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4.2 out of 5 stars31
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Dogboy lives in the dump with his best friend Caz. He earns pennies to feed them both by assisting the rat-catcher Bill Grubstaff. When he is offered work by a local scientist, he is soon drawn into a plot to declare war on rats. Below ground the rats are mourning the loss of their king and preparing to crown his successor. Young taster Efren, goes against the rules of the kingdom and follows his old king above ground, only to witness his capture and resulting torture. By the very man now employing Dogboy. As their two worlds cross paths, both sides are preparing to do battle.

Never has the death of rats been so upsetting. The dual narrative of The Twyning means the story is told from both human and rodent perspectives and boy, are those perspectives different. I loved the contrast in perception between the two. Above ground rats are a problem and killing them a normal every day act. Even our human protagonist is an assistant to a rat-catcher but he is never portrayed as evil. Down below, the rats see humans as the enemy (rightly so) but they also have their own social structure and governance. Their society is shown not to be better than humanity but in parallel to it. One regime may be fair and just but the next is corrupt and oppressive.

I found the rats remained rattish throughout. To get round communication problems, Blacker has made them communicate through a form of telepathy (hey, we can't prove otherwise and real rats do use a supersonic form of communication). So no, there are not really talking rats, something their anatomy wouldn't allow. Even their "pulse" is a real thing, a distress signal that rats send out when they need help. OK I'm starting to become fascinated by rats now!

It was interesting to see that the idea stemmed from scientific study into whether rats possess empathy. The actual study involved a rat freeing another from a Perspex box. Where there was also chocolate available in another box, the rescuer would still free the rat first and then share the chocolate, even going so far as to carry the treats over to the distressed rat! Scientists may argue over the motive for this but I think it shows that rats are capable of acting better than some humans. And that is something that's important to the novel.

At times the tone becomes a little like a children's book. It is certainly not aimed at children; there's plenty of violence and at least one scene that can only be described as gruesome. Maybe it's the effects of having a rat as a narrator, who is intelligent in his own way but maybe not to the standard of a human adult.

The Twyning of the title is what is called a rat king in the real world. I don't think I quite understood what it was at first, imagining a sort of conjoined twin. A rat king is a litter of rats who join together at their tails, whether tangled up or through layers of dirt (and worse). These groups can have up to 30 rats bound together! Later on, it does become clearer (and actually re-reading the first chapter, I'm not sure why I didn't pick up on it). I'm not sure if googling it is beneficial; there is a scary mummified rat king in a German museum which doesn't quite fit the tone of the book. The Twyning is seen and some sort of sacred animal treated with respect and consulted on matters of importance to the kingdom. However you perceive the creature, its significance is felt and I did find myself worrying about it at several points.

Whilst there were aspects that weren't perfect, I really rather enjoyed this unique and entertaining tale. I found myself tearing up in places and cheering on the rat army in others. If you have ever looked in a rat's eye and seen a spark of intelligence, you will love this book.

Review copy provided by publisher.
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I love a book that is different to the norm and to be honest that is exactly what this is, as a tale told from two perspectives being that of our human lead, Dogboy and that of rats. Yes you read that right, rats. Its definitely something quirky and whilst the author has made both come across in an easy to understand manner it's a book that reminds me of films like "Phase IV" being so off the wall that there's really nothing else like it out there.

Add to the mix subtle direction by the author, some wonderful turns of phrase and a novel that really makes you think and I was more than pleased that I took the time to read this. All round a solid enough book that will make me seek out other titles by this author.
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on 25 February 2013
The Twyning is a book about the rats war with humans.

Firstly, I have to say that I can NOT abide cruelty to animals. I know this a book about war, but it really doesn't have to include half the "sport" stuff that it does, for as long as intricately detailed it is. This really didn't settle well with me, which is a real shame, as the actual context of the book and the interactions between the rat community is inventive and highly intriguing.

I didn't really understand the concept (or the reason) for the Twyning itself, as most of the book is centred around the male and female child characters, who are well written and personable when you get used to them, as is Efren the "lead" rat in the book.

Sadly, this is less a book about a rat war and more a reason to kill hundreds of thousands of harmless creatures by use of the written word and therefore is the reason I struggled to get to the end of this otherwise interesting read.
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on 15 February 2013
Wow. I bought this book on a Kindle daily deal and was not sure what to expect. I noted the mention of a similarity to Watership Down and as this had been one of my favourite books I looked forward to reading The Twyning. It gives an insight into the social structure of a colony of rats and makes a comparison between the rats and humans. We are not that much different really - both can be cruel and thoughtless but can also be loving and compassionate. It is wonderful to see the relationship between Dogboy and Caz (The child humans) and between Efran and Malaika (the rats) and to see how their relationships become entwined so that when the going gets really tough they work together to help each other. This book is totally intriguing and I could not put it down. Well worth a read - you will not be disappointed.
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on 14 February 2013
Well told and well written, this dark but hopeful tale will delight children of all ages, as "all is bad that ends well". It merges the classic story of a couple of Dickensian orphans who face terrible hardships but finally emerge triumphant, with a foray into the "fantasy-land" of antropomorphised rats who can talk to each other (and to some humans) through some sort of telepathy (or "revealing", as it is called in the book). The main characters, whether human or beast, are so expertly drawn that you cannot help but be interested in their fates. I was so engrossed in the story for 2 days that I almost missed my train station - twice!
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on 24 February 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The swift changes between the human world and the rat world pulled me in and kept me wanting to know what was coming next. A great way of showing how similar we really all are when put in a difficult situation. I certainly felt sympathetic towards the humans but could also empathize with the rats.

As happy as I was with the ending I was also saddened that such a brilliant book had come to an end. Might have to go and find my own Efron now. I will never think of rats in the same way again.
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on 23 February 2013
Loved it. I do love animal stories anyway so was drawn to this - and years ago I had pet rats!

This story was great. I loved the two parallel story lines, the characters were well-drawn, the settings were well-drawn as well. It was all so very believable.

I get the references to Watership Down but also it reminded me in some ways of the Duncton Wood stories.

Happy to recommend this to anyone!
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on 26 February 2013
This tale of the relationship between rats and humans, from the perspective of both, had me captivated from the beginning. My only reservations were that the pit fight scene in the pub went on for too long, and that the Twyning didn't play as much of a role as its apparent importance in rat culture, and use as the title, lead you to expect. Not for young children or the squeamish.
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on 8 March 2013
It was dfferent to see the dislike of rats from the rats side. The book held you and made you want to see the end.
The two children got more love from the rat than from most people and the way the people were worked up by just one man to want to kill all the rats workes these days in the way we are woked up to kill in wars by a few , then follow without a lot of question.
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on 11 June 2013
Quite bizarre! I downloaded this at it sounded like a totally different read that could be interesting. it was interesting and I enjoyed the first half but as the story progressed it just got too silly (as though mind reading rats was not enough!!). I liked the idea and the relationships that formed but overall I don't think I would recommend.
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