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Book review: Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell

24 November 2023

For adults, too, Richard Lamey suggests

IMPOSSIBLE CREATURES is the most engaging, intelligent, and moving book that you will read this year — and probably next. It is a book that everyone who loves adventure, heroism, and the addressing of big themes through thrilling narrative will relish and treasure. Katherine Rundell writes for everyone above the age of about eight.

She creates a hidden world that is (ultimately and beautifully) our home. Writing with wit, elegance, and wonderful precision, she draws together Greek and Norse mythology, sphinxes and griffins and dragons, friendship, and creation care. There is joy and sadness. There is hope and beauty. There is cost and triumph. There is vocation and duty. There is loss and courage and grief and transformation. There is glory, and there is love. It is a joy to read: very few books make you laugh aloud and cry aloud on consecutive pages.

Christopher is a boy who attracts animals to him wherever he goes. While he is staying with his grandfather, the one instruction that Christopher is given is that he must not climb the hill that dominates the landscape. So, of course, he does, and he meets a girl, Mal, from a secret world hidden within ours. Mal is curious, adventurous, caring, and fierce. She has a coat that allows her to fly — and she is in danger.

And we are off on an adventure that is the equal of anything in Narnia or the world of Philip Pullman. We are gripped and delighted by the quest — by the islands that they visit and the companions whom they gather, and by the deepening sense of how far they will have to go to save everything that they love.

Like ours, Rundell’s world is flawed and dangerous, but shot through always with glory and beauty. Hope will blaze a little brighter in you because of Christopher and Mal and the world that Katherine Rundell creates — such grace, such courage, and such pure delight.

Canon Richard Lamey is the Rector of St Paul’s, Wokingham, and Area Dean of Sonning, in the diocese of Oxford.


Impossible Creatures
Katherine Rundell
Bloomsbury Children’s Books £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.49

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