13 February 2014

Wild Born by Brandon Mull

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 strangers. . . and on you.

Maggie Stiefvater brought me to this story.  When I found out that she would be writing a middle grade novel for a multi-author, multi-platform series, I had to get in on it.  (I mean, hello.  Maggie Whose-Mind-Is-Made-Of-Awesome Stiefvater.)  I didn't have a lot of experience with Brandon Mull outside of the thirty pages I read of Beyonders.  (I will finish that book, I promise.)

Before I go into all the things that made Wild Born great, I just want to note my one complaint: the length.  Come on!  This book exemplifies why I dislike reading tiny books: I'm skeptical that any sort of real plot or world building can be shoved in any satisfactory way into a book less than 300 pages.  While there was plenty of world building and a delicately woven plot, I could sense its potential roaring right under the surface, desperate to break out and shine.

Despite the unsatisfactory length, I loved so many things about Wild Born:

The characters were diverse without being obviously polar opposites of each other.  It's so easy with a four-hero template like this to be overly obvious.  Brandon Mull did an excellent job creating interesting dynamics between each of the characters, so that while they didn't trust each other or necessarily get along, they were a group knitted together by their individual ties.  (Think the character set of The Avengers.)

I love the world of Erdas and how distinct each culture is from each other.  Again, though, I wish that it had been longer so that there could have been more time spent on the settings of each place.  Despite this, Brandon Mull did a fabulous job establishing the feelings of each place.

The plot was interesting, if a bit cliche and easily predictable.  It still kept me engaged and entertained.  The ending was that of a fantastic adventure story, leaving plenty of room for another journey.

I also had the chance to try the online game.  (Though I haven't actually done anything besides create my profile and animal.)  I love how this is multi dimensional.  If I had read this as an eight-year-old, I would have been all over it.

Saying that, I do understand why the book is so short: because it is targeting a much younger age than I happen to be.  I feel like I've been set up by MG authors like JK Rowling, Eoin Colfer, and especially Rick Riordan.  But Brandon Mull told a great story in a very short span of time.  I'm excited to see what Maggie Stiefvater has to add to the adventure, and how this series is going to grow the older the characters become.

Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 224
  • published - September 2013
  • publisher - Scholastic
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Spirit Animals
    • Wild Born
    • Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater
    • Blood Ties by Garth Nix
    • #4 by Shannon Hale
    • #5 by Tui T Sutherland
    • #6 by Eliot Schrefer
    • #7 by Marie Lu