June 14, 2007


Jango: Book Two of the Noble Warriors. By William Nicholson. Harcourt. $17.

Warriors: Power of Three – Book One: The Sight. By Erin Hunter. HarperCollins. $16.99.

      Judging by the number of well-written fantasies for preteens and teenagers, this age group’s ever-present drive to escape from reality, if only for a while, must be getting stronger. Neither Jango nor The Sight will disappoint readers hoping to enter a world of intrigue and magic for a while, although neither is likely to have much staying power – beyond the desire to read the upcoming sequels.

      Jango follows William Nicholson’s Seeker as the story of three young people who, in the earlier book, have overcome difficulties and hardships to join the elite warriors known as Nomana. The three are going their own ways, pulled apart by events and their own personalities, in Jango. Seeker himself is isolated by the great power he has gained through Nomana training. He is puzzled by ominous warnings about “the old enemy who has stalked us through the years and has sworn to destroy us,” and by meeting someone who calls himself Jango – a word that Seeker thought he had made up. This Jango mysteriously warns Seeker to destroy seven so-called “savanters,” because “The experiment has failed. All seven must be killed. Leave even one alive, and it will all begin again.” As Seeker tries to unravel this and other riddles, Morning Star is wrestling with a different problem: the balance between falling in love and using her powers – whose strength she is beginning to doubt. And the third protagonist, the Wildman, is dealing with issues of power and emotion as well, as when the beautiful bandit chief, Caressa, tells him, “I want to slit your guts and stuff you with pig dung and bury you alive,” and then, just a few sentences later, exclaims, “It’s you I want! I want you because you’ll never take my orders! I order you to want me, and you don’t want me, and the more you don’t obey, the more I want you!” The personal issues are entangled with a quest to rid the land of invaders, and the focus remains mostly on Seeker, who is told at the end, “Your life is an experiment in the search of the truth.” Portentous pronouncements aside, Jango is a well-paced and well-written book whose conclusion promises a sequel of still greater adventures.

      The adventures are of a different sort in the many Warriors series, in which epic fantasy is wrenched in a feline direction: all the main characters are cats. Erin Hunter has made a franchise of her tales of cat clans, their concerns and battles, and the individual personalities of their members. The first Warriors series contained six books and was followed by six more in Warriors: The New Prophecy. Now Hunter (whose own name might well belong to one of her cat heroes) is starting a new series called Warriors: Power of Three, centering on three kits of the ThunderClan: Hollypaw, Jaypaw and Lionpaw. The three are grandchildren of Firestar, the great ThunderClan leader, and are powerful and able in their own right. But in The Sight, readers learn that the three are also enmeshed in a mysterious prophecy, and that problems are spreading within the Clans that may threaten the very Clan structure itself. There are many, many characters in Hunter’s novels – The Sight helpfully opens with lists of important members of the Thunder, Shadow, Wind and River groupings – and many of the cats have no more individuality than their names. But the pacing of Hunter’s books is always quick, the use of enemies (such as dogs and competing cat clans) is clever, and fans of Warriors will not be disappointed in the action and drama of this start of a new series with three new central cat-racters.

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