Monday, December 29, 2008
The she-cub Ratha and the other wild cats in her clan are called the Named. They are not just talking animals in an alternate prehistorical world. No, no, no. The Named are truly animals, but at the same time they are intelligent and have self-awareness. The Named have laws and customs. They have a society so advanced that they no longer hunt for their food. They herd dappleback horses and three-horns (which I assume are deer).
Ratha's Creature is the first book of the Named by Clare Bell. Readers are introduced to Ratha as a yearling and accompany her as she grows and matures. While still a yearling, Ratha discovers fire. The Red Tongue becomes her creature. But the others in her clan do not understand fire and so fear it and fear Ratha for being able to control it. Meoran, the leader of the Named, fears the most because he sees that Ratha can overthrow his rule by wielding the fire. Out of ignorance and rage, the Named cast out Ratha from the clan. Ratha is forced to fend for herself in the wilderness, hunting for her own food and protecting herself from enemies such as the primitive Un-Named cats.
I took my sweet time reading the clear and very vivid writing in Ratha's Creature. Still it seemed like some of the important scenes were a blur - like the characters were not given enough time to understand what was happening to them and the readers were not given enough time to absorb what was happening before they were all rushed to the next scene. On the flipside, Ratha's Creature is a page-turner that will not once bore readers.
Moreover, the Named and their society are very, very interesting. Ratha is absolutely fascinating. She is strong-willed, independent, clever (maybe too clever for her own good), imperfect, and very complex. She questions authority. She is sometimes rash and always adventurous. A strong female main character indeed. Equally fascinating are the many parallels between Ratha's coming of age and a human's coming of age. Ratha's growing awareness of herself and her body, of others, and of the world around her mirror a young adult's development. Ratha's discovery of fire and the subsequent disownment from the clan is an interesting take on the man vs. society theme in young adult literature.
I can't help but be curious and even anxious about the future of Ratha, the rest of the Named, and the Un-Named. I am eager to read Clan Ground, the second book of the Named.