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Warriors: The New Prophecy (Review) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Warriors: The New Prophecy (Review)
The Warriors series seems to be arranged in a infinite number of six-volume series, each focusing on a different story. The first (just Warriors) focused on the story of Fireheart/Firestar, who left his comfortable kittypet life to become the leader of Thunderclan (that doesn't go behind a spoiler cut because, honestly, that's about as much of a spoiler as "Cinderella marries the prince," or "Beauty breaks the spell on the Beast"... kind of the whole point of the thing). A "midquel" called Firestar's Quest is due out this spring. The second series, Warriors: The New Prophecy, which dealt with the children (well, kittens) of the hero and villain, just ended. The third, which will deal with their children, is due out next summer.

Each series seems to hang on a prophecy. In the first, it was "Only fire can save our clan," which, of course, referred to Fireheart's flaming orange pelt. The second was "Before all is peaceful, blood will spill blood, and the lake will run red." The third will be a new prophecy altogether, "There will be three, kin of your kin, who hold the power of the stars in their paws."

The first series was very, very good, but horrifically violent, following the battles for territory among the four clans of the forest. It focused on the battle between Fireheart/Firestar and the treacherous clan deputy, Tigerclaw/Tigerstar. (When a cat becomes clan leader, the end of the name becomes "-star," in reference to Starclan, the mystical spirit world of the warrior ancestors which watches over all the clans.)

The second series seems to back off a little bit, more than it should. Granted, there's a matter of life and death as the series opens with the cats starving and being driven out of their territory. Tigerstar's son (Firestar's apprentice), Brambleclaw, gets a message from Starclan to go to "the sundrown place"--the oceanside, of course--and get a message from "Midnight." Firestar's headstrong daughter, the apprentice Squirrelpaw, insists on accompanying him, and I don't think I need to give a spoiler warning abou twhere those two are going. One cat from each of the other clans goes as well, most cats whose loyalties are divided between two clans, and therefore, in one way or another with all of them. (Crowpaw, a Windclan apprentice, is initially not divided, but ultimately ends up a romantic hero of the first stripe, with loyalties divided among three of the four clans.)

I don't know if the authors (two authors who collectively write under the name "Erin Hunter") got flak about the amount of violence in the first series, or if they'd already been planning a storyline that didn't touch on the actual wars of the Warriors, but one way or another, the second series focuses far less on the sometimes brutal world of feral animals dealing with each other. Sadly, this is because, once they escape the famine and get to a new place, the cats... don't have that much of a conflict. There's the settling in process, of course, and a forbidden romance which doesn't quite come off because it's way too abrupt. Ultimately, Tigerstar had to be brought back to provide a genuinely menacing presence, but even that had a fatal flaw: It was meant to be a question of whether or not Brambleclaw would fall to Tigerstar's dark influence, but we'd spent enough time in Brambleclaw's head to know, without needing to go through a test, whether or not he'd kill Firestar in cold blood. The real tension came in wondering if he would defeat his half-brother, the Riverclan warrior Hawkfrost, who he is sentimentally attached to and really wants to connect with... but who is evil to his very bones, as is known to every cat who isn't Brambleclaw. (I was hoping that it would be a feint, but it was an empty hope.) Because the authors didn't play on that tension, and instead tried to convince readers that this very decent cat was even remotely capable of murdering his clan leader, a lot of tension went out of it.

The other weakness is more a matter of taste than a direct weakness. The first series focused strongly on Firestar's journey, sticking in his point of view everywhere except the opening chapters. The second series is split in its viewpoints among the cats who go to the sundrown place and Squirrelpaw's sister, the apprentice medicine cat Leafpaw. Because the books aren't any longer, the net effect is that we don't get to know any single cat as well as we get to know Fireheart in the first books, and, because of that, the desire to get back to Fireheart himself distracts from the story that's actually being told.

The strengths, though, are very good. The second series goes far deeper into the mystical life of the cats, going to the world of Star Clan, and even a cat version of hell. (In cat hell, the underbrush is always rustling, but there's never prey; there's no sunlight or starlight, and cats are doomed never to have feline companionship.) In the first series, there's one genuine atheist--Firestar's nephew, Cloudtail, who just plain doesn't believe, but is a decent cat--and one case of a cat who is utterly insane who declares war on Starclan. In the second series, we deal with a medicine cat--a kind of priestess--who has lost her faith, but must continue and even become a mentor to the next generation's medicine cat. There's a question of reincarnation raised, for a cat who died too young--to my relief, the one I had named my cat after. Not such bad luck after all. ;) We see Leafpaw struggling with her vocation, and getting troubling messages. (One of them, I strongly suspect, is that she's going to have kits after her little running away adventure--a forced mention that "even slender Leafpaw was looking plump" added to a prophecy that she will walk paths that other medicine cats don't walk suggests it rather strongly.) Brambleclaw has to cope with his father's ghost. I was frankly impressed that Brambleclaw's sister, who left Thunderclan to go to the notoriously untrustworthy Shadowclan--think Slytherin--in order to escape being judged by Tigerstar's infamous legacy turned out to be the one who told Tigerstar's ghost exactly where he could shove it.

Brambleclaw, like Firestar before him, does not relish defeating his enemy (and has more cause for the distress, given that Hawkfrost is family). He doesn't celebrate it. Firestar understands him.

There's even a moment of actual moral ambiguity, as they deal with the badgers who were chased off their setts... pretty interesting in a kid's book.

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Comments
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: January 30th, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
You've got me very interested in reading these books with all these reviews... As someone who's never had a pet - not so much as a fish - I am a little concerned these books might be, you know, written by and for cat-lovers, full of little inside jokes on cat behaviour that I will never get. But what you describe above is intriguing, more of a traditional Romantic hero's journey type thing, so I'll be sure to pick the first set of books up the next time I'm in the library.

Speaking of violent, have you read anything by Cormac McCarthy? *shudder* I just finished reading Blood Meridian, which is the most horrific thing I've read (and this from a Stephen King fan.. :P). Lovingly described scalpings and wholesale slaughter, popped eyeballs, gutted animals, you name it. Ugh. I don't know how this novel does it, but it manages to be good despite (or even because of) all this gore. A review on the cover says it's a "classic story of regeneration through violence." Apt description.

Sorry for the OTness. That book is so in my system that simply the word 'violence' triggers these responses.
From: srch_angel Date: January 30th, 2007 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Can't wait!

I am so excited about these books! Since I have two little ones, I don't have much time for fiction if it's really not worth it to me. I have only read a few books since HBP came out(Blue Adept series. Kind of Meh.), but once I found these--thanks to you, Fern!--I have been devouring each one. I am now waiting to read New Prophecy #6... I have it on hold at the library, but I'm #52 in line for it. So it's gonna be a while. Grrr! Consequently I couldn't read your review here because of the spoiler (thanks for the warning!), but I am excited to hear there are going to be more Warriors.

My only complaint with the books is that I have been able to predict what happens midway through the book with a lot of them; but the story is good enough that it doesn't matter much. I think I liked the first series better than the New Prophecy ones, which seem a little... I dunno... Girly? There's a lot of "falling in love" stuff going on, which I don't necessarily dislike, but it seems out of place sometimes.

Otherwise, I love them, and I am trying to get everybody I know to read them so I can talk about them.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 30th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Can't wait!

Glad you like them! I was delightedly surprised by them as well when I stumbled across a sample copy of Dawn.

The two series so far seem to be doing different things--the first is more about the conflicts among the clans, the second more about the world of the cats. It is a bit more girly.
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