Friday, November 29, 2013

Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1) by Brandon Mull

Grade 4 has a fantasy unit and are always on the lookout for books at their reading level in this genre. Nice to find a newbie that I can recommend. In the same vein as the 39 Clues series, it has different authors for each book and cliff hanger endings. The ending does have some closure but much is left unanswered so the reader will want to buy the next book. A part of me resents this gimmick and a part of me understands the need to sell more books for profit. I do think the book would work as a read aloud because it covers four different characters who gain powers when they bond with spirit animals. The chapters are short and all the characters don't get together until the climax.

The land of Erdas is in danger as an evil presence, The Devourer, is rising again to take over the world. The Devourer was defeated in the past when four Great Beasts sacrificed their lives to imprison he and his minions. Humans bonded with the Great Beasts and were a part of this battle, but they are not talked about much. The focus is on the animals. The Devourer is attacking again after years of rebuilding an army and hiding them in cities. This background information isn't explained particularly well and I wasn't sure how The Devourer rose again to power but you get a clear picture of the villain, The Devourer, and the good guys, The Greencloaks.

When children reach the age of eleven they go through a bonding ceremony where they drink Nectar that reveals whether or not they will bond with an animal. At different bonding ceremonies all over the world, four youngsters bond with Great Beasts, something that has not happened in many years. The Greencloaks then recruit and train the children. When one of the children is kidnapped and tricked by the enemy to serve them, the other three hope to find her so she can help with retrieving the talismans before The Devourer. Of the four, one boy will help with the cause of saving the world from The Devourer but isn't sure he wants to be a Greencloak. He has trust issues and does not like authority. The four kids first task is to collect a talisman from a Great Beast with so much power and wildness the children can be killed. Many obstacles need to be overcome for the mission to be a success.

When people come of a certain age they reveal that they are bonded with an animal or not. Many don't bond. The bonding of humans with animals is somewhat reminiscent of daemons in "The Golden Compass" series that reflect a person's inner being. However the spirit animals in this book are more connected with an animal's physical aspect versus representing a character trait.  When four children bond with the four Fallen Beasts from the great war in the past, the Greencloaks or guardians of the peace in Erdas know that The Devourer has risen to reclaim the land. Specifically he wants the eleven Great Beasts talismans so he can have magical power to rule the world.

The characters learn to embrace their roles as heroes and learn to trust each other and the animals. This book follows the familiar fantasy conventions with world building, good versus evil, a heroes quest, and training to learn about acquired powers. Great depth in the story is not achieved because the plot is spread too thin trying to cover four characters in 200 pages. Each of the four gains powers and while the characters are slightly different and distinct in their own right, it is predictable that they will bond with a Great Beast. Brandon Mull does a nice job pulling in other elements to create tension that keeps the story interesting. There is plenty of action and many will find the fast-pace satisfying. I had an awful lot of questions at the end, but the idea is to find the answers in the following books.

3 Smileys

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