Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Crimson Warrior

The Crimson Warrior
by Cathy Dannhauser

(Wheatmark / 1-587-36962-1 / 978-1-587-36962-9 / January 2008 / 140 pages / $12.95)

Reviewed by Dianne K. Salerni for PODBRAM

In a post-apocalyptic world where plague has killed off all human beings, new civilizations of cats and dogs have risen on the Animal Isles, remnants of our own continents. On Cat Island, Clans of cats live in peaceful harmony with one another, until an army of grotesque Hounds swims out of the ocean, led by their evil and bloodthirsty Queen Schkria. Her goal: to wipe out the inhabitants of Cat Island and conquer the land for her own descendents, a race of mutant canines shaped by toxic wastes of the former human inhabitants of the earth. Clan Inishkairie falls quickly and violently to the surprise attack of the newly arrived Hounds. The red-faced cat Riptorn, also called the Crimson Warrior, escapes the slaughter with two friends and flees to warn the other Clans. Each will risk his life to reach the strongholds of the diverse Clans and lead them to a secret valley where they can unite against the foe—and where, unbeknownst to them, they may just find surprising allies.

The background behind this world of animal civilizations is given to the reader in a six-page prologue. It is unfortunate that this information is presented in exposition, when it could have been revealed gradually throughout the book, adding depth to the plot and a mystery to enhance the reader’s interest. I would have enjoyed development on the theme of a cat civilization, but this is not explored, and there is no explanation for how animals without opposable thumbs are able to build structures, make fires, and construct such items as backpacks and eyeglasses. Although the author has attempted to portray the playful nature of cats, this sometimes manifests at inappropriate times, making the characters seem far too silly under dire circumstances.

The Crimson Warrior may interest middle grade readers who enjoy the “Warriors” fantasy series by Erin Hunter, which is also about the adventures of cat clans. The reading level is just about right for ten-year olds, and editing errors consist chiefly of verb tense mistakes that will be overlooked by the juvenile reader. For most of the book, the level of violence is equivalent to the Warrior books and reflects the typical action expected in fights between animals. However, the first chapter contains a brutal and graphic scene involving kittens that may not sit well with young readers who, if they have chosen this book, probably love cats. Even considering that this is “sci-fi violence” (to borrow a term from the movie industry), a greater respect for the sensibilities of the target audience would have been prudent.

See Also: Cathy's Wheatmark Page

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