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.