Titles: #1 Into the Wild; #2 Fire and Ice; #3 Forest of Secrets; #4 Rising Storm; #5 Dangerous Path; #6 Darkest Hour
Author: Erin Hunter
Rating: * (1 star out of 3 possible; "C")
Recommended with Reservations
Audience: 3rd grade and up
For this review I read books #1 and #3. Erin Hunter's fast-paced series about the lives of wild kitty gangs will appeal to kids who love animals and adventure. Every reader will want to find out what happens to domestic "kittypet" Rusty when he leaves his comfortable home life behind to become Firepaw, a member of ThunderClan. Ongoing feuds with other cat clans (RiverClan, WindClan, ShadowClan), natural threats without and traitors within keep the warrior cats on their paws. Ongoing mysteries include missing kits (kittens), dubious parentage and unexpected deaths.
One caution in this series is the sense I get that violence will increase. Rivalries between and among the clans lead to several battles resulting in injuries and the occasional death. In her website she states her "favorite death scene" comes in books 6 of this series (Darkest Hour).
Another concern is that StarClan (cats that have gone on to the "kitty heaven" and appear as stars in the sky) will have increasingly new-age influence on the cats in the series. Occasionally the cat warriors will call out for StarClan's "help" in confronting an insurmountable task.
Humans ("Twolegs") are sometimes viewed in a negative light: "Last new leaf , the river was clean and full of fish. Now it's filthy with Twoleg rubbish from their camp." My hope would be that some redeeming Twolegs appear later in the series.
Finally, because natural cats don't follow our social norms of marriage and family, there will occasionally be a litter of unexpected kits! Since this happens in the real cat world, anyway, I did not find it morally disturbing. There was certainly no intimate discussion of how these relationships take place.
One of the best messages these books send to our young people is that of loyalty and integrity. The cats face issue of traitors and prejudices. There is a strong sense of right and wrong and even compassion: "A true warrior-the best warrior-isn't cruel or mean. He doesn't claw an enemy that can't fight back. Where's the honor in that?" Girls will also appreciate the roles female cats play. They can be warriors, but a high value is placed on mothers and kittens, those who serve in the nursery or as "medicine cat." For the clans to survive it is clear all must work together and respect each other.
Erin Hunter is becoming pretty prolific in children's fiction. Her Warriors series have 4 subsequent sets: New Prophecy (6 books), Power of Three (6 books), Omen of the Stars (3 books and counting) and Super Edition (5 books and counting). She also has 6 books in the Seekers series, which focuses on the adventures of the three types of bears: Polar, black and brown/grizzly. Readers might like to know she finds "death a great source of drama" and is personally interested in mythology, astrology and standing stones. For those reasons, further review is warranted on the subsequent series.