Review: The Borribles by Michael De Larrabeiti


What is a Borrible? Borribles are runaways who dwell in the shadows of London. Apart from their pointed ears, they look just like ordinary children. They live by their wits and a few Borrible laws-the chief one being, Don’t Get Caught! The Borribles are outcasts-but they wouldn’t have it any other way….
One night, the Borribles of Battersea discover a Rumble-one of the giant, rat-shaped creatures who are their ancient enemy-in their territory. Fearing an invasion, an elite group of Borrible fighters set out on what will become known in legend as The Great Rumble Hunt. So begins the first of the three epic adventures in Michael de Larrabeiti’s classic trilogy, where excitement, violence, low cunning, greed, generosity, treachery, and bravery exist side by side.


I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts on this book for a few days now because it was sort of a surprise gem for me.  I’d heard of it vaguely and then saw it mentioned in a blog post and managed to track down a really old (and battered) copy to read.  There are so many feelings I have about this book that I want to do it justice in a review.
The Borribles are society of children like beings that have stopped growing and gone feral.  They live as a band of rough and ready types (think Fagin’s gang in Oliver without the grown up leader) and are all based in South London Boroughs.  They live a life that works for them and survive well without being caught by the adults of police and have only one mortal enemy, The Rumbles of Rumbledon.  The Rumbles are rat like creatures with a lisp and want to spread over the Boroughs and bring down the Borribles.  So begins The Great Rumble Hunt, where the best eight Borribles from the Boroughs are trained and sent out to destroy the Rumble High Council.  This becomes an epic adventure with blood, guts, battles, laughs and adventure at every turn.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book at first.  It was written some time ago but it doesn’t feel dated because of the fantasy element to the mythology.  It’s just a very smart book that doesn’t talk down to its audience.  There is violence and it isn’t played down and I loved the book all the more for it.  The Borribles is a reality unlike ours but isn’t that far away either if you consider gang culture and knife crime in London at the moment.  
I had my favourite characters in Orococco and Torreycannon as well as the lead, Knocker but all the Borrible Eight had their own special part to play in the story.  It was a book with a cast of players and not one sole story or one romance developing.  It’s a children’s book that looks at society and division.  It looks at class divide and racism but it doesn’t rub it in your face; it’s part of the story and not the reason for the story.  The Borribles has catapult firing battles, evil kidnappers, double dealing, treasure hunting, a horse called Sam and some of the best dialect ever.  It was like reading my own voice straight of the page.  What more could you want from a story?
Aside from all that stuff, when it comes down to it, The Borribles is a fantastic adventure book that has things to teach its reader as well as give them a thrill ride as they read it.  I gasped and yelled and didn’t want it to end.  Now I shall have to seek out the second book and a wooly hat.

Published by Macmillan and is available to preorder as a trilogy set here.  There are previous publications available but many are currently out of print or stock.

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