if they like a magical adventure, and a really lovely book to read together with children.

For anyone old enough to remember when Harry Potter first became a thing, I got the same kind of buzz from Impossible Creatures. They're nothing alike beyond both having a collection of mythical creatures and being quest based, which is a lot of books, but there's an alchemy at work in both that pulled me in. I still like the first 3 Harry Potter books a lot, but they're very much of the 1990s, sensibilities have moved on since then. This is an excellent place to start if you want a fantasy adventure for younger readers without the baggage.

Comparisons to Philip Pullman are fair, though I think Rundell preaches less - I'm in the fence about Pullman. I admire his writing much more than I enjoy it. Overall though, she's a writer who's been around for a while, she has fiction for children, and non fiction on John Donne and endangered wildlife for adults. She's her own woman who doesn't need to be compared to anyone, but read on her own account. 

Impossible Creatures tells of a boy who is pulled into an adventure in an archipelago of islands hidden from the rest of humanity - they are the last home of magical creatures. He meets a girl who can fly as she flees a murderer. Together they make friends, evade enemies, and battle to make things better. Christopher and Mal are perfectly imperfect - easy to like, and easy to believe in. 

I've seen a few children's books hailed as instant classics, some of which I've not much liked, this one feels like the genuine article to me. I hope it's the one that makes Katherine Rundell the household name she deserves to be. 


  1. Wow, this sounds terrific. I've never heard of Rundell, but I'm definitely going to check her out.

  2. I would love to see some of what you are knitting!

    Ginny Jones, USA