Monday, July 29, 2013

Warriors* by Erin Hunter, and a Note of Re-Readng Old Favorites

Warriors: Into the Wild
Fire Alone Can Save Our Clan...
For generations, four clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by their warrior ancestors.But the Thunderclan cats are in grave danger, and the sinister Shadowclan grows stronger every day. Noble warriors are dying -- and some deaths are more mysterious than others. 
In the midst of this turmoil appears an ordinary house cat named Rusty... who may turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

~Print copy, 272 pages (Book 1 of the Warriors Saga)
Published: 2003 by HarperTrophy (An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

[I apologize for my couple-weeks hiatus. I had a nasty abscess in a *coughcough* nasty place. Couldn't walk without whimpering in pain. But it's mostly cleared up now! Yay and Thank Goodness!]

For those of you who read this blog, you may well know already that I LOVE the Warriors Saga. I've read this series several times -- both the original series, and the New Prophecy series that takes place after the original. I still remember the Christmas morning of fourth grade, nine years old, looking into my stocking and seeing the first two (rather decently small) paperbacks snuggled inside, Warriors boldly printed along the top.

Of course, it's been years since I read the series. High school, and the bright lure of many, many YA novels and series, got in the way of re-reading my old favorites. But this summer I promised myself that I would re-read all six of the original and all six of the New Prophecy series with fresh eyes.

To be honest, I was nervous -- I first read this series in elementary school. I was so much more forgiving and open-minded back then! Now I'm a faintly-cynical teenager with more experience in the realm of bad books!

But, as I've discovered, I have experience with good books, too, and can tell that line where "poor" writing becomes excusable for a good story.

Now I realize that your mind will automatically skip over some types of prose and just visualize it directly. So the old writing adage "show don't tell" doesn't always -- often it DOES, but not ALWAYS -- need to work. The Warriors saga, being the MG it is, does tell emotion a lot, instead of showing it through body language.* And yea, sometimes I wonder why the MC is getting so much respect and special treatment from the Thunderclan leader, but my mind will skip over and visualize the first, and the second has to do with that prophecy in bold up there in the summary.

Warriors: Into the Wild chronicles Rusty the House Cat's journey from human pet through his apprenticeship in ThunderClan, one of the four Great Clans of Cats in the forest outside his human's home. As a kid, I loved the characters most: Rusty, newly named Firepaw, who is dangerously curious and smart; his friend Graypaw, who's a joker but the most loyal of friends; the dignified, ancient leader, Bluestar; and the ambitious warrior Tigerclaw, that classic villain in cat form.

And I still love the characters. Very, very much, in that same way I obsess over Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Artemis Fowl. (Check the Random Fandom board on my Pinterest, up there in the right upper corner of this blog -- that is, if you have hours to spare looking through over 400 pins.)

But now, in high school, after 4 AP (college-level) classes and too much time watching history documentaries, the world itself strikes me. Have you ever noticed that most of the good books seem to have a choice in them -- Divergent, Harry Potter, etc.? In Warriors, there are four clans: Thunderclan, the brave; Riverclan, the cats who swim; Shadowclan the "sinister", whose hearts are hardened by the north winds; and Windclan, the fastest.**

And within the clans... It's all clean and efficient, from kit to apprentice to warrior, sometimes to queen if you're female, and then to elder, all following the warrior code -- a set of ethics laid down by Starclan, their warrior ancestors. I mean, ethics and a religion and a loyalty that binds the entire community of the Clan together! That's really impressive, especially since I tie this sort of worldbuilding to the fantasy genre, not a MG series about cats.    

It doesn't really strike me until now just how deep this world is. As Firepaw learns everything -- and we do -- it all enfolds: just how deviant Tigerclaw's ambition is, and how far this code of ethics extends; how Shadowclan's needs create a gray area in the warrior code, driving them to break it; and how much one small kitten can do in this society of cats, in order to do what's right and save his new home.

I never caught this the first few times I read it. I never noticed. And it makes me to smile to think that, and a phrase from an old country song pops into my mind*** (though, of course, I'm no drinker):

"There might be
a little dust on the bottle
but it's one of those things
that get sweeter with time..."

Sometimes, re-reading only strengthens the bond between you and a favorite book. It frees your mind to examine things in depth, things you paid little attention to the first, second, or fifth time you read it.

This book, obviously, gets five stars. I recommend it to everyone -- no matter if you're a starry-eyed fourth grader, a cynical teenager about to enter her senior year of high school, or an adult seemingly above MG.

 *How much body language could you show through cats, anyways? It's different, from the tail-twitching to the way they scent danger to the claws they unsheathe. And -- take it from a girl who's grown up around half a dozen cats -- a lot of them react the same when angry or territorial.

**Is it just me, or am I really picking up a Harry Potter theme to the Clans? I mean, four of them: one for the brave, one for the "sinister", one for the "smart" (who know how to swim), and one considered the "weakest", though they're still the fastest. (Windclan has been driven from their home in this first book.)

***Dust on the Bottle by David Lee Murphy, though if he's the original artist I don't know.

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