Top positive review
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Here kitty kitty. Nice kitty.
on September 4, 2005
Kids are pretty savvy when it comes to discovering books that fill a particular need. At the library where I work, I'd seen them taking out this "Warriors" series by Erin Hunter fairly regularly. For some reason it's near impossible to keep these puppies on the shelves. Curiosity got ahold of me, so I decided to sit down and read through the first of these somewhat odd stories. I would never have been able to guess that the secret lives of cats would be so interesting to children. Housecats, definitely not. But when it comes to the lives and loyalties of the feral variety, Hunter's definitely tapped into a rich resource of text.
Rusty has a fairly good life. He lives with a family of humans (or Two-legs) that love him. He gets regular feedings, even if it's yucky dry stuff. He even has his own little cat door to come in and out of. Rusty isn't content, however. He dreams of catching mice in the forest not far from his home. When a night's exploration of that forest ends with a confrontation with the wild cats that live without human interference, Rusty readily joins them and their clan. Renamed "Firepaw", the cat learns that he has dropped smack dab into the middle of a war. The clan he has joined is called ThunderClan and is ruled by the magnanimous Bluestar. Other clans like RiverClan, WindClan, and ShadowClan fight continually for dominance over a rapidly dwindling food supply. ThunderClan needs recruits like Firepaw to stay alive, and through their training the new cat is on his way to becoming a warrior. Along the way he must face hunger, dismissal, and learn some shocking truths about the animals he's agreed to join.
Hunter conjures up a well-thought out world in which cats have their own system of governance. This is a kind of "Watership Down", but with drawn out fighting sequences. The cats here act like cats. They don't put on vests and waistcoats and discuss philosophy. They don't stand on their hind legs or use their paws like fingers. These are real animals. For the sake of keeping them alive, Hunter does create a kind of Medicine Cat for each clan, who rubs natural herbs into wounds. That's about as technically adept as these kitties get. At the beginning of the book, the author presents us with two maps of the area where this book takes place. A cat-view map lists everything in their terms. A second human-view map makes it clear where exactly the cats actually are.
This is not to say that the book isn't downright silly at times. Hunter loves giving these cats somewhat repetitive names like Nightpelt, Smallear, and Longtail. One cat, Lionheart, has the same name as a carebear from the 1980s. Poor planning on Hunter's part. She also falls into a classic children's literature trap. You know that when the main character has a vital piece of information that he should give someone as soon as possible and he says something along the lines of, "Oh good! Now I can tell this person this vital piece of information", that something's going to come up to prevent him. In this case, Firepaw is given to understand that a friend of his may be killed almost immediately. So does he immediately go out and tell the clan's wise leader? Heck no! He's given TWO chances to do so and each time he keeps quiet for obscure plot-centric reasons. That's really the kind of book that this is. It's fun to read, exciting, and with a new meticulously thought out world. It's also rather predictable.
If you've a kid who's a fan of the "Redwall" series but is more interested in animals that don't wear clothing, this is the book for you. Both boys and girls check it out at a fast and furious rate. It's one of the few series out there that both sexes enjoy fully. A better written book than all the "Magic Treehouse" and "Droon" series out there combined but still less good than, say, Avi's, "Poppy" books or "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH".