Malaisea, the unhealthiest town in the whole of Zamonia, is home to Echo the Crat, a multitalented creature resembling a cat in appearance but capable of speaking any language under the sun, human or animal. When his mistress dies, Echo finds himself out on the street. Dying of starvation, he is compelled to sign a contract with Ghoolion the Alchemaster, Malaisea’s evil alchemist-in-chief. This fateful document gives Ghoolion the right to kill Echo at the next full moon and render him down for his fat, with which he hopes to brew an alchemical concoction that will make him immortal. In return, he promises to regale the little Crat with the most exquisite gastronomic delicacies until his time is up. But Ghoolion has reckoned without Echo’s talent for survival and his ability to make new friends. These include the Leathermice, the Cogitating Eggs, the Golden Squirrel, the Cooked Ghost, Theodore T. Theodore the one-eyed Tuwituwu, and above all, Izanuela Anazazi, the last Uggly in Malaisea.
Walter Moers’ magnificent translation of Optimus Yarnspinner’s novel introduces us to yet another of Zamonia’s hotbeds of adventure: Malaisea, a place where sick is healthy, up is down, right is wrong, and Ghoolion the Alchemaster reigns supreme—until Echo crosses his path.
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""Nobody understands the Leathermice! Not even the Leathermice!" This here is classic Moers. And I love Walter Moers for his unbelievable imagination and completely unique stories. In this particular tale, which takes place in the Zamonian city of Malaisea, a little Crat (very similar to a cat, but can communicate with every species) named Echo makes a desperate deal with the ruling alchemaster, Ghoolion. Malaisea is a miserable place; disease and despair abound. Ghoolion is perfectly content to keep it that way. His life centers entirely around his alchemy, which frequently inhibits the well-being of other creatures. Ghoolion is terribly excited to meet Echo as the starving little Crat represents the biggest alchemic opportunity Ghoolion has ever had. The deal is for Echo to live with the alchemaster, who will fatten him up until the next full moon. At that point, little Echo will have his throat slit and his fat rendered by the alchemist to create the ultimate ingredient. In spite of himself, Echo finds the alchemaster and his world oddly fascinating. Not fascinating enough, however, to want to actually fulfill his contract though. He needs some help and it will come in the form of more of Moers' whimsical characters, such as the aforementioned Leathermice, an owl-like Tiwituwu who transposes letters in longer words, a cooked ghost and the best/worst/only Uggly in town, Isadora. It's a strange and harrowing month for Echo, but if he wants to live, he's going to have to outsmart the cleverest and most powerful man in town.
Again, loved this book. Wished there were more illustrations. Moers has a gift for word-play as well, which fortunately comes across with his long-time translator, John Brownjohn. Now, if we can just get the rest of Moers' books translated, I will be exceedingly happy."
Courtney (4 out of 5 stars)