Review: The Scarecrow & His Servant by Philip Pullman (Spoiler-Free)

One night a scarecrow is struck by lightning and comes to life, and a great adventure ensues, as – along with his newly-hired (and very hungry) servant Jack – the Scarecrow hits the road in search of fame and fortune and, eventually, home… all while being pursued by bandits, birds, and all manner of other fearsome foes!

The short version of this review would be “a jolly romp, but a bit silly for my taste”, but since that doesn’t tell you much, I’ll go into a little more detail…

The story is told rather episodically, with Scarecrow moving from one adventure to the next without much thought, and much of it seemed rather flippant. Pullman was clearly going for a more comic tone with this book, and while there were some humorous parts, for the most part I feel that it missed the mark with me. Jack’s narration was good, however, and I liked him a lot as a character; Scarecrow was incredibly silly, but Jack seems to take all his quirks in stride.

I also really loved the role of the birds in the story. Naturally, a bird is a scarecrow’s mortal enemy, but (with some intervention from Jack) the way their relationship with Scarecrow changed over the course of the book was wonderful, and culminated in a great scene near the end where Scarecrow was brought before an enormous congress of birds (including Granny Raven, who is quite possibly the best character in the whole book).

The plot did come together quite well in the end, too, and although the ending managed to seem simultaneously drawn out (by Scarecrow’s illness) and rushed (in the final four-page chapter that ties up all the loose ends for everyone, however big or small their role), it was still a good one.

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