Book Review: The Rat Queen

The Rat Queen by Pete Hautman

The Rat Queen
by Pete Hautman

2.5 stars
Annie’s father teaches her to write down all the bad things she does and feed the paper into a little hole in the floor of their house. After she drops the paper into the “sin eater” hole, her regrets and guilt go away and she feels better. Annie hears a mysterious skittering and chattering in the cellar, and the neighbors begin to report seeing rats around the neighborhood. Annie learns about her Litvanian heritage and the dark secrets of her family past.

I was worried that this book would be too dark and scary for me, but it never did get super dark. It was creepy, but not too scary. Still, I didn’t care for the dark direction of the story. Annie never really makes a stand for goodness or virtue. She just kind of drifts along with her family’s sinful darkness. She grows up a little and has some character development, but it doesn’t seem like enough. I guess I was expecting a definite showdown between good and evil, and that never happened. I wanted Annie to make strong decisions for good, but she mostly just reacts to other people and then does her own thing without making a definite moral decision. She makes some good decisions, and then drifts along again.

The plot moves very slowly. It has a lot of spooky atmosphere and great descriptive writing, but that slows down the plot quite a bit. Then all of a sudden at the end, five years go by in one chapter and we are left wondering what actually happened to Annie.

I really loved the writing style. The story is peppered with meaningful fairy tales that are reflected in the main plot. Annie reads a Litvanian fairy tale or someone tells her a fairy tale, and then we see those things being played out in the story as Annie reflects on things she is learning. But all the fairy tales are sad. So Annie is learning that life is sad and people are sinful and bad things happen. The whole underlying philosophy of this story is very confused and dark. I’m not sure what the point was. But the writing style is so beautiful and powerful!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.

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