Spirit Animals: Wild Born, by Brandon Mull
Genre: Children's Fantasy, appropriate age range 8-10.
Reason for Reading: Brandon Mull is one of my favorite authors, and so of course I had to read this book as soon as it came out.
In children's eleventh year, they undertake a ceremonial transformation into adults by calling their "spirit animals." Most children fail to call any animal at all, but none in history have ever called one of the Great Beasts. So when four children call the spirits of the four Great Beasts who died years ago in a brutal war to save humanity, the kids are quickly swept up into an adult world of conspiracies and danger.
This is an adorable first book in a series. It is appropriate, both in maturity and reading level, for an 8-10 year old - and it would be equally enjoyable to boys and girls. The children's adventures are exciting, but not violent or scary. Some interesting questions of ethics are brought up: for instance, should we support the people who have always been in power and who appear to fight for "good," even when they haven't ever helped us?
I look forward to the rest of the books in the series.
Although this book was in no way overtly religious, it definitely has the savior vs. super-powerful-creature-of-evil allegory which is common in epic fantasy. I doubt there is any explicit religious intent with this allegory, and I think it's fascinating how this allegory slips into our literature so smoothly. It seems that our minds are programmed to search the world for saviors and for physical manifestations of evil. One could as easily interpret such naturally occurring patterns either as the cause or the effect of religious beliefs. I mean, it's as easy to say that we search for a savior because in our hearts we know He is out there as it is to say that we believe in a Savior because that's the mechanism our brains have developed to cope with life's difficulties. But whichever way you believe (and most people have an opinion on the subject), it is undeniable that we crave such stories.