The Rainbow Serpent: A Kulipari Novel, by Trevor Pryce – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Rainbow Serpent: A Kulipari Novel, by Trevor Pryce with Joel Naftali. Illustrated by Sanford Greene.
NYC, Abrams/Amulet Books, October 2014, hardcover $15.95 ([3 +] 289 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $9.99.
This is the middle novel of an adventurous Young Adult trilogy, following An Army of Frogs (May 2013) and coming before the concluding Amphibians’ End (October 2015). “Frogs and Platypuses versus Scorpions and Spiders”. With a double-page color map showing such places as Wallaby Village, Platypus Village, The Outback, and Yarrangobilly Caves, you can easily guess that it’s set in Australia.
An Army of Frogs established Daryl, the adolescent frog protagonist, as a wannabe warrior like the fabled Kulipari who fought to protect Daryl’s damp-forest Amphibilands homeland from the spider armies of beautiful but cruel Queen Jarrah a generation ago. Unfortunately, the Kulipari have since disappeared, while the Spider Queen has formed an alliance with the scorpions’ evil Lord Marmoo. The scorpions have traditionally lived in the dry Outback and not bothered the frogs, but now Lord Marmoo is building a vast army to conquer the world. Having the Spider Queen’s help is all he needs:
“‘No, my lord. Your army is ten times bigger than any scorpion horde since the time of legend.’
‘Indeed. But as our numbers increase, we drain the outback. We’re running out of food and water. We need a more fertile land.’ Lord Marmoo’s pincers snapped shut. ‘We need the Amphibilands, and soon it will be ours.’” (An Army of Frogs, p. 34)
An Army of Frogs ends with Daryl and his sidekick Gee alone at the border of the Amphibilands and the Outback, defeating (mostly by trickery) the first scorpion troops to invade the Amphibilands. But Gee is captured. Daryl has to decide whether to go home to warn the frog elders of the scorpion menace, and get help (which would be prudent), or to venture alone into the Outback to try to rescue Gee (which would be adventurous). No contest!
But The Rainbow Serpent doesn’t begin with Daryl. Actually, he doesn’t appear until Chapter 4, riding a Komodo dragon. The protagonist is Pippi, the platypus equivalent of an 8- to 10-year-old tomboyish Little Sister. Pippi is the only one who listens when the Stargazer, the platypus tribe’s elderly gray-furred seer, gets a mystic message from the Rainbow Serpent that they will all be saved from an unknown danger by the frog called Daryl from the Amphibilands. So when the platypus village is attacked by the Spider Queen’s ghost bat minions, Pippi sets out to find Daryl, whoever he may be. Since her quest takes her through forests, fields, and deserts, and platypuses (being river animals) aren’t known for their trekking ability, Pippi is lucky that she falls in early with Gee (who’s escaped) and his own tiny band of brave adolescent frogs who are fighting the scorpions, spiders, ghost bats, taipan snakes, and blue band bees.
It’s very rousing:
“As the two scorpions swarmed up the boulder toward Pippi, a brown blur shot down at them from a tree branch. A brawny frog with yellow eyes swung his staff into the first scorpion’s head, then leaped over the other scorpion’s snapping pincer and lashed out with his powerful legs. The second scorpion went flying, bounced off the boulder, hurtled to the ground near Pippi, and lay there moaning.” (p. 24)
The characters use their animal abilities:
“Darel shot his tongue out, stuck it to a nearby stalagmite, and pulled himself sideways across the floor. The green-brown snake chomped down hard on the rock where Daryl had been, and one of its fangs snapped off.” (p. 110)
But it isn’t too simplistic:
“A sick feeling rose in Daryl’s stomach as Yabber trailed off. Sending snakes to stop the Kulipari did sound pretty stupid. But Jarrah wasn’t dumb. So what was she really up to? Was she planning something else entirely? What if sending the taipan snakes wasn’t her only attack? What if that had just been a distraction?” (p. 115)
It’s also supposed to be full of macho humor, mostly of the drinking buddy (except that nobody is old enough to drink) sort. What do you get when you freeze a frog? A hopsicle. Are baby frogs frogpoles or pollifrogs? What do you call a sad frog? Un-hoppy!
Darel is off on is own quest, but not alone – with a band of Kulipari warriors. (He’s found them.) They’ve been warned that the Spider Queen and Lord Marmoo are uniting to overwhelm the Amphibilands, and the best defense is being planned by Yabber, the dead turtle king’s heir. But Yabber has disappeared into the Snowy Mountains to hone his powers and get into mental communication with the all-powerful Rainbow Serpent. A Kulipari warband, plus Daryl, is sent to find Yabber and bring him back, despite frogs and snow not being compatible. Pippi’s and Daryl’s adventure stories, plus those of Lord Marmoo (he plans to doublecross the Spider Queen as soon as he doesn’t need her any longer) and his chief minion, Commander Pigo, alternate back & forth.
Since The Rainbow Serpent is the middle volume of a trilogy, you can guess that it ends with a cliffhanger. But what a cliffhanger! Pryce and Naftali really know how to stage a cliffhanger.
The Kulipari trilogy is for young Young Adults. Rod O’Riley has an article in a recent In-FUR-Nation that An Army of Frogs (maybe the whole trilogy under that title) is being developed as an animated Netflix series for next year – probably as a children’s TV cartoon series. “… but everyone knew emus were total birdbrains.” (p. 37)
To repeat the information from my review of An Army of Frogs: “Trevor Pryce is best-known as a NFL veteran for 14 years as a defensive end for the Denver Broncos, the Baltimore Ravens, and the New York Jets. Joel Naftali is the author of both Young Adult novels and career guides for recent high school and college graduates. Illustrator Sanford Greene is a currently “hot” artist of realistic adventure and costumed-hero comic books for DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse. An Army of Frogs is in color throughout, from its forest-green-tinted text pages to its full color illustrations, including many glossy full-page and double-page spreads that look like stills from CGI animated movies with anthropomorphized frogs, other reptiles, scorpions, and a sexy spider queen.” Except that The Rainbow Serpent has blue-tinted pages. To see the tinted text pages, check out Amazon.com’s “Look inside” feature for An Army of Frogs. The “Look inside” for The Rainbow Serpent show the pages as white, but they’re also tinted (blue). But the “Look inside” for The Rainbow Serpent does show several of Greene’s illustrations in full color.