So much of this blog is my adventures in writing (and others’ too), I realized that there was a large audience that I was excluding with my political rants and short stories. There are many out there that enjoy reading books (I love them too) and are always looking for new reads and new perspectives on their favorites. Who am I to deny them?
Well, until my novel career picks up a bit more steam, I’m afraid that my writing adventures aren’t going to be of much use to that end. So, instead, I’m going to have to do something I always struggle with: admit that there’s work out there beyond mine that others would enjoy.
The Guardians of Ga’Hoole
If you’re a long-time fan of this site (and I hope you are), you’ll recall this series from previous posts. The Guardians of Ga’Hoole is a 16 book fantasy series centering on the adventures of Soren and his band of owls with the Guardians, an order of knights that fight to protect the weak and “vanquish the proud.” It was the first set of novels that I can recall reading through as a kid, and I’ve loved them ever since.
Recently, I finished the first draft of my own novel with an avian protagonist, so I decided that it was worthwhile to revisit these books once more and see how Kathryn Lasky, the author, had styled her tales to such great success. These novels partially inspired my own, and every day I find more and more parallels that my subconscious included as I revise. But you’re not here to read about my writing, you’re here for books!
The Capture (Book One)
Where to start but at the beginning? The Capture is the original installment, the first taste the reader receives of the rich world Lasky builds, full of lore and history. One of the overall strengths of the series is how immersive it is, with its distinct language and myths causing the reader to begin to think in these terms.
Soren is a young Barn Owl living within the Forest Kingdom of Tyto with his older brother Kludd and parents. In the first chapter, he witnesses the hatching of his sister, Eglantine, and loves her instantly. A short time passes, until one night Soren finds himself upon the ground. Defenseless, flightless, and small, he has committed the gravest error an owlet can: flying before he’s ready.
Soren is seized by a strange owl before his parents return, carried off with other owlets to St. Agelious Academy for Orphaned Owls. In the flight, he meets Gylfie, an Elf Owl, who becomes his only companion in the darkness they are both captives of.
The Academy serves as a prison. Kidnapped owls are stripped of their names and assigned numbers, brain-washed by being forced to march under the full moon (“moon-blinking”), and turned into slaves for labor. Soren and Gylfie manage to resist the moon-blinking, however, and start plotting to escape the canyons.
They are put to work in the Pelletorium, where the owls pick through the pellets of other owls (the compacted remains of consumed prey) for materials called “flecks.” The heads of St. Aggies, as it’s called, Skench and Spoorn, value these tiny metallic pieces more than weapons. Soren and Gylfie realize they’re stockpiling flecks, though they don’t know why.
Soren’s flight feathers come in, and they know the time is upon them. They seek out an imperfectly brain-washed soldier Gylfie discovered, Grimble, and convince him to help them. He teaches them to fly, preparing them for the fateful night.
Finally, the time comes. Soren and Gylfie prepare to fly from the Library, where the flecks are stored. But Skench enters in battle claws, trying to stop them. She slams into the wall, immobilized as the owlets make their escape. Grimble dies slowing her down as the strange effect wears off.
Soren and Gylfie fly, finally free. They meet Twilight, a Great Gray, who teaches them to hunt. He has also encountered their captors, kidnapped as an owlet, but he managed to escape. The three travel back to Soren’s Kingdom, but there’s no trace of his parents. Next they travel to Gylfie’s home in the Desert of Kuneer. Her parents have vanished as well.
They encounter a Burrowing Owl, Digger, who tells of how his brother was eaten by Jutt and Jatt, lieutenants of the Academy. As Digger searches for his own parents, they are attacked by the same lieutenants. The desert turns into a battleground as the owls fight Jutt and Jatt, holding their own until two eagles arrive. The massive birds kill the soldiers.
With nowhere else to turn, the four owls vow to seek out the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, the knights from the tales that Soren and Gylfie told to resist the moon-blinking. The four owls, all orphans, have become a band.
These books are written for a younger audience, and are shorter in length than the typical novel. Lasky’s pace is quick and captivating, allowing the protagonist only three chapters with his parents before he’s snatched. Just like her pace, the author’s wording and descriptions are just as streamlined. You are given enough to understand the setting and imagery, but only enough. This creates a narrative that requires the reader to fill in many of the details and sculpt the scene in their mind
I’m nineteen and I’m still reading these. They’re that good. Any age can appreciate the dark subject matter of this book, and grow to root for the characters as tantalizing bits are revealed about each of them. Her style creates writing where the reader is allowed to sculpt the scene, as opposed to the text spelling out all the details for them. Combine this with a quick and action-packed plot, and these books are engaging enough to be read over and over again.
Heck, I was so fond of mine that I put my original copies in plastic bags to preserve them. I knew I’d be back.