Split between two worlds, Conor, Abeke, Meilin and Rollan are four young heroes who are racing to stop an ancient evil. Even the spirit animal bond, the sacred link between humans and animals, is on the brink of destruction. The friends face an enemy with the power to enslave others to its will - and to steal spirit animals away from their rightful partners. With their own allies falling to this darkness, the four must look to their bonds to light the way forward. But one of those lights - Briggan, Urza, Jhi and Essixis - is about to go out. Before their journey is over, one of these legends will be lost.
I have been hooked on these books since the very first page of the first book. I love how children are allowed emotions and fears and they learn to overcome fears and distrust but the outcome is not guaranteed, bad people win sometimes and terrible things happen to good people.
The bond is weakening and the children are fighting to save the link as a loss of a spirit animal is supposed to be torture for the person they are bonded to. They have to be careful about who they trust as enemies can become friends and friends become enemies, sometimes it is a bit hard to keep track of all the twists and turns in the plot. I don't have a favourite character as all the kids have strengths and weaknesses but I do have a favourite spirit animal, reading the blurb on the book I noticed that one of the great beasts will be lost so I was really hoping that it would be one of the other animals, I was tempted to have a sneak peek at the end of the book but I resisted temptation and am glad to see my favorite animal hasn't been lost.
The ending leaves no doubt that the next book is a must read. The book could be read as a stand alone book but I wouldn't recommend it as the author asumes you have read the previous books so although previous incidents are mentioned no real detail is given so it could be a little confusing if you haven't already read the previous books.
I managed to read the book in one night as I couldn't stop reading once I started and I'm really looking forward to the next book.
I do know there is an online game and spirit animals website but I haven't had a chance to check them out although my youngest is asking to have a look, he has been reading the book cover and he thinks it looks awesome and anything that encourages reading is always something I would support.
What I love about the Spirit Animals series is that, even though there are crossovers in characters and a general progression in the storyline, they can all be read as standalone tales. There is enough background material provided for the casual reader to fill in the missing parts no matter what order the books are read in. I think this is partly due to the fact that each book in the series, both the original series and the Fall Of The Beasts series, is written by a different author so prior knowledge is never assumed.
Each book explores a different adventure and fills in details from a new perspective, even to the point of allowing "bad" characters to become "good" and vice versa. This is a great example of character development at its best. The reader is invited to think about the whole concept of good vs evil and the potential for humans to change when faced with new and challenging circumstances. Too often in children's books there is no chance of redemption for a formerly bad person or a fall from grace for a good one. In this book the whole idea of everyone being a mixture of perfect and imperfect is presented to the young reader.
The pace of this story is fast, with the interest maintained at all times even though there are several strands going simultaneously. Personally, I could not put the book down, and managed to read it in one sitting. The idea that one of the four heroes might be in danger of losing his or her spirit animal (as foreshadowed on the book cover) provided a strong motivation for reading on to the end to find out what happened. The spirit animals are as much part of the heroes as the heroes are of them, and the idea of one of them being lost is totally unimaginable.
Even though the four heroes have much in common, they are presented as very different characters in the story. Meilin is bossy and used to getting her own way. In many ways she is my favourite character as she is feisty and loyal, and does not suffer fools. Young readers will identify with one or the other of the heroes, and can extend this preference by going on to the Spirit Animals website and creating their own animal to complement their own personalities.
Finally, I like the way that all the books in this series offer the chance to explore the book themes further by interacting online - this is an encouragement for less able readers to use technology to build on their understanding of character, theme and motivation. This is a skill which will benefit them as they progress through high school and have to make sense of often challenging pieces of text. Learning this way is relatively pain free, and if it works, why not?
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