Kids who bond with animals and get extra strength from them, that is most kids' dream come true. This new series, beginning with Wild Born, by Brandon Mull is a guaranteed kid crowd-pleaser. It is a fun book and one that I'm sure will be a hot commodity. Especially as there is a role playing game involved somehow as well. (Not quite sure how that is going to work. I read an e-galley.)
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 for ever. 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 stranger.
Wild Born is adventurous. The lands in Erdas bear a striking resemblance to the continents of our world. But everyone seems to speak the same language. That's not explained, but certainly makes the action easier. The four children are from four different lands (think North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa greatly simplified and in some historicalish time period of uncertain derivation). Each finds himself bonded with a less powerful reincarnated version of one of the heroic great animals of a battle long past. They discover the Devourer, who once tried to destroy everything is returning. The Four gave their lives to stop him, and now they have returned to bond with kids to help do it again. Honestly, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the world building here. I'm sure you can tell I found holes and much to question. It made it hard to take a lot of it seriously. It is a fun concept that kids are going to love. Just hard for grown up me to buy.
The characters are rather interesting. The four kids have different personalities. I found Rollan to be the one I liked the most. He's a snarky orphan who is not opposed to going about things the less than above board route. I also like how he questions everything. All four kids do seem to derive from typical stereotypes though that, I will admit, felt like a way to dodge spending time actually developing their characters. I'm still uncertain how I feel about the use of these overall. There is so much going on in this book that the characterization is not a priority. And there are a lot of characters. Wild Born is definitely mostly set-up for the rest of the series.
Teachers, librarians, and parents take note, these books will be a thing.
As for me, I enjoyed the exposure since I'm sure my students (and my own kid) are going to be all over this, but don't think I will be reading the rest of the series.
I read an e-galley made avialable by the publisher, Scholastic, via NetGalley. Wild Born is available for purchase September 10.