(June 1, 2004; 0-439-40559-9)
In the third installment of the Guardians of Ga'hoole series, barn owl protagonist Soren and his friends Gylfie, Digger, and Twilight, along with new comrades Martin and Otulissa, decide to save Ezylryb, a beloved teacher who has gone missing. In the process, the young owls' investigations yield information on owl history. They discover the truth about the northern owl wars, the past of both Ezylryb and a rogue smith that they meet in an obscure area of nearby woods, and finally the identity of the evil owl who is behind both the mysterious death of another owl smith and the suffering of Soren's sister, Eglantine. The open end leaves the story set for a fourth volume. Sound characterization, a well-developed setting, and fast pacing compensate for the predictable plot. Fans of the series will be standing in line for the next installment, and readers with a penchant for animal fantasies will be engaged by this nice lead-in to the more complex tomes of Brian Jaques's Redwall series and Avi's Poppy books.-Ann Welton.