Spirit Animals: Tales of the Great Beasts by Brandon Mull and others

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Scholastic, 2014. ISBN 9781743628812
(Age: 7-12 years) Recommended. Tales of the Great Beasts is a special addition to the Spirit Animals series and acts as a prequel to the popular series. For those who are unfamiliar with the story this book could act as an introduction to the animals which feature so prominently, or round out the back story for those who have followed the series from the beginning.
Written as a series of short stories by a variety of authors we are first introduced to the villains of the piece, young King Feliandor of Stetriol who in his quest to become as popular as his parents is convinced by the Great Ape, Kovo, to drink the Bile in a quest to conquer all of Erdas. King Fel bonds with a crocodile and becomes the Reptile King. The appearance of Gerathon the giant Snake rounds out the evil trio, though it is clear that Fel has little control over the situation.
The next series of stories introduce the Great Beasts who come to be known as the Four Fallen. The stories recount how Jhi, the panda, Uraza,the leopard Briggan the wolf and Essix the falcon, join forces with young warriors to save Erdas in the first war which sees the rise of The Greencloaks who band together to defeat the Conquerors. Essix observes the battle from above having tried to convince the other Great Beasts to join the fight before finally succumbing to her injuries after engaging with Kovo and Gerathon. Reborn as a Spirit Animal the stage is set for the first book of the series.
Whilst there is some violence in the battle scenes, the emphasis in all stories is on developing relationships and teamwork as brave youngsters face their fears and join forces to fight for their families and way of life.
Sue Keane