When Anna heard that I was trying to read 25 books this year, she 1) thought that sounded pretty paltry because she had to read 100 chapter books in order to get her iPod touch and 2) jumped at the chance to pick one of the books when I gave her that option. What she came up with was the first book in Erin Hunter's Warriors series, Into The Wild. She had just finished it and had been regaling me with tidbits from it and thought I would enjoy it as well.
The Warriors series is told from the point of view of wild cats that make up four forest clans - ThunderClan, WindClan, ShadowClan and RiverClan. The clans coexist rather uneasily, with the forest hunting grounds divided up amongst them and rules in place that keep them from hunting in each others' territories, with specially trained warrior cats patrolling the clan boundaries. But times are hard in the forest. Prey is scarce and hunting grounds are shrinking due to "twoleg" (human) encroachment. ThunderClan in particular is in trouble as they are outnumbered and lacking in kittens to train to become warriors in comparison to the other clans. Into all this comes an ordinary house cat, Rusty, who enjoys his "kittypet" status but also longs for a freedom that he can't articulate.
After getting into a skirmish with a ThunderClan cat on the edge of the forest, clan leaders Bluestar and Lionheart invite Rusty to leave his privileged life behind and join the clan. He does so, is given the name Firepaw, thus setting the stage for the rest of the book.
Into The Wild is, for the most part, pretty well written. It has a strong narrative but I'll admit that I had a hard time getting into this book. However, I'm not exactly the target demographic. I can see why kids like it, especially those that like animals (cats in particular.) It's a quick and easy read that's filled with action and adventure while making sure to get some good lessons on loyalty, friendship and facing your fears in for good measure. In many respects, it reminded me of a cat version of Watership Down, a book I have never read all the way through but watched the animated movie of a million times as a kid.
A couple things bothered me about the book. The first was the excessive use of strange names for the cats. For example, we have Bluestar, Lionheart, Firepaw, Ravenpaw, Graypaw, Tigerclaw, Runningnose, Yellowfang, Longtail and Brokenstar, just to name a few. How kids can tell all these cats apart is beyond me. Even toward the end of the book, I was having a hard time figuring out who was who. It reminded me of when I was reading Lord of the Rings and trying to navigate all the similar names in order to figure out why I should care about any of these people. The second thing that bugged me a little bit was the amount of violence. Several cats do die in this book, frequently rather unexpectedly. The descriptions were not graphic by any means, but frankly, I was surprised that didn't bother Anna more than it did. I can see a sensitive kid being disturbed by it.
Anna is trying to get me to read the next book in the series, but I think I'm going to take a pass on that one. I have more books than I can ever possibly read in my to-be-read pile, and 272 pages of talking warrior cats was more than enough for me.