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Flight of the Raven Hardcover – October 16, 2001
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Amber and her family are forced to flee into the wilderness when her father, the "alpha wolf" of the Free Mountain Militia, orchestrates the largest act of terrorism against the U.S. since the Oklahoma City bombing. Along the way, she is entrusted to care for Elijah, an African-American boy who has run away from a mental institution and been taken hostage by the militia. Elijah, who proved his talents in Tolan's Welcome to the Ark (Morrow, 1996), has the ability to transform his consciousness into objects, animals, and occasionally humans, giving him the talent he needs to be an essential member of the cadre. Amber, while having empathy for him, believes in her father, can rationalize the many "necessary losses" his work creates, and wants to join him in his quest to bring down the system. Ultimately, these plans include the use of a bioweapon to wipe out half the world's population. The world is saved by Elijah's powers, leaving the militia bruised, but not broken. The characters and themes introduced in Welcome to the Ark are so slowly divulged that they're occasionally distracting. Amber and Elijah's actions don't always explain their motivations or understanding of events. The boy's transformation from using his powers to stop violence to assisting in its creation is not fully developed. Characters and ideologies abound and may at once challenge and turn off readers. Some will be disturbed by the remorseless killings that repeatedly occur while others will debate the entire doctrine of the novel, making for a confrontational and thought-provoking read deserving much discussion.
Katie O'Dell, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 5-8. Part realistic thriller, part sf, this story begins with slaughter: a terrorist attack, "bigger even than the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City." Amber, 12, reads about it on the Net from her home in the Adirondacks in a secret compound where she lives with the Free Mountain Militia. Her father is the leader of the idealistic group that carried out the attack, to save the world from big government and technology. Now he plans bio-warfare. Woven into the thriller is the delicate story of Elijah, an African American child who has telepathic powers that connect him with animals and people, including Amber and her father. In the end the boy's empathy proves more powerful than terrorist violence--if only for the moment. The sf is sometimes contrived: the telepathy seems to work just when the plot needs it. But Amber and Elijah's experience of global terrorism will grip young readers, who will be drawn to both the characters and the issues. The fear, the tenderness, and the evil seem very close to home--especially now. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Flight of the Raven is 300 pages of adventure, excitement, and suspense, but it is also a deep look into the minds of evil people, exploring how they can come to be so evil, and still believe that they are right. It also studies the evil and corruption in the government and the media, and how we have to be careful what and who we believe. Questions like, should we fight evil with evil, or with kindness and love, and how much evil is too much to take?, are all questions that this book explores. It is very engaging, thought-provoking, but still fun, and is a must read for any child.
In "Flight of the Raven", much of Elijah's characterization suffers from being in the focus rather than the background. His character is interesting when based on interactions, but in this book, he's one of three things: the hunted, the hunter, or the symbol. He and Kenny play a game of cat-and-mouse that seems out of character for Elijah- especially for an Elijah who certainly remembers how to "tame" the violence, as he expressed. He might not have been sure if it would work, but none of the kids in WttA with the possible exception of Doug would have refused to try after the events in the book. Elijah, especially, tended to think before acting. His desire to "get back" at Kenny is normal, but his constant hesitations due to his own size seem to contradict the history in WttA, with Taryn calling birds and all four causing Timmy to break his own foot. The ending of this book makes no sense in the context of WttA, which provided so many ways around violence before he used violence as the means to an admittedly non-violent end. The way he used violence was also mind-boggling; his transformation wasn't precipitated by any hard facts, but he was willing to try that over something tried and true. It rang false for the mind of such a logical character.
Elijah and the raven have always been intertwined, but in this book it becomes much more heavy-handed. In WttA, it was his symbol, and it was in the dreams. As Taryn had said, "the raven still flies". In this book, everyone accepts the bird as a sign, Cassie sees it as an omen, and Kenny hunts ravens to make his point to Elijah. Ravens save Elijah. The book leaves Elijah seeming almost Taryn-like, but his views against peace (saving himself and Cassie and Amber over the lives of others) are decidedly not.
Speaking of Amber, her "Ark-ness" isn't in any way explained. Both Amber and Kenny are intelligent, but Amber shows no sign of Ark. The only signs we're given are heavy-handed, at least compared to the subtlety in WttA. In WttA there were glimmers between Miranda and Taryn or Miranda and Doug, before they communicated about their shared dreams, before Taryn "told" her how the tree felt. Here, Elijah feels connection from almost the beginning. He heals Amber before he knows her. An argument could be made that he opened up after the Ark experience, but the same could be made that upon leaving them he immediately went back to his old ways (getting "inside" the marble, Tondishi, avoidance, etc.) as soon as he left. Amber, however, has never been open to Arkness before. Ark kids were anti-violence, anti-world; she reveled in it and took her father's words at face value.
The near-assault of Amber, while compelling, seemed harsh in a book aimed at children. I don't know if the youngest readers would understand how close it seemed to a rape, and the older readers will probably wonder why it wasn't more of a focal point. Amber was okay with murder when she felt her assaulter would be properly punished, but that isn't a solution. WttA succeeded because the solutions, although not feasible in a literal sense, make sense in symbolic terms. A child could become friends with others who are different and improve the world, albeit not by psychically bonding. Accepting a bombing isn't an answer.
The bioweapons seemed both heavy-handed and scarily prescient. I wish there had been more of a hint of something wrong with Landis, besides Elijah's "bad feeling" about him. It made a possibly good plot weakened. In addition, Elijah left Mack and Kenny in charge as the lesser of evils, and it's disconcerting to think of a "good guy" seeing things that way. No, 140 million people won't die, but they aren't solving problems except with bombs whose death tolls "don't matter". As I was IMing a friend about the book, I kept finding things that rang eerily in the aftermath of even worse New York terrorism. The smallpox issues, which hit me both because of the recent news issues and because of the Cross-X high school debate topic on it, were exceptionally, frighteningly, and flawlessly accurate as far as my research has gone, but the concepts of the "solution" seemed to again go against Elijah and what he chose. He empathized with Amber over dead rabbits and dead parents, much like he did previously when he chose vegetarianism. I suppose the reader could assume that he chose to "turn off" part of the Ark part of his mind the way Doug and Miranda did, but he clearly used it with Amber throughout the novel. It makes sense for Elijah to develop his mind more, away from the stabilizing and repressing atmospheres the other three were in, but it doesn't seem logical for him to develop in this way.
Overall, despite these criticisms, I enjoyed the book. I liked references to the Ark, and the story kept within the context of the ending of WttA. Elijah is still a compelling character, although less so. But unlike WttA, this won't be a book I'll be rereading often. It provides some closure for Elijah, but didn't fit in with what I wanted to believe about all of the characters. It had all of the ingredients for a wonderful book, but they didn't mix together for a really good read.
enjoyed because of the sensitive portrayal of extremely gifted
children. As a sequel, this book follows Elijah, who recently
escaped from the mental hospital in which he was being held and
is picked up in the forest by a group of terrorists who are
bent on disrupting and eventually destroying the repressive
government of the United States.
Elijah, who is for a long time mute and who is usually outside
of the happenings in the compound, eventually makes friends with
Amber, the daughter of the head of the group. Amber is uneasy
about certain aspects of the goals of the group, but she can't
articulate the reasons for her growing sense that something is
Both of the major characters have to eventually face the realities
of the world with regard to their personal commitments to each
other and to the mission of the group, when Amber is the target of
an attempted assault and the terrorism of the group goes further
than they can fathom.
The eeriness of this tale comes from the "bombing of the towers"
and the attempt to infect the whole world with small pox.
As with Welcome to the Ark, though, the ending of this story goes
just a bit too far into fantasy for my taste. Most of each of the
books is realistic and so possible that you would almost think
that the characters are real. But then, at the very end, the
books get mystical and veer off into fantasy. Yes, there may be
powers that these kids have that can't be explained by modern
science, but that almost seems like a cop out, given the very real
world problems they are confronting.
Still, I am eager for the next in the series.