Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spirit Animals Comin' Your Way!

Spirit Animals: Wild Born
By: Brandon Mull
Reported by: Juli & Roark Helms
Release Date: Sept. 10th, 2013
Source: ARC via Scholastic (Thank you so much!*)
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.

-Summary from Goodreads
Pre-order: Mrs. Nelson's || Barnes & Noble || Book Depository 

Talk about creative! My brother and I've both been big fans of Scholastic's multi-author series, and this one, Spirit Animals, is no exceptions. Let's have my ten-year-old brother take it away first:

This book was just so... COOL. The main characters got the Fallen Four spirit animals, which is so cool. They each had better spirit animals than other people, which is really interesting because they must be awesome to have such cool spirit animals. I also really liked the plot because it tells you a lot about the spirit animals world, which is very fascinating**. It is also good because it switches from person to person so I can get more information from different places.

I think the characters are awesome**. Conor learned how to use his spirit animal faster than everyone else, which was cool. Abeke was the first to learn how to turn the spirit animal into a tattoo. They're all smart, maybe not like Meilin but, while Meilin is the best fighter which is cool because she's a girl [my sister is really good at Kung Fu but my friends don't believe me because she's a girl]***, everyone else can fight well in their own awesome way. Rollan, lastly, is my favorite because he is so funny.

Overall, I give this a 5 out of 5.

Since I'm just a tad above the targeted age range and the complete opposite of my brother, I can't sing praises for Wild Born without a few (or, I suppose, one really big) reservation(s).

First off, though: Brandon Mull is excellent at world-building. I found it fascinating how he managed to twist four cultures into a cocktail of a world that, though anachronistic, surprisingly retained many of the elements of each culture when it would've been much easier to neglect their foundations. I enjoyed running on a South America-like street with Rollan, being pampered (ephemerally) in an Asian palace with Meilin (Since I'm Asian, the discrepancies in the Asian worldbuilding stood out to me more than the other ones did; still, it is a commendable effort on Mull's part to make it as reminiscent of Asia as possible without compromising the story's overarching world), shake with terror in a Medieval England-esque surrounding alongside Conor, and hunt through wild forests with Abeke that brings images of Native American tribes to the mind.

Yet where he excels, I also reluctantly found fault. Mull's writing is... dull. Quite dull.

It feels plain, especially in the  first few chapters, full of telling and detached emotion. It is only after about 50 pages in that I really began to see the characters for who they were. Even then, oftentimes I found myself not exactly enthused--though certainly not unwilling--to dive back into the Spirit Animals world because something about the writing just didn't necessarily captivate me. It missed a spark; a touch of something magical, to fit in rightly with its exquisite world.

Still, I didn't care much about the writing's obtuseness after a while because the action and any scene, really, was just so entertaining. The characters were written exceptionally well in regards to their authenticity. I saw a lot of myself in Meilin, and laughed far too loudly at Rollan, and I could appreciate the humbleness of Conor just as well as I admired Abeke for her bravery. Each character could hold their own, and because of that and the excellent world-building, even with the writing being flat, the plot never ran too slowly.

The verdict? If you stick with the book through its rough beginning, you'll likely find yourself flipping the pages quickly--and if not quickly, then at least satisfactorily. After all, it's not every day you get a middle grade that mashes all the charming bits of the age group together in quite the inventive and ambitious tale. Besides, the spirit animals are, as my brother would say it... SO COOL.

*I received an ARC copy provided by the publisher in an exchange for an honest review. No monetary or otherwise beneficial supplement was exchanged.
**He didn't actually say that. He said cool. I had to change his vocabulary up, I'm sorry. T.T
***He didn't include this in the actual review that he handed me, but he had mentioned it to me before and I thought it was a very valid point. ^.^

Oh! Before y'all ditch this post--Scholastic is doing this cool (GAH! Now I'm turning into my brother!) thing where you can actually play an online game set in the Spirit Animals world hand have your own Spirit Animal. I think it's very innovative, and you should totally check it out here.
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