Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Capricious Shadows: Orville Wellington Mouse Book 3 is a young adult adventure fantasy written by Tom Hoffman. Orville’s dream seemed so real; but this was nothing new to him -- Orville was quite familiar with dreams that felt real, and he was fully aware of his dream states as he slept. Sophia Mouse was with him in this dream, as indeed she had been his companion in earlier dreams. Was it the real Sophia or just a dream construct? She certainly seemed to respond and act as if she were the real Sophia as they explored the eerie castle that Orville was certain he had dreamed about before. He would want to check with Sophia when he was awake, but, in any event, her calmly rational presence was very welcome in this darkly ominous place. But even Sophia was alarmed by the tall apparition that awaited them behind the huge obsidian doors. The tall robe-enveloped creature’s yellow eyes blazed balefully at them. Orville was sure they were in the presence of dark magic, but he fought to master his fear long enough to pay heed to the creature’s dire message as it spoke of the destruction of the universe.
When Orville set off for work the next morning, his mind was still pondering that most troubling dream even as he delighted in playing with the new word for the day, which was “blustery.” Orville had made it an ongoing project to learn a new, randomly selected word each day. “Blustery”, he pondered, as he began his walk. It certainly seemed an appropriate word for the morning’s weather. The wind gusted around him, making the red, yellow and orange leaves underfoot whirl and dance, and the dust form into little cyclones. He imagined artfully including the word in his next conversation with Sophia Mouse and envisioned her admiration at his steadily growing vocabulary. His ruminations on dreams, words and the weather were suddenly interrupted by the bright flash of brown and purple that flew by him as it was carried along in that blustery wind. Following its trajectory, he spied the object high overhead where it was snagged in the branches of a tree. He recognized it as being an adventurer’s hat and thought to bring it to Master Marloh -- surely someone would be missing a marvelous hat like that. Watching to make sure no one noticed, Orville directed a brief force beam at the hat, nudging it just enough to propel it on its way down to earth. He tried it on and found it fitted perfectly -- having it perched jauntily on his head made him smile. Maybe there’d be no claim for it, he thought, and he would get to keep it. And, indeed, no one was waiting anxiously for news of a lost hat, and Orville began wearing it as his own, but there was just the little problem of the shadow it cast which appeared where it shouldn’t -- a capricious shadow that foretold deadly and universal peril.
I had great expectations for Tom Hoffman’s young adult epic fantasy adventure novel, Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Capricious Shadows: Orville Wellington Mouse Book 3, based on my acquaintance with Orville’s previous two adventures as well as Hoffman’s Bartholomew the Adventurer Trilogy. Those prior books did set the bar awfully high, but I wasn’t all that surprised to find that my expectations were actually exceeded and in a big way. As I began to read, I couldn’t help but smile as I became part of that wonderful chemistry that sometimes takes place between an author, his characters and the reader. Hoffman has a great fondness for Orville and Sophia, and he takes such delight in their company that the reader can’t help but get swept along in that magical revelry.
Hoffman deftly merges epic fantasy, science fiction and metaphysics in this disarming, imaginative and wonder-filled story which is Hoffman’s best work yet. Following the clues of a hat and a dream, Orville, Sophie and Proto, their Rabbiton friend, set off on a most worthy and unforgettable quest. My only regret was that the story ended, as all stories do, but I remain confident that there will be future metaphysical adventures to look forward to -- and I think both Orville and Sophia would approve of that optimistic outlook. Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Capricious Shadows: Orville Wellington Mouse Book 3 is most highly recommended.