Scholastic rules the roost with multi-author, multi-platform series. The newest one to come down the pipes is Spirit Animals. Seven books are planned, each written by a different author. Click here to read the line-up of authors. I read the first three pretty much in a row and am reviewing them together.
Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1) by Brandon Mull. 224 p. Scholastic Inc., September, 2013. 9780545522434. (Purchased).
Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1) by Brandon Mull. Unabridged audiobook on 5 compact discs. Read by Nicola Barber. Scholastic Inc., September, 2013. 9780545600385.
Hunted (Spirit Animals #2) by Maggie Stiefvater. 185 p. Scholastic Inc., January, 2104. 9780545522441. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)
Blood Ties (Spirit Animals #3) by Garth Nix & Sean Williams. 186 p. Scholastic Inc., March, 2014. 9780545522458. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)
In the world of Erdas, there is a rite of passage for every child, regardless of class, around their eleventh birthday. They must drink the Nectar provided by a Greencloak in a public ceremony to determine whether the child will summon and bond with a spirit animal. Four different children, two girls and two boys, in four different parts of Erdas summon the Four Fallen, the four animals who sacrificed their lives defending Erdas against the Devourer and his followers many years before. It seems that the followers of the Devourer are rising in power again and the Four Fallen have returned to assist the Greencloaks in a new battle.
Conor, servant to Devon, the son of the earl, summons Briggan, a wolf. Devon is furious and embarrassed because he did not summon a spirit animal as he expected. Rollin is a jailed orphan and totally uninterested in the Nectar ceremony or becoming a Greencloak, yet he summons Essix, a hawk when the Greencloak insists. Meilin, disciplined warrior-daughter of a general, is disappointed to have Jhi, a peaceful panda as her spirit animal. Abeke, thought she would become her tribe's rainmaker. Instead, she summons Uraza, the leopard and unknowingly spends time training with some minions of the Devourer before being rescued by the Greencloaks.
I listened to books one and two. The narration by Nicola Barber was measured. The pace was almost leisurely despite the increasing conflict and number of battle scenes.
In book 2, each of the four have inner conflict added to their quest to obtain some talismans before the Devourers. They also have to improve the bond between themselves and their spirit animal as well as learn to trust each other. Unfortunately, they need to do this without the guidance of their adult mentors for the most part. Conor and Meilin make crucial decisions that put the needs of their family before the needs of Erdas
In book 3, there is some dissension in the group as Meilin has left to aide her father and Abeke and Rollin's trust in Conor is gone. The four are at their most vulnerable just as The Devourers seem to be strengthening.
While some of the action seems a bit predictable and slightly repetitive, there has been enough character development and interesting twists to ensure that readers (at least this old fogey) stay invested in continuing the story. Readers who visit the series website can create their own spirit animal, play games and join forums. Book 4, Fire and Ice by Shannon Hale is due out June 24.