If you liked the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, you’re gonna love Warriors. That is, if you like cats who act like cats. Mice, rabbits, and birds have the same kind of presence that fish do in Redwall: food. Matthias and Basil Stag Hare would not be in a good position here.
The author, Erin Hunter, is actually not a person, but three people: Kate Cary (takes turn writing), Cherith Baldry (takes turn writing), and Victoria Holmes (comes up with ideas and monitors consistency). All live in the UK, and as quoted in the back of the book, are:
“. . . inspired by a love of cats and a fascination with the ferocity of the natural world.”
A young “kittypet”–or so called by the Clans–named Rusty, lives a pleasant and comfortable life among the “twoleggs.” Though he spends many hours sitting on a fence looking into the forest, it wasn’t until he became bold enough to go exploring that his life changed.
While exploring, he was attacked by a cat named Graypaw. After fighting him off, other cats from the ThunderClan approached him. They make him an offer: join their clan and give up his “kittypet” life forever, and he will live as free cat. After giving it some thought, he decided to join.
Life became difficult for Rusty, who was given a new name (Firepaw), and a new home. He learns what it means to be a part of something, to work hard, to have real friends, and to eat like a real cat. Once things start to fall into place, life for him becomes even more complicated when one of the other clans decides to take over all the territories. Now the lessons really begin as ThunderClan fights back, and the lives of his clan depend upon him.
The names thrown out at the beginning are enough to make one’s head spin, but amazingly enough they are not that hard to follow. Hunter seems to have taken a Native American’ish approach to them: Bluestar, Lionheart, Tigerclaw, Spottedleaf, Ravenpaw, Speckletail, etc. As an author myself, there’s a few areas where I would question the quality of the writing (adverb city, such as “Yellowfang replied dryly.” and “Firepaw meowed urgently;” as well as overuse of exclamation points and italics) but regardless of this, it flows pretty well. I would call this book a page turner and a must read for kids (and some adults too). The one thing that bothered me though–and perhaps I just missed it–has to do with the whole nine lives thing. Why did some cats–particularly one of the younger ones–die when being killed, yet another, older cat came back? I was confused here. And whatever happened to the fox which was hinted at?
Things to consider:
This is not your average Politically Correct tale. There are strong elements of ferocity (as mentioned by the author.) Where I believe that’s part of what makes this story so genuine, I would caution some kids, whom it may be a little freighting for. Nature is very relevant in this tale, and anyone who’s watched a nature show knows things can be dicey. I would age rate this at around eight + (tweens and older,) and for both girls and boys. No bad language and no sexual references, but as mentioned, very violent (and I don’t mean violent for the sake of violence, but rather for the sake of realism.)
Opportunities for discussion:
Death, survival, bravery, and courage are strong themes in this tale. Among them are deceit, betrayal, blame, and bias. Talk to your kids about the price of freedom. Share with them the flaws of living a soft and easy life, and tell them that they need to work hard for what they have. There’s no room for laziness in the world of nature or the world of man. Also, in the case of Yellowfang, we learn that things are not always as they seem. We should not judge and blame without knowing the facts. Innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Ask your kids if they have ever done this only to find out later that they were wrong about the person.