May 12, 2011


The 39 Clues, Book 11: Vespers Rising. By Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson. Scholastic. $12.99.

Warriors: Omen of the Stars #2—Fading Echoes. By Erin Hunter. Harper. $6.99.

Warriors: Omen of the Stars #4—Sign of the Moon. By Erin Hunter. Harper. $16.99.

Warriors: Super Edition #3—SkyClan’s Destiny. By Erin Hunter. Harper. $7.99.

     It is understandable that authors and publishers alike are reluctant to part with long-running series, especially ones that involve preteen and young teenage readers through games, online participation and even old-fashioned trading cards. And that explains the 11th book in the 10-book series, The 39 Clues. Anyone who thought the sequence would end after Amy and Dan Cahill successfully completed their quest and discovered their place in the far-flung Cahill family and Cahill history did not reckon with a power even greater than that of the super-secret Cahill serum: the power of the sequel. So now there is a four-author followup book, which is really a transition to an entirely new upcoming series that will focus on the Cahills’ sworn enemies, the Vespers. Rick Riordan, who wrote the first book in the original series and designed the story arc that other authors would follow, is joined in the 11th volume by Peter Lerangis (who wrote books 3 and 7), Gordon Korman (who wrote books 2 and 8), and Jude Watson (who wrote books 4 and 6). Lerangis, Korman and Watson will be writing novels for the new series as well, and there will also be reappearances by other contributors to the original sequence. But the names on the covers matter little, since the writers’ styles are interchangeable – deliberately so, no doubt, to avoid distracting readers with anything distinctive in the midst of these adventures. Vespers Rising is actually rather lacking in action, or at least present-day action, since its main purpose is to explain the 500-year-old rivalry between the Cahills and the Vespers and to set the stage for the next sequence of The 39 Clues, in which Amy and Dan will have to defend rather than discover them. Amy and Dan themselves are bit players here, living a more-or-less normal life until they travel to Switzerland to retrieve a Cahill family ring – of which Amy then becomes the new guardian. The entire book reads like a setup for events yet to come. It will be of no interest to readers who are not already involved in the mystique of The 39 Clues, but it will be a relief to those who are, since it indicates that the series is likely to go on for quite some time.

     The various Warriors series by Erin Hunter (a pseudonym for authors Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry and Tui Sutherland, and editor Victoria Holmes) seem to go on endlessly, not as an individual series but as multi-book sagas treating various warrior cats and various elements of the mythology that Hunter has built up around the cat clans. In addition to online elements, the new Warriors books feature built-in adventure games, an added element somewhat along the lines of the clue-focused trading cards included with every volume of The 39 Clues. It is the adventures within the books, though, that are the main attraction of Hunter’s complex stories, which – thank goodness – open with lists of characters and sets of maps that help locate and explain the action. These are complexly plotted tales in which the cat protagonists retain many feline elements even though they are also, in some ways, thoroughly anthropomorphized. The Omen of the Stars series turns on a prophecy of certain specific cats “holding the power of the stars in their paws,” which like all good prophecies is tough to understand or decipher. Just finding out which cats the prophecy refers to is a significant element here; the three turn out to be Dovepaw, Jayfeather and Lionblaze. In the second book of this sequence, Fading Echoes, released last year and now available in paperback, the three learn that the star-related prophecy does not come from StarClan, and a series of typically complex relationships and predictions leads eventually to a climactic battle between ShadowClan and ThunderClan in which Firestar loses his seventh life. Two books later, in the just-released Sign of the Moon, darkness is growing, interclan fighting is worsening, and the meaning of the prophecy remains unclear. Lionblaze is focused on protecting ThunderClan against another battle like the one in Fading Echoes, leaving Jayfeather to respond to the desperate request for help from the Tribe of Rushing Water, which may soon be wiped out. Jayfeather’s quest takes him to the mountains in search of an explanation of the links between the tribe and the clans – and, perhaps, a solution to the mystery of the prophecy. But the powers of the Dark Forest continue to gain strength here, and Sign of the Moon ends at a dramatic point that will be picked up in the next book, to be called The Forgotten Warrior.

     Warriors fans can go in a different direction with the Super Edition series, whose third book, SkyClan’s Destiny, looks at the modern version of an ancient clan that disbanded after a disastrous attack by rats. The modern SkyClan needs to put down roots to survive, but is unable to call on warrior ancestors for guidance. There is tension between traditional warriors and “daylight warriors,” who help the clan during the day but live with humans at night and therefore are disrespected by many in the clan. And there are various other tensions, too, as SkyClan seeks to find agreements and bonds through which it can survive and thrive. The climactic battle here is against rogue cats that steal prey, and the book ends with SkyClan leader Leafstar establishing rules designed to prevent conflicts from erupting in the future. The book is a sort of “side story” that fits into the overall arc of the Warriors world, satisfying enough in itself and adding a bit of additional depth to the fantasy realm in which all these tales take place. Like the other Super Edition volumes, it is not central to any of the various narrative threads, but will be enjoyable for readers looking for even more information on the intricacies of the Warriors world.

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