Sunday, November 09, 2008
Want to know what I am reading these days? ;o) Check out this press release from Imaginator Press!
Kept alive by fans, critically acclaimed teen fantasy series returns after 14 year absence
Ratha’s Courage, book five in Clare Bell’s acclaimed teen fantasy series, the Named, was published in October by Imaginator Press. Ratha’s Courage is the first new book in the series since 1994. Although the books have been out of print for over a decade, loyal fans of the series kept it alive, and teen fans were instrumental in bringing the series back to life.
Ratha, the fiery female leader of a clan of sentient prehistoric cats, ruled from 1983 to 1994, when the fourth book in Bell’s Named series was published. The series, set 20 million years ago in a fictional version of Miocene epoch Northern California, earned recognition from critics and fans for its well-realized characters, thought-provoking themes, and vivid sensory depiction of a harsh prehistoric world through the eyes of a cat. The first book, Ratha’s Creature, won awards from the International Reading Association, the PEN Center, and was a Locus awards nominee. Three of the books were selected for the ALA’s Best Books for Young People List. CBS Storybreak created an animated episode from Ratha’s Creature, which aired in 1987.
Although the series eventually went out of print, it never really died. Loyal fans kept it alive on the nascent Internet, with fan discussions, fan art, and Ratha role-playing sites. Through the fans, Ratha came to the attention of Sharyn November, Senior Editor, Viking Children's Books and Editorial Director of Firebird Books, who created new reprint editions of the original four books, with stunning new cover art by Christian Alzmann. November also suggested to Bell that she write the book which became Ratha’s Courage, but due to the vagaries of the publishing industry, November was unable to publish the new book.
Young fans once again came to the rescue, bringing the book to the attention of Sheila Ruth, publisher at Imaginator Press, through her Wands and Worlds fantasy and science fiction web site. Ruth loved the series, and quickly reached an agreement, through Bell’s agent, Richard Curtis, to publish the new book. “I’m really excited for the opportunity to publish Ratha’s Courage and to help bring the series to a whole new generation of fans,” says Ruth. “I think that today’s teens are going to love Ratha.” Ratha seems to inspire that kind of devotion among everyone who reads the books; with 44 reviews on Amazon.com, the first book, Ratha’s Creature, has a perfect five-star rating.
Recently, children’s literature magazine Horn Book recommended the Named series for older fans of the Warriors series in their electronic newsletter. The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter, is a highly popular children’s book series about clans of feral cats living in the forest. Although the target age for the Named series is a little older than that of the Warriors series, there are enough similarities that Ratha has strong appeal for older Warriors fans and for teens who have outgrown Warriors.
In Ratha's Courage, the Named attempt an alliance with the clan of “face-tail” (mammoth and mastodon) hunting cats introduced in Ratha's Challenge. The hunter clan's group mind, known as "the song," and strange, frighteningly effective unity, fascinates yet repels the independent-minded Named, creating a dangerous potential for conflict. When her own daughter, Thistle-chaser, pleads for the Named to understand and accept the hunter clan, and the Firekeepers Fessran and Bira add their voices in support, Ratha must find a way to bridge the gap.
The Named attempt to share herding skills and the gift of fire with the face-tail hunters, but things go terribly wrong. A herding demonstration becomes a disaster when it reveals the inflexible nature of “the song,” and deaths by fire unleash an uncontrollable splinter group from the hunter clan. The contrasting values of two very different cultures lead to misunderstanding, tragedy, and war. Ratha learns that reaching out to others, especially when the chasm is so wide, takes true courage.