Warriors Wednesday: Sunset, by Erin Hunter

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Publication date – September 25, 2007

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Soon after the cats reached their new home by the lake, ThunderClan’s medicine cat Leafpool received an ominous warning from StarClan: “Before there is peace, blood will spill blood, and the lake will run red.” As the Clan slowly recovers from a devastating badger attack, Leafpool can’t help but wonder . . . do her prophetic dreams mean there are even worse dangers still in store for the warrior cats?

At the same time, shadows of the past continue to haunt the forest as some old friends struggle to find their place, others appear to be lost forever, and an old enemy finds a new way to resurface in a quest for dark revenge. A sinister path is unfolding, and the time is coming for certain warriors to make the choices that will determine their destiny… and the destiny of all the Clans.

Thoughts: After the disappointment I felt for the previous book, I was really hoping this final book of the the second series of Warriors novels would be better. And I can’t deny that a lot of the problems I had weren’t present in this novel. The pacing was better, characterization improves, and the fact that things were actually happening and 75% of the book wasn’t filler were all good changes. But what really made this book fall down for me was the deliberate and too-frequent sequel-baiting.

That, and Tigerstar is being set up as the kitty devil or something. I get that he’s bad. We all get that he’s bad. But to have him be setting up his revenge against Firestar from beyond the grave, literally becoming a spiritual presence that was following Brambleclaw and Hawkfrost around, was a bit over the top. It is possible for a person (or cat, in this case) to be an antagonist without being a furry embodiment of evil.

A great deal of issues brought up in previous novels were dealt with, and often dealt with well. Tigerstar is seen in Tawnypelt’s dreams, but she’s made of sterner stuff than Brambleclaw, it seems, because she refuses what he offers. Hawkfrost is revealed to be the one who planted the moth’s wing sign that got Mothwing her position as a medicine cat. Mothwing desperately tries to stand up to her brother when it comes to his political ambitions. The final confrontation is revealed to be between Brambleclaw and Hawkfrost (come on, who didn’t see that one coming the very second they heard the prophecy?). So I can’t say that this book was wholly bad, because it did tackle a lot of interesting subjects (ie, Cinderpelt’s reincarnation) and added depth to the world I’ve come to enjoy reading about.

But those good things were not enough to overshadow the bad. I mentioned the blatant sequel-baiting. It was terrible. The 3 stars that Leafpool kept seeing in her dreams were at least addressed directly, in the sense of her being told, “Yup, they’re important, but that’s a story for another day.” But other things were not handled so well, and left me feeling unsatisfied. The biggest piece of bait? Why can’t Brook and Stormfur go back to the mountains, and why do they act so shifty and upset when someone mentions it? Characters wonder it all the time, but nothing is ever said, and it’s painfully obvious that it’s a set-up for another series.

The first Warriors series tied things up nicely. It left a couple of unanswered questions, but they weren’t hugely important ones, and in all, the story it told was contained nicely. Here, it feels like there should be a seventh book just to wrap up what the sixth book didn’t bother to get to. And considering the fifth book was nearly all repetitive filler, that’s pretty bad.

But by this point it was obvious that the series was taking off in popularity, and so any attempt to milk the cash cow must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

The author has a habit, much like with many children’s books, to end chapters on a question. “If so-and-so did this, does it really mean that?” “How can this be true when that happened?” That sort of thing. Which is fine, it you remember that you’re reading a book designed for younger audiences. But then we get to a chapter-ending question later on in the book that asks, essentially, “If Brambleclaw was doing whatever it took to achieve power, didn’t that automatically make it right?” Uh, what? Considering by this point, this whole series has spent a dozen books showing that the pursuit of power by any means isn’t a good thing, why on earth would that even come up as a “consider this” kind of question? It seemed so out there, so pointless, that I can’t even imagine what was going through the author’s head with that line. It isn’t even a subjectively moral question. It was a question that the character asking it wouldn’t even consider as an option!

Particularly galling in this book, though, was the presence of the fox traps. They definitely had a reason to be there, but they annoyed the hell out of me for multiple reasons. First of all, cats figure out how to disarm them by using sticks as tools, an idea which makes me facepalm far more than the idea of cats using herbal medicine. Second, if you combine the scenes of Berrykit and Firestar getting caught in the traps, and relplace cats with rabbits, you’ve practically got a direct rip of the scene in Watership Down where Bigwig gets caught in a snare. Right down to them getting rescued because characters figure out that they can only loosen the wire by digging out the peg. Or in this case, stick.

This book had a good story that was soured by the presence of so many problems, and it’s a shame that such a potentially good series ended so poorly. This book and the one that came before it are the chief reasons I need to take a break from the series before I tackle the next one. I need to step back, or else I’m worried that future reviews will be tainted by my lingering opinions of these books.

Warriors Wednesday: Twilight, by Erin Hunter

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Publication date – June 21, 2007

Summary: (Taken from GoodReadsNew territory brings new troubles for the fierce cats of the warrior Clans, who are still uncovering the secrets of their new home around the lake. Dangers they have never faced before are lurking in the twilight shadows, and former allies are acting strangely hostile.

As divisions between the Clans grow deeper, Firestar’s daughters face troubling decisions. One is torn between loyalty to her calling and a forbidden love, while the other struggles with her best friend’s betrayal and the surprising perils of the forest. The choices they make now could affect ThunderClan for generations to come . . . and with an unexpected enemy preparing to attack, their courage and strength will be needed more than ever if the Clan is to survive.

Thoughts: I wanted to rate this book higher. I really did. But I had so many problems with it, so many things that made me frustrated with the book that I really couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

For starters, this book feels very much like a filler book. Now, I’m normally all for large pieces of character development, and will often forgive that when it comes at the expense of action. But here? No. It wasn’t even character development. What was dragged out for a while book could have been accomplished in a quarter of another book, which made me think that this book has its place for no more reason than to pad this second Warriors series out to the same 6 books as the first series. And it really shows.

Brambleclaw is now distant from Squirrelflight. Squirrelflight, of course, blames Brambleclaw’s closeness to Hawkfrost, whose ambition and calculated moves I think we’re supposed to get a better feel for here, but since he shows up in one scene and doesn’t saw a word, that’s really hard to tell. Squirrelflight is a horribly unreliable narrator, and reading between the lines, it’s easy for anyone with eyes to see that Brambleclaw’s distance from her has nothing to do with the dark dreams he’s sharing with Hawkfrost and his dead father Tigerstar, and far more to do with the fact that Squirrelflight is treating him like crap and Ashfur is moving in on his territory, so to speak. And Squirrelflight’s temper often gets the better of her, so in spite of Brambleclaw being a senior warrior and acting as Clan deputy, she’ll often do the opposite of what Brambleclaw’s orders are, even when it means clearly going against the warrior code. She returns to being the same brat she was when she was an apprentice, and the amount of times this behaviour gets shown just gets annoying.

Leafpool, on the other hand, is torn between her duties as a medicine cat and her growing love for Crowfeather, something that’s denied all medicine cats. Crowfeather returns the affections, which seemed to me less like genuine love and more like rebound and the need for comfort after Feathertail’s death… and saving Leafpool from a similar situation to the one Feathertail died from in the first place. Again, this is all reading between the lines, but to not do so makes these characters all seem really flat and without subtlety and nuance, and I prefer to think that there’s more to a situation than what’s being explicity said on the book’s pages. Anyway, Leafpool spends so much time vacilating between, “I wanna, but I shouldn’t, but I wanna, but I shouldn’t,” that I got tired of it pretty quickly.

Ultimately, very little actually got accomplished here. Tigerstar shows up in the prologue and explains a little bit about kitty hell for the readers, and how he’s going to take revenge on Firestar through Hawkfrost and Brambleclaw (why not Tawnypelt, who actually left Thunderclan to join Shadowclan like her father? No reason, except that nobody’s mistrusts Tawnypelt on sight or has anything to lose by her turning on Firestar, so she’s just not important to the plot).Thunderclan takes in a rogue and her kits, Sorreltail gives birth, Cinderpelt dies. But those are the main important events in here that aren’t included in Leafpool’s great love affair and Squirrelflight’s annoyance with Brambleclaw.

See what I mean when I said this book could have been done as a quarter of another book and still not lost anything important?

The battle scene with the badgers was really what bumped this up a notch for me, even if it seemed a bit contrived. Especially Midnight showing up to warn them. But it was a good scene with a lot of legitimate tension and fear going through it, and as with many heavy action scenes in this series, it led to character death, which lent it a good chunk of emotion, too.

But ultimately, thisbook felt like little more than a waste of time, unnecessary padding, and something that should have been condensed and worked on more than it was. The love story was overblown, the betrayal wasn’t actually anything more than speculation, and aside from Cinderpelt’s death and the adoption of Daisy and her kits, it would be so very easy for a person to completely skip this book and not to lose anything from it.

I certainly hope the next one’s better.

Warriors Wednesday: Starlight, by Erin Hunter

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Author’s website
Publication date – March 27, 2007

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Before there is peace, blood will spill blood…

The Clans have finally arrived in their new home, following the prophecies of their warrior ancestors. The journey was difficult enough, but now they must struggle to establish territories and learn the hidden dangers of this unfamiliar world. Most importantly, Leafpaw knows they must find a replacement for the Moonstone – a place to communicate with StarClan. Otherwise there will be no way to choose new leaders, no way to share medicine cat secrets, and no way to know whether the Clans are on the right path.

The future seems uncertain, and more than one cat is harboring sinister plans that could lead to violence and darkness. As all the warriors wait for a sign, some of them begin to realize that the threats they face in the forest may not be as perilous as the threats they face from within.

Thoughts: I know that I previously reviewed this book, but since I started the Warriors Wednesday feature, I felt it only fair that I read and review it again. This time I have a much better context for the novel, as the first time I read this book it had been a little while since I had read any other Warriors novels.

The Clans are getting settled in their new home, sorting out which parts of the territory will belong to each Clan, but not all the cats are feeling settled. Some doubt that this is even the place that StarClan sent them to find, since there’s nothing like the Moonstone where leaders can receive their nine lives and medicine cats can talk directly to StarClan in their dreams. Added to that, Tallstar’s death has left rifts in WindClan, and Hawkfrost is still showing far too much ambition for some cats to find comfortable.

Of all the books in this series, this one has so far felt the closest in tone and action to the original books, which made it quite good to read. Yes, I admit there was a bit too much romantic blathering going on at times between various characters, but aside from that, it had a lot to offer. There’s a nice balance of uncertainty and forward motion, spirituality and the mundane aspects of life. A great deal is hinted at or commented on that is of great interest, such as Hawkfrost and Brambleclaw’s dreams of Tigerstar (and Tigerstar’s insinuation that there’s a feline purgatory, Onewhisker’s reluctance to take on leadership of his Clan, Mothwing having orchestrated the supposed sign from StarClan that resulted in her becoming a medine cat.

Though I’ve got to admit that Mothwing’s disbelief in StarClan got stale as soon as it was mentioned. Seriously, we already did this dance with Cloudtail. Mothwing is now the second cat to not have full Clan blood who doesn’t believe in StarClan, openly scoffs at the idea who also has family who shows a great loyalty to the warrior code, and where the insinuation is that it’s because she’s not of full Clan blood to start with. It was interesting to see the conflict with Cloudtail in the previous Warriors series. Here, I can’t help but have the reaction of, “It’s been done.”

The action in this book is awesome. Instead of being mostly the action associated with events outside of the characters’ control, here we get back to basics, with a full-out battle between Clans. Physical Clan rivalry has been something that’s been sorely lacking in this series, and while these books go out of their way to show that much can be accomplished by working together, it’s nice to see a return to the familiar boundaries that once existed, and for kitty-political reasons that used to occur back in the old forest.

Definitely a step up from a few previous books, and quite a speedy read because of it!

Warriors Wednesday: Dawn, by Erin Hunter

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Author’s website
Publication date – November 2, 2006

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Something terrifying is happening in the world of the Clans. Amid the destruction of the forest, cats are disappearing, including ThunderClan’s beloved medicine cat apprentice, Leafpaw. Now the young cats who set off on a quest many moons ago have returned with a chilling message: The Clans must move to a new home, or risk extermination.

But it is not easy to convince the cats to leave. Even if all four Clans agreed to travel together, the dangers waiting for them beyond their borders are impossible to predict. More importantly, even the questing cats have no idea where they’re supposed to go. What they need is a sign from StarClan… but what they need most of all is a plan to save their missing warriors, or risk leaving them behind forever.

Thoughts: So the cats of prophecy have returned to a shattered forest, where all cats are starving and their territory shrinks day by day as human construction projects advance into what used to be thick woods and open moorland. More cats are disappearing, stolen by humans who are trying to rescue them from a life of feral living and ultimate death as the construction continues.

And when push comes to shove, the four Clans, as one, decide to leave the forest in search of the better home promised to them by StarClan.

Unlike the original journey made by the original 4 cats of prophecy (and their 2 companions), the journey made by the Clans did not feel as tedious and drawn-out, which was far easier and more enjoyable to read. This is likely due to the fact that there was a clear destination in mind this time, rather than a vague, “We have to get somewhere, and we’re waiting for everyone to receive a sign that gives us hints as to where,” idea. Seeing four Clans try to put aside their differences during a time where everyone’s stressed and starving was interesting, because as much as they all kept to their own groups, it was clear that they were traveling as one, putting aside the bulk of their differences for the greater good.

True to form, this book deals with the loss and death of cats. Elders who knew they were too old and weak to make the journey across the mountains stayed behind in the forest, knowing that nothing but death awaited them, but choosing their own death rather than letting the unknown be the end of them. The journey over the mountains claimed a few lives too. Ferncloud is down to only one kit, after her other two died.

And then there was the loss of Stormfur. Who didn’t die, but instead chose to stay with the Tribe cats, with the cat he’d fallen in love with, and to be near to where Feathertail was buried. It was a sad and touching scene, quite heavy on the emotion. This is a cat who we first saw as he was being born, who went through every trial with his sister, and ultimately chose a good place to be, but it was sad to see him leave his Clan regardless.

Where the previous books sometimes felt very light on the action and adventure, this book really throws you back into the thick of things, and is much more of a page-turner than, say, the first book of this second Warriors series. It felt refreshing to read after previous disappointments, and was much closer to the original series that got me hooked on the Warriors books in the first place.

Warriors Wednesday: Moonrise, by Erin Hunter

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Author’s website
Publication date – July 21, 2005

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Darkness, air, water, and sky come together and shake the forest to its roots as The New Prophecy series comes to paperback.

Thoughts: Wow, what a lousy summary. I wish I had the power to update that on GoodReads, because that tells you absolutely nothing except that the book’s now out in paperback.

Ahem, anyway…

The second series of Warriors books continues here, with the two-sided story of the Clan cats and their latest adventure. The forest is really starting the feel the pinch of the Twoleg invasion, as humans start rolling their construction vehicles in and tearing up trees and generally making life difficult for the cats who live there. Meanwhile, Brambleclaw and the other cats chosen by Starclan to lead their Clans to a safer place, are on their way home, and decide to go through snowy mountains rather than go back the exact way they came.

This, of course, leads to them discovering that they’re not the only cats in the world. The mountains are home to the Trive of Rushing Water, who live in a cave behind a waterfall, and who have their own warrior ancestors and prophecies. One of which is that a cat will come to save them from the viscious Sharptooth, who is described as a bloodthirsty cougar with a taste for other cats. Stormfur is taken for the cat of prophecy, and is forced to stay behind when the others are forced out.

But things aren’t always what they seem, as always happens with prophecies.

Many things about this book have improved over the previous book. Squirrelpaw is still a brat, but not as much as she used to be. Cats no longer invoke Starclan with quite as much regularity and pointlessness. The tone is darker, much like the first series of books was. And it was quite interesting to see a new group of cats whose ways were similar and yet different than the ways of the Clans.

Many people have already made their commentary on the impossible geography of this book, and so I won’t go into it in detail here. But really, a mountain range so close to the ocean, and so close to temperate fields and forest on the other side… It stretches the imagination. I know it’s said that the cats travelled for more than a month, but still. A cat’s pace is going to be slower than a human’s, and I can’t think of many places in the world where this terrain change would happen. Artistic license and suspension of disbelief is high in this book, in places.

The real low point for me was Feathertail’s death. Character death in these books is nothing new. Get attached to any character at your own risk, because there’s every chance they’re going to end up dead by the end. And while it was a heroic and sad death under normal circumstances, it struck me all the harder this time because unlike the last time I read it, I now have a cat who looks a fair bit like Feathertail was described. It hit home. I suspect this may be the norm for many cat owners who read these books.

But I was definitely happy to see that so many of the little things that bothered me about the first book were lessened in this second novel. I hope that trend continues, and we get back to the tone and feeling that was present in the first series of Warriors books, which were what hooked so many people on the lives and adventures of feral cats in the first place.

Warriors Wednesday: Midnight, by Erin Hunter

Warrior’s Wednesday has returned from its 2-week hiatus to bring you a review of the first book of the second series involving the feral cat Clans, Midnight.

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Author’s website
Publication date – May 10, 2005

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Darkness, air, water, and sky will come together…

The wild cats of the forest have lived in peace and harmony for many moons but a doom that will change everything is coming. Strange messages from their warrior ancestors speak of terrifying new prophecies, danger, and a mysterious destiny.

All the signs point to young warrior Brambleclaw as the cat with the fate of the forest in his paws. But why would the son of wicked cat Tigerstar be chosen to be a hero? And who are the other cats mentioned in the prophecy? All Brambleclaw knows for sure is that the strength and courage of the greatest warriors will be needed now, as the quest to save the Clans begins.

…and shake the forest to its roots.

Thoughts: Where the first series of Warriors books started with an interesting situation and ended shortly after an all-out war, this new series starts with a fizzle rather than a bang. The writing style is similar enough to previous books, but also different enough to make me strongly believe that someone else in the Erin Hunter collective was taking the lead on this project. The cats felt less like actual cats and more like cats who’ve been “human-ed” up in order to be more relatable. This is evident in a sudden change in speech patterns, such as the cats developping phrases very similar to how we would say, “God only knows” or “God help us,” or whatever your own personal substitute for the word “god” is. Here, it’s “StarClan.” Cats are suddenly and constantly invoking the name of StarClan in every situation you can think of, and it doesn’t go over very well when compared to how, in the previous series, the attitude towards StarClan was more along the lines of watching warrior ancestors who occasionally interfere with weather patterns and send portents and omens to specifically chosen cats rather than something to be invoked at every turn. It was like the author was trying to both connect the cats to humanity while still making sure that we all know that they have a different set of beliefs.

The concept behind the novel is an interesting one. StarClan has foreseen danger coming to the forest, and so has chosen a cat from east Clan to head it off. This involves following the usual cryptic double-talk associated with prophecy (“[they] must listen to what midnight tells [them]” is revealed to be the advice of a badger named Midnight, and as cheesy as that is, at least an legitimate reason is given as to why a bunch of cats had to travel to the ocean to get that advice rather than getting it closer to home), and trying to avoid the dangers they face in unfamiliar territory.

Meanwhile, back in the forest, cats from all Clans are trying to figure out where their missing members ran off to. One of Firestar’s daughters (who really needs a good smackdown, because she’s a little brat and I absolutely hate reading about her) has run away with the band of cats who left to go find Midnight. he’s especially worried because of a vision from Starclan, which showed a tiger made of fire, and destruction in the forest. He interpreted that as his child (Squirrelpaw) and the child of Tigerstar (Brambleclaw, who was chosen to make the journey to Midnight) bringing about the ruin of the forest, and so spent some time being Bluestar-level paranoid and aggressive about keeping them apart, bordering on cruelty at times. It seemed remarkably out-of-character for Firestar to act that way, and it seems to me like little more than a set-up to get Squirrelpaw to run off with Brambleclaw.

The bits of the story that didn’t seem forced seemed rather dull. Most of it was cats talking, arguing amongst themselves, fretting over things they’d fretted about a hundred times already, and there was precious little action to keep the story interesting, especially compared to the previous series. If I had started reading the Warriors books here, I admit I’d have absolutely no idea what all the fuss was about. Luckily I’ve read the next few books and know that the story picks up a lot, so it’s worth hanging on. But really, so much could have been done better here, and it didn’t make for very enjoyable reading at times.

Warriors Wednesday: The Darkest Hour, by Erin Hunter

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Author’s website
Publication date – September 22, 2005

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) ThunderClan’s darkest hour is upon them, as Tigerstar’s quest for power plunges all the Clans into terrible danger. In order to save his Clan and his friends, Fireheart must uncover the meaning of an ominous proclamation.

Thoughts: This book was a hard one to rate. On one hand, it’s a beautiful finale to the first Warriors series. The writing has improved in style and substance as the books have gone on, the maturity level has been amped up, and the story is fantastic.

On the other hand, I have some personal grievances regarding this one.

Now  understand that these books are supposed to be fantasy. That’s obvious when you realize that the main characters are all cats, that they have their own religious system, and that they can use herbal medicines and treatments. That’s easy enough to swallow, seeing as how the forest cats are rather secretive to start with, and it’s not like humans sit around and watch cats grind up leaves to aid a sick comrade. I can handle all that.

But this book brings in a clan of cats who use the teeth from dogs they’ve killed to enhance their own claws. Threatening, yes. Realistic even by the bounds of this series? Debateable. Personally, I think that was going overboard, and actually took something away from the threatening presence of BloodClan. It’s not just a gang of power-hungry rogues that can overwhelm you with sheer numbers. No, it’s a gang of power-hungry rogues who can overwhelm you with sheer numbers and weapons! It was just a little too much, and it actually took away from the established world that had been so carefully created over the previous 5 novels.

So why did I still rate this book as highly as most of the others? Because of the impression it left on me. it was a story of triumph, of mistakes being made and rectified, of rivals banding together for the common good, and for a well done feeling of tension that was established as the threats to not only Firestar and ThunderClan but also the whole forest become clear. It rates highly because you get to see far more of StarClan, and just what the spiritual belief in their ancestors does for Clan cats.

And it made its impression on me by having one of the most disturbing deaths I’ve read. Tigerstar’s death. It’s distressing enough for me to think of a cat dying (I’ve got such a soft spot for my own furry babies that such deaths can be difficult to read). And you’d think that I should give a cheer for the final death of a cat who spent the series being a jerkass at best and an outright cold-blooded murderer at worst. But when you’re reading about the agony of a cat being disemboweled and dying nine consecutive deaths, it leaves you feeling more than just a little uncomfortable.

Even Firestar reflected on this, thinking that as much as he wanted Tigerstar death, nobody should have to die like that.

As an ending to the first series, this was, for the most part, very fitting, and it tied up all the loose ends that had been dangling for a couple of novels. It was good to see it all so wrapped up without getting overly saccharine with the morals and message of triumph over adversity. It was a good story, one that both kids and adults can appreciate, and one that you will find ceaselessly entertaining. As I’ve said before, even if you don’t have children to read these books to or with, read them on your own. You’ll get more than you bargained for, I can promise you that.

Warriors Wednesday: A Dangerous Path, by Erin Hunter

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Author’s website
Publication date – May 20, 2004

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) ShadowClan has chosen Tigerclaw–now called TigerStar–as their new leader, and Fireheart fears that his old enemy still harbors dark plans for vengeance on his former clan.

Thoughts: As much as this book is absolutely essential to the series and contains a wealth of information and major plot events, I can’t help but rate it lower than the other books thus far. Why? Because of Bluestar. Her mind has snapped, essentially, after Tigerclaw’s betrayal, and her overwhelming suspicion of everyone and everything got very tedious to read after a while. I can’t say that there was a good way of avoiding this tedium, since Hunter had to express Bluestar’s state of mind and the added burdens that lay on Fireheart, but that doesn’t mean it made for the best reading.

Still, it’s not as though this book could be skipped without leaving the reader very lost and confused. A great deal of important thing happen here. Tigerclaw is now Tigerstar, leader of ShadowClan. Bluestar’s history with her lots kits comes into play, and is revealed to her now-grown RiverClan kits. Dogs are loose in the forest, stealing prey and making life difficult, but Bluestar won’t see the truth of the matter.

And then there’s the ending, which involves the ultimate and final death of Bluestar. It was an emotional death, in many ways, since was readers we’ve come to know Bluestar quite well since her appearance in the first book. In a moment of clarity, she sacrifices herself for the good of her Clan. But at the same time it was also a welcome death, since was growing old and was not mentally capable of leading her Clan anymore, and her shattered mental state left me feeling more pity and disgust for her than real sympathy, after a while.

The writing style remains consistant, as it has through the rest of the series, though it still takes a darker bent than the first two novels, because things are still in the process of heating up and there’s a lot of hard concepts to tackle as the series goes on. Faith in higher powers, noble sacrifice, dementia, betrayal for the sake of power, these things are not flinches away from, and for a mid-grade series, I honestly can’t recommend these books enough if you feel that you or your children are mature enough to handle books about cats that are far more than fluffy sweetness-filled stories involving balls of yarn and comfy beds. Hunter once again proves that young readers are capable of handling far more than many writers will give them, and does it with style and emotion that will leave you desperately wanting to pick up the final book of the first Warriors series.

Warriors Wednesday: Rising Storm, by Erin Hunter

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Author’s website
Publication date – February 15, 2005

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Fireheart’s traitorous enemy Tigerclaw has been vanquished and exiled from Thunder Clan — but Fireheart can’t shake the feeling that he’s lurking in the forest, waiting for his chance to strike.

That’s not the only problem facing the young warrior in these blazing summer months, as he struggles to handle sinister omens, an apprentice with a shocking secret, and a devastated Clan leader who is a shell of her former self.

Meanwhile the forest gets hotter and hotter … and everyone braces for the coming storm…

Thoughts: I mentioned last time how this series is starting to get a little darker and involve more violence and death. This doesn’t change in the fourth book of the series. Be prepared for the death of characters who have grown somewhat near and dear as you read your way through this. The lives of feral cats living in the forest are not all sunshine and happiness, and they face death every day. This really comes to light in this book. Previously, characters have died but they’re usually ones who haven’t gotten a great deal of development, or else they’re blatant enemies of the protagonist and his Clan. Here, there’s a death to tug at your heartstrings, and you feel the loss of the character as soon as they’re gone.

The plot of Rising Storm is a rather chaotic one, as it seems like opposition is battering Fireheart from all sides. Greystripe is gone. Tigerclaw is gone but the threat of him still lingers in the forest. Bluestar has retreated into her den for the most part, and exists in an intermittant fugue state, devastated by Tigerclaw’s betrayal. Fireheart has to shoulder the responsibilities of deputy as well as pick up the slack for Bluestar, train his errant nephew, and still keep watching over his shoulder for Tigerclaw’s promised revenge.

Things aren’t all bad, though. The relationship between Fireheart and Sandstorm is starting to pick up, and it kept amusing me to see just how dense Fireheart was when it came to her affection and interest. Not only typical of someone who has a lot of his mind, but also very typical of the character, who has a streak of self-doubt and often seems to have blinders on when it comes to opinions and thoughts.

This book closes on a very grim note, but one that makes the reader want to put it down and immediately pick up the next one in order to continue the adventure. If you’ve made it this far in the series, then you’re in for a real treat in the books to come.

So long as you don’t mind more disturbing death, that is. Honestly, I can read gruesome depictions of war, pain, bloody injuries, you name it. But some of the deaths in this series gave me the heebie-jeebies, and I still feel profoundly uncomfortable thinking of them now. If this is a series you read to or with your kids, you might have to have some frank discussions with them afterwards.

Warriors Wednesday: Forest of Secrets, by Erin Hunter

  Buy from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – September 23, 2004

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) In this third gripping book of the feline adventure series, Fireheart is determined to uncover the truth about Redtail’s death–but he is unprepared to face ThunderClans darkest secrets.

Thoughts: If you’ve read the first two books of the series, you know already that while this is literature for children, it isn’t always fluffy and nice. It involves pain, loss, sometimes death. That’s not too surprising when your setting involves clans of feral cats who don’t shy away from fighting each other.

However, this is the book that really pushes the series into serious “What Do You Mean It’s For Kids” territory. Aside from the usual fight scenes and blood that usually accompanies the books, there are two main incidents in this one that tend to make people a bit uncomfortable. The first is Silverstream dying as she gives birth, complete with descriptions of how she’s yowling and contorting in agony, and bleeding all over the place. The second is the death of Brokentail, a very emotional moment in which a mother kills her murdering tyrant of a son. Yes, these books are for kids. How these books go unchallenged in libraries when people are still trying to ban Mark Twain’s use of racially inappropriate words is anyone’s guess.

But while that may be disturbing, I can’t help but admire the author for essentially saying that kids are able to handle these things. I like books that don’t talk down to children and treat hem as though they can only handle sanitized fluff in their entertainment. Life is gritty, hard, and dark, and Hunter doesn’t flinch away from throwing those elements into the already harsh world of the Clan cats.

Many of my comments about these books will remain the same as the series progresses. The use of questioning repetition, especially to end chapters, is still present. Fireheart is still constantly second-guessing himself while still being generally sure of how things are. And there’s always more to what’s going on than it appears at first glance. These things remain pretty much constant, and whether you find them annoying or endearing, there’s still no denying that a good story — albeit a rather disturbing one at times — is being told here.