Plot: Kerelyn Smith's wise, inventive, playful fantasy sets poetry-loving ogre Mulrox on a mission with the malcognitos, bizarre creatures who are the manifestation of his bad ideas. Their quest: to pass through a portal and stop the Vaccus from destroying all ideas, good and bad alike. Spirited misadventure abounds, featuring a lavish menagerie of memorable creatures and characters. Molrox's journey is more chatty and amusing than suspenseful, and the novel sags in its extended middle section. The climax, though, is clever and stirring, as Mulrox triumphs not by violence, or by being the best at any particular thing, but by being undeterred by a crowd heckling his creative work.
Prose/Style: Smith's vibrant comic prose distinguishes Mulrox and the Malcognitos. Her sentences and dialogue bounce along, telling the story with sharp clarity and seemingly boundless imagination. The author is adept at fantastical coinages and excels crafting character names that are a pleasure to linger over. Also strong are Smith's descriptions of her ogre village and its rituals; the flora and fauna of the Mercurial Woods; and her tender explications of the hearts of Mulrox and the occasional other point-of-view characters; and most especially her moving evocations of the power of the creative impulse. It's hard not to wish that this superior prose was telling a tighter story.
Character Development: Sensitive, creative ogres Mulrox and Yahgurkin stand out as singular creations, and Smith shrewdly crafts her story so that the two discover each other and eventually find the courage to embrace being out of step. The other ogre characters make amusing comic foils, and Smith's raucous cast of toads, malcognitos and squirrelmonks keep each page lively, even when the story itself gets lost in the woods for a lengthy stretch.
Date Submitted: May 18, 2020
Middle Grade at Heart hosted a virtual launch party for Mulrox and the Malcognitos, My Life as a Potato, and The Derby Daredevils, with authors Kerelyn Smith, Arianne Costner, and Kit Rosewater. The event was moderated by Amanda Rawson Hill.