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Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner

Nightshade City Title: Nightshade City

Author: Hilary Wagner

Reading Level:  Middle Grade

Publisher:  Holiday House

First Sentence:  The two black rats kept running. 

Summary: "Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, the kingdom of mutant rats of superior intellect. Following a bloody coup, the once peaceful democracy has become a dictatorship, ruled by decadent High Minister Kildeer and vicious Billycan, a demented former lab rat and now head of the Kill Army. Three young orphan rats–brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover–rebel against the Ministry, joining forces with Juniper, Billycan’s archenemy. Juniper and his maverick bank of followers, helped by a tribe of earthworms, plot to overthrow their oppressors and liberate the citizens to create a new city: Nightshade City. This impossible-to-put-down animal fantasy, set in a brilliantly imagined subterranean world, explores timeless themes of freedom, forgiveness, the bonds of family, and the power of love." (via Amazon)


Wow! I haven't read an adventure quite like this since junior high and trust me, that's not a bad thing!  Slightly reminiscent of Newbery winner Mrs. Frisby and the Secret of Nihm and the well-loved Red Wall series, NIGHTSHADE CITY delivers a rat-tastic tale of oppression, freedom, and love.  Following a well-crafted cast of subterranean characters, the reader becomes part of something larger than life, a revolution!  But with the malicious Commander Billycan and High Minister Killdeer in control, the path is not easy for the rats who would defy them.

If you find yourself hesitant to meet Nightshade's crawling characters, worry no more.  Rats and worms have never been so relatable and all their trials and triumphs, joys and sorrows will resonate with you and linger for days.  The writing is superb, imaginative, and affecting.  Wagner is brilliant at description and setting, giving just the right amount of detail when the reader needs it, and the world is well-built and believable.  So much so, I find myself wondering what's scampering beneath my feet as I type this.

In fact, Rick Riordan had THIS to say, and I couldn't agree more:

"Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is so compelling readers will wonder if it really might exist under our city streets. Expect great adventures in Nightshade-City."

Congrats on a fabulous debut, Hilary!

Official web site:






  1. Man, I've been anxious to read this!! Hopefully I can start in on it this weekend. Thanks for such a great review, Casey!

  2. Casey, thank you for such a great review! It gives me goose bumps every time I read it! :) I'm so glad you liked the book! w00t!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  3. Can't wait to read this one! I've heard great things about Hilary's book.

  4. I've been hearing a lot about this book. I'm excited for Hilary and I'm looking forward to reading it :)

  5. I've never really been into animal books, but I really want to read this one. Hilary is so nice. I'm so happy for her. And it's so awesome she has a blurb on her book by Rick Riordan. Thanks for reviewing this. I really enjoyed your review.

  6. I hope you like it as much as I do, Carol!

    You're welcome, Hilary. I LOVE it!

    I think you'll really enjoy it Janet, Sherrie, and Natalie. It's out early, so you can get it now, if you'd like! : )

  7. Stumbled across you by chance and adore your blog layout and content already. You have so much good info on here! Thanks for it!

  8. Sounds good. I loved Mrs. Frisby and the Secret of Nihm. I'm still in love with Justin.