Rumblestar (Unmapped Chronicles 1) – Abi Elphinstone

Wow. This book has all the stardust of imagination to take me back to my childhood, crawling hands and knees through my parents wall-length wardrobe breathless in the hope I would discover Narnia or a Faraway Land by the time I reached my father’s shoes.

These are characters and stories that fold themselves into a child’s heart and become part of who you are and shape and guide who you become by their magic. How completely wonderful.

Book cover for Rumblestar
Illustrated by Carrie May and Title and logo designed by Patrick Knowles.

Casper Tock has had enough of the bullies at Little Wallops Boarding School where he is tormented as the Charity boy for his parents being teachers- not to mention racist bullying too.

One day being hunted by the worst bully Candida, Casper hides inside a grandfather clock and is transported to the magical world of Rumblestar and promptly marched off to be locked up by a forthright little girl called Utterly Thankless.

This of course leads to the discovery that something is not quite right in the Unmapped Kingdom of Rumblestar and only Casper and Utterly can do something about it as the harpy Morg’s minions close in on the city.

Drizzle hags, sun scamps, storm ogres and more punctuate the adventure.

Adventures are unpredictable and often terribly badly behaved- a bit like pickled onions if you have ever tried to fork one on a plate- but they have a way of unlocking people and turning them upside down so that all the astonishing things fizzing around inside them start to tumble out.

The fantasy and the world building in Rumblestar is exquisite imagination with an incredibly creative premise of the Unmapped Kingdoms where the magic is harnessed and gathered then interpreted and distributed to the regular world (The Faraway) in the form of the weather.

This is then coupled with familiar-but still with a unique twist- fantasy tropes such as portal magic travelling through a grandfather clock into a magical world; and magical beings and creature such as mindful flexitarian snow giants, Riddling drizzle hags; and objects of requirement such as the case Utterly carries or the levers of the Sky-Balloon.

The world building is tightly expressed, no long information dumps just a steady trickle releasing in a naturalistic way as Casper experiences more and more on his adventure through Rumblestar. Even the narrative positioning in the Prologue is told in a bardic storyteller form which adds a wonderful charm to the book and removes the need for this being scattered through the plot.

Life was a good deal simpler and safer, so little by little Casper’s world had shrunk until the very idea of taking risks, trying new things or even momentarily veering off timetable made him feel queasy.

Casper Tock is a wonderful protagonist. A Boy who likes control and rules and finds comfort in routines is completely thrown out of his depth and forced to be spontaneous, to be brave, to step into the eye of the storm. Casper having his control removed reveals what he is really capable of when he has no choice but to do, to act, to survive- this is at once a very exciting and very sobering thought for perfectionists and those scared of spontaneity.

Casper being bullied for his parents’ backgrounds and his mixed heritage immediately aligns the reader with empathy for this little lost soul and we root for him from the moment we find him hiding in a cupboard to avoid bullies in geography and our hearts soar as he does in fighting to protect Rumblestar.

She had taken it upon herself to cause as much mayhem as possible until either she achieved something incredible that won her back the love and respect of her parents, or she achieved something outrageous that made someone, somewhere finally realise that deep, deep inside she was falling apart.

Utterly is a force to be reckoned with- her fervour and vibrancy is tempered with anger and sadness but she has a true if bruised heart. This duality at once creates a believable and realistic girl who reaches a little too hard and fast for the stars then beats herself up for falling.

Utterly is a girls in stem hero for her abilities with the magic and bottling, but also with her ability to rally and work with the sun scamps and yet it is probably a point of resonance for many female readers with the fact that she constantly underestimates herself and doesn’t quite believe the praise and care she hears about, believing her worth to be be less than it is worth.

Perhaps through Utterly’s story young readers may avoid the longer road to believing in themselves.

Laughing felt even better than crossing the last thing off a to-do list. It was like trampolining for the spirit, and as Casper looked across at Utterly, he wondered whether this was the first time she had laughed properly for a long time too.

Utterly and Casper’s dynamism is a wonderful thing to see grow into friendship across the book. It is clear that neither are quite used to having friends or someone to care and be there for which causes opportunities for growth and development as they quickly clash and batter against these things and challenges as their bond strengthens.

The position that friendship requires acceptance, give and take and supporting each other is a wonderful take from this book to have children assess their own friendships for these points of health.

People rarely snap and scowl because of others but rather because there is a storm raging inside them. By the sound of it, your Utterly has swallowed a whopperific storm and though it’s hard to be friends with stormgulpers, Casper, they’re the ones who need friends most.

Stormgulper. What a fantastic metaphor to describe the way we are bruised and battered by traumatic events or loss, that we swallow a piece of the storm we have weathered and it torments and erupts out of us whether we want it to or not. I am certainly a stormgulper, and have several storms battering my soul.

May I be as strong as Utterly to offer my storms to the stars and let her and Casper teach my children to release any storms that they may want to gulp too.

US cover of Rumblestar rebranded as Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings
The US cover of Rumblestar which is rebranded as CASPER TOCK & THE EVERDARK WINGS designed by Heather Palisi-Reyes & illustrated by Petur Atli Antonsson

Overall, this is an absolutely wonderful and enchanting book, I love the premise, I adore the fact that despite it fitting into a wider cycle of stories it feels somewhat standalone or complete even though we know there is more to face against Morg.

This is a book of wild escapism and great comfort in one, a book I can see myself returning to and a book I hope brings joy and adventure to my children.

Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone is published by Simon & Schuster UK and will be published as CASPER TOCK & THE EVERDARK WINGS by Simon & Schuster in January 2020 .

6 thoughts on “Rumblestar (Unmapped Chronicles 1) – Abi Elphinstone

  1. What a gorgeous review – my thoughts definitely echo yours on this story. I loved the humour throughout and creativity with names – how could you not love someone called Utterly Thankless! Abi is definitely an author whose books will be auto purchases for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 😊Utterly is just such a wonderful character I love how Abi isn’t afraid to make her characters flawed- especially the girls- we need more forgiving, real and attainable role models for a wide range of children like a Utterly who has grit and gumption but is also grieving and self sabotaging but fights through the latter, her flaws not forgotten, not discarded, but instead rising to the challenge 💜

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Totally agree. I think the strength in the writing is how real she makes her characters feel to the reader – they are not perfect and that is ok, but they have an inner strength which helps them cope, even when life is not being kind! It just helps to make children believe that anything is possible even when life may not seem fair!

      Liked by 1 person

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