At its heart, Requiem for a Mouse, is a tale of desperation and of holding onto what little you have in the world. In a city without mercy, orphaned children need to smuggle medicine to get enough money for food. They are the mice. While they smuggle valuable medicines to those in need they are hunted by other children, the hawks, who are driven by the same necessity of survival.
Despite the depravity of the city and seeming apathy of the adults, one mouse, Sasha, still holds hope. She is an idealistic and selfless leader of a small group of mice, who form her close-knit family, most of whom she has rescued from a past life. If her team can complete one last drop they will make enough money to get away and start anew.
Only a few minutes passed before Sasha found herself needing rest. Already, murky brown water covered her toes. Her tank top clung to her skin like tape. The howl of the wind was the deafening shriek of God Himself, or an answered prayer.
The story is instantly intriguing, and starts at a fast pace that at no point slows down. Each chapter switches point of view, introducing more characters who slot perfectly into a well crafted plot. Although the quality of writing is average, with a spattering of typos and incorrect tenses, the intense story line and complex interweaving of numerous characters more than makes up for it.
What Wang has done best is to portray each character’s flaws, and to give deeper meaning and purpose to each. The Dragon, the criminal boss who runs the city, plays a vital role as villain and yet at the same time walks a moral tightrope, believing his actions to be for the greater good.
While the author has taken care to give each person their own unique identity and motive, the background is a little stunted. The city is portrayed as a warren of slums, narrow alleys filled with trash, rundown and rotting houses with tin-clad roofs. And, for the most part this is all we see. There are only two other locations, a rundown bar and the Dragon’s casino, and as each new character comes upon these places they are essentially described all over again. The only clue that the story is even based on Earth is a brief reference to Paris, and ultimately it is unclear where and when the story is set.
Although the story was well paced, there were a few moments that became repetitive, as hawks and mice continually faced off in dark alleyways. The deeper plot, the real reason behind their respective roles, was dangled just out of reach until the final pages. And, although the reveal was clever, it lacked detail. Not only that, but the book came to an abrupt and dissatisfying ending. Leaving the fate of many of the characters unresolved.
Too often, authors push for a sequel to a story that simply doesn’t need one. In this particular case the author came close to giving a fully rounded and exciting story that could have stood tall by itself. Based on the quality of the story I have no doubt these will be addressed in the sequel, but I’d have preferred a more harmonious conclusion.