Firewing

by Kenneth Oppel

Sequel to Silverwing and Sunwing. In this one, Griffin the son of Shade is the main character, though there are also plenty of chapters from Shade’s point of view, and a few from that of their nemesis Goth, who hounds them throughout the narrative. I thought the last book got dark? Man, this one really dives deep. Literally into a whole new world. When the story begins, Griffin is a rather timid young bat, constantly feeling shadowed by his father’s fame and glory, always coming up with the what-if‘s when risky situations arise. But after unwittingly putting a friend in danger, he gets propelled into a harrowing journey when an earthquake literally opens up a fissure into the netherworld of bats, where the evil bat god Zotz reigns. When the other bats realize what happened, Shade follows (against all advice by friends and elders) to rescue his son. They’re both trapped, living bats down in the world of the dead, trying to figure out where they are, what’s going on, how things work (natural laws are turned on their heads) and most of all, how to return aboveground with their lives intact. This was fantastical, very original and darn good storytelling, I tore right through it in just a few days. The characters were great, the dialog believable, all in a landscape full of strange and baffling things that worked perfectly in this setup. I even liked the aspects of how some bats didn’t realize they were dead, or wouldn’t believe it, or got complacent about where they were in the underworld, when others thought there was yet a further journey to take. The underworld aspect in particular made me think of Tailchaser’s Song again, other aspects reminded me strongly of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And Top Dog by Jerry Jay Carroll (which I thought I’d reviewed here but I guess it was before blogging era), because of how fantastical and weird some things got. And of The Amber Spyglass plus some of the Earthsea books by Ursula K. LeGuin- because of the different ideas on what happens after death. I guess this book gave me a lot to think about! Or it’s just a sign of quality, that it was reminiscent of so many other good ones, while being in itself unique. Also a bit more gruesome and crude- not for the squeamish! Not sure how I feel about the ending. It answered my questions, a bit too patly. I would have liked some further wrap up, what happened after, how Griffin in particular felt about things- but it didn’t bother me too much. Really lively story with some good characterization and a literally epic journey through terrifying challenges to an end the bats weren’t even was worth it- doubts thrown up to the very last moment. Now I’m wondering what else this author has written.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
270 pages, 2003

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