A Promising Premise As Yet Incomplete in Execution
by Brandon Mull
Series: Spirit Animals (Book 1 of 7)
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc
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Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts — a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children — and the world — have been changed forever. Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers . . . and on you.
Part engrossing book series, part action role-playing game — discover your spirit animal and join the adventure.
Multi-platform series are a funny animal. They always look appealing with flashy covers that entice and premises that promise all kinds of fun. The hype is always there. This time, with big names in fantasy and Kids/YA fiction tag-teaming the writing on the titles, and Brandon Mull of Fablehaven fame kicking the series off, the build-up was REALLY big.
Is the premise well-executed? Does the series deliver? I don’t know. I do know that I was underwhelmed.
I’m not saying Wild Born is a bad book. I was able to enjoy the reading experience without a hitch. It just didn’t thrill me. Ultimately, the story is limited in part, by its common trope as well as its shorter length and the segmented series framework. But this first volume neither goes in unexpected places nor feels satisfying. You’ll finish wishing there had been more story. And since this kind of thing is a marketer’s dream, that’s sort of the point. Kids will be motivated to grab another volume or get online to play the game and continue their adventures in this magical realm. So, in case the story isn’t incentive enough, perhaps earning another game code with the purchase of another book may be.
Again, don’t let me deter you. I still harbor hope. Despite sufficient time to flesh out the characters, I appreciate the fact that seeds have been planted for some ambiguities and complexities. Though four kids are recruited by The Greencloaks, not all are immediately keen on joining the order or sold on their motives and mission. Although the characters are not yet explored with a great deal of depth, Meilin, Conor, Rollan, and Abeke are carefully delineated from one another with unique backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. With two heroes and two heroines, and a motley crew of spirit animal companions, boys and girls alike are sure to find someone — human or beast — with whom to align.
Since this is volume one, it’s to be expected that some set up has to take place before the action begins. So it does take a little time for the real action sequences and adventure to start. But when they arrive, resolutions comes a bit too quickly and easily. Still, I fault the format for these kinds of problems and have decided to withhold final judgment until I can read further volumes. Could be that Brandon Mull laid the groundwork for subsequent authors and stories to take flight.
— Dawn Teresa
3.5 of 5 Hearts. A Promising Premise As Yet Incomplete in Execution.
Though I ultimately found Wild Born disappointing, young readers are bound to enjoy this start to a tale which points to an impending grand-scale struggle, with far-reaching consequences, between good and evil. Who doesn’t want to save the world?