Over the summer I went on an animal-protagonist-book-hunting-spree, springing off the suggestions you guys left in our ask box. Many of them were series, not just singular novels, which meant the library got pretty tired of me requesting titles. I’m currently slogging through “The White Bone”, but I’m not done with it yet so I can’t put it up there. It’s sort of an ‘ehh’ experience thus far anyway.
Seekers: I was wary of Seekers at first for two reasons:
1. In Warriors, the animal behavior was so off mark that it often broke me out of the world. Cats, of all creatures, allowing others to govern them against their personal comfort? Please. Fritti Tailchaser would have something to say about that.
2. Despite weirdly out of touch personification, Warriors is a horribly addicting series, and I knew I was going to get sucked into this new one just like last time.
That is exactly what happened.
While a little preachy in later books, Seekers is, in my opinion anyway, far superior to Warriors in every way. I have a thing for ‘quest’ plots, so four bears trekking across North America, Canada and the far north on a pilgrimage to paradise hit me in all the right places. The bears are profoundly animal, something the cats in Warriors lacked. I never felt like I was reading about humans in bear costumes.
Like its predecessor, violence and death are commonplace. Their world is brutal, beautiful and mystical all at once.
6 books, I finished one per day on average, stopped only when I was waiting for the next one to come in. Hunter’s team is in the process of a second series of Seekers, which I actually think I’ll visit once it’s completed.
Wolves of the Beyond: I had no idea what I was getting into with these books. I’ve heard polarizing reviews, but that didn’t mean a whole lot to me, and the only exposure I’ve had to the author was the movie adaptation to Guardians of Ga’hoole (which I thought was pretty but also really goofy). The book cover looked cute and all other illustrations within are drawn with soft edges and big eyes.
Oh my God are these books violent. I stopped to laugh a couple of times when a cute painting of wolves popped up, especially because that chapter featured sterile she-wolves abandoning deformed pups to die in the wildness, or a bear’s spine snapped in half by a boulder, or cannibalizing loners, or beloved characters bleeding to death in an earthquake.
I actually have a hard time articulating why I think this series is fascinating. Like Seekers, the characters are very animal despite obvious human influences. I didn’t like the clan names (McDuncans, McDuffs, etc.) but everything else made up for it. The overall theme is “A Great Chain”, or destiny, but it’s done so that destiny itself is a great force of nature: violent, unforgiving and enormous. My only real complaint is that some scenes fly by faster than I’d like them too, but I can forgive on the basis that this is a kid title and not written for me.
There are five books so far, which I pretty much devoured, and an estimate of three others to come. Waiting for the next installment might kill me.
Runt: I finished this short little book while at the beach. It took maybe an hour, but it was an hour well spent following Runt, a black wolf pup, try to find a place in his family. The world doesn’t have depth like Wolves of the Beyond or Seekers— there is no language to learn or map to follow— but that’s okay, because you can get a sense of placement easy enough. This book takes place in our own universe, following a pack that could actually exist. No mysticism, no great plan; the author just needed to give a few animals voices. We learn that life is hard and unfair in the wild, but it is rewarding too.
Silverwing: Okay, to start, I didn’t get to read Sunwing or Firewing yet because they haven’t arrived, but I was so captivated by the first that I’m putting it up here anyway. After wanting to check these batty books out for years, I was finally spurred into tracking them down.
First of all, wow, Oppel manages to take one of the most misunderstood mammals in the world and translate them into noble heroes without stripping them of their nature. These aren’t flying dogs or cats or people wearing wings; they’re freaking bats, and they’re awesome. The villains are legitimately terrifying (all of them; birds, rats, and jungle bats included), and the hero is both relatable and flawed.
Before anyone asks, I’ve never seen the TV show based on the books. If anybody has something to say about it, please feel free to comment.