Warriors: Super Edition #4—Crookedstar’s Promise. By Erin Hunter. Harper. $17.99.
Warriors: SkyClan & the Stranger (Manga Book 1): The Rescue. By Dan Jolley. Art by James L. Barry. Tokyopop/HarperCollins. $6.99.
Seekers #5: Fire in the Sky. By Erin Hunter. Harper. $6.99.
The world of Erin Hunter just keeps growing. Indeed, readers can now visit the worlds of Erin Hunter. Her animal-adventure stories continue to revolve primarily around the cat clans of the many Warriors book series, but her Seekers books about bears have also taken on a life, and a popularity, of their own.
Hunter is not really one person but four: authors Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry and Tui Sutherland, and editor Victoria Holmes. But even with four people contributing, the Warriors and Seekers series are impressive achievements for their sheer scale, if not always for their plotting or characterization. Various Warriors series intersect others or serve as sequels or prequels, while adventures in one series may parallel or help explain adventures in another – or may exist largely independently. The very thick Super Edition books, the fourth of which runs 500 pages, deal with events that predate those in the original Warriors adventures, which were published earlier; they therefore serve as a sort of introduction to the Warriors world. But they are written for readers who already are familiar with the various cat clans and the ways the cats interact with each other – that is, for existing fans of Warriors who are looking for a sort of story-before-the-story. Crookedstar’s Promise follows a familiar type of plot: the hastily made promise that turns out to have far-reaching repercussions. The story turns on a cat named Stormkit at birth but renamed Crookedkit and abandoned by his mother after he is disfigured. Later, growing strong but remaining damaged, Crookedstar sees in his dreams a cat that promises him the leadership of RiverClan if he pledges undying loyalty to the clan. The promise seems harmless, even beneficial, but of course turns out not to be; and a prophecy that Crookedstar will be betrayed by those closest to him endangers not only RiverClan but also the entire balance among the four clans. The book is neither better nor worse than others in the Super Edition series, and will please fans wanting to learn more about this sort-of-prehistory of the clans.
Crookedstar’s Promise includes at the end a manga adventure written by Dan Jolley, with art by James L. Barry. This is the team that is producing manga books about the Warriors world – another “line extension” of sorts for the cat clans’ fans. Some of the manga books stand alone, but others come in series, with the latest of them, The Rescue, being the start of a new manga sequence called SkyClan & the Stranger. Actually, the series is new, but the story, as so often in these books, connects to what has come before. It is the tale of a new SkyClan (the fifth cat clan, now being reconstituted after a long period in which it did not exist at all). Leafstar, the clan leader, ends up here with kittens – and she and they find themselves trapped in the home of a “twolegs” (human), along with a cat named Harry who is perfectly happy being a housepet. Or so it seems: Harry eventually helps Leafstar escape and rejoin her clan, than shows up there himself to join the warrior cats, and then – well, then the stage is set for the next manga book.
Meanwhile, over in Seekers territory, the fifth volume of the bears’ quest tale, originally published last year, is now available in paperback. Kallik, Toklo and Lusa here make it onto the sea-ice, accompanied by Ujurak the shapeshifter. But the ice proves more dangerous than they anticipated, and the weather colder. Much of the book is the adventure of the cubs upon the ice and into the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. It is a tale of survival, of a constant journey against self-doubt and difficult odds, and of a spiritual encounter: they are reassured at a crucial time by a mystical star-bear. The book reads like a buildup to a climax, which indeed it is: the sixth book in the Seekers series, Spirits in the Stars, concludes the cubs’ adventures while opening up new vistas for them (a second Seekers series is in the works). The Seekers books are not as immediately appealing as the Warriors ones, which gain much of their impact from the contrast between the intense lives of the warrior cats and the easier ones of the cats known in everyday life to the “twolegs” who read the books. The whole Seekers series is more wide-ranging, but the bears are not as well differentiated as the cats in Warriors, and bears are a less-familiar animal in any case, so this series is somehow more distancing than Warriors. It does have considerable adventure and some good scene-painting, though, and young readers who have become involved in it will not be disappointed with Fire in the Sky or with the series’ climax in Spirits in the Stars.