The Builders – Daniel Polansky


A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.

The last job didn’t end well.

Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.

Holly: Funny enough, The Builders shared some similarities to Kings of the Wyld. It is also about getting the “band” back together. There is a fully formed backstory already. The many characters are diverse & interesting. With the exception being if Saga were a bunch of furry animals in a spaghetti Western adventure!

This anthropomorphic fantasy had a Fantastic Mr. Fox feel to it, but with a shit ton more violence! It was goddamn glorious!

Corey: Yeah, this novella is just imminently likable. It’s dripping with atmosphere & attitude! I mean, the main character is a mouse! A completely badass mouse, but a mouse nonetheless. The dialogue crackles, each of the characters has a unique voice…and have we mentioned ANTHROPOMORPHIC ANIMALS!!! Mice, owls, badgers, skunks, snakes, salamanders, opossums….the list goes on. It’s like a Quentin Tarantino script directed by Fantastic Mr. Fox-era Wes Anderson. Totally unique, fun from the get-go, and really well written. If I had any complaints it would be that there’s a lot of characters to try to juggle in such a short book, and I think it favors mood & style over plot. That said, I really loved The Builders!

Holly: I am usually a fan of long, epic fantasies. I like big books & I cannot lie! However, TOR has been knocking it out of the park with their novellas lately. It’s been a very recent development for me, enjoying these quick stories. They are like short snippets of badassery when done right!

The Builders was so full of snark, violence, fun & comradery. It was a cinematic revenge story packed into a riveting 200 pages or so.

This was my first experience with Daniel Polansky & I am super interested in reading more. He is clearly talented!

Corey: I think the structure of this book was really cool, too. With some of the chapters being just a sentence or two, it really quickened the pace of the story, and gave it even more of a cinematic feel. And the quick little chronology jumps, especially at the beginning, was a nice touch.

Holly: There is a lot to love here – the short, incisive chapters made for a fast read; the story is darkly humorous; it’s a tale about betrayal, about escaping the past, about obsession; the writing is over-the-top, but smart; and there were some dynamic characters (ie: Captain, Bonsoir, Cinnabar, Barley & Boudica). This was a straightforward, intriguing, fun to read novella!

The few issues I had with it were that it felt slightly unfinished. Like you said, there were too many characters. I think for a story this short, it would have been better to refine the amount that the focus was on or add to the page count. The atmosphere was super cool, but the actual world-building was almost non-existent. And the ending? Well, it arrives so quickly & then.. just ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper. There wasn’t a lot of substance behind it.

Corey: All in all, easily recommendable! There’s such an amazing visual quality given to everything in this story. It’s so easy to just close your eyes and imagine this as some completely bonkers stop-motion animation film, full of badass little animals! What it lacks in depth, it more than makes up for in style and originality. The story Polansky creates is fascinating, and the characters are all really compelling. If anything, it could have used some more breathing room. But I’d be among the first in line for any future works featuring the cast of The Builders!

The Grimdragons Rating: 4 gun-toting, revenge-seeking, badass rodents!

2 thoughts on “The Builders – Daniel Polansky

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