Wild Born is the first book in the new Spirit Animals series. This series has been getting all the buzz at local book fairs, and it’s easy to see why. In the world of Erdas, children drink special nectar after their 11th birthday; during this ceremony, sometimes a spirit animal magically appears and then bonds with the child. This is exactly what happens to our four heroes–in fact, their particular spirit animals are heroes in the local legends, which sets these kids up for quite an adventure.
The Devourer was banished centuries ago, but now his dark forces are gathering again. An ancient society calls upon the reluctant heroes to band together and search for a several powerful talismans. These objects may have the power to turn the tides of the oncoming war. The mini-quests for these objects and the long-term crusade to banish the destructive Devourer will likely make up the plot for the 7-book series.
The four children represent a politically correct smattering of cultures, including an aristocratic Asian girl, a working class European boy, a stealthy African girl, and an orphan American boy. They each have natural strengths and weaknesses, magnified by the new powers their spirit animals lend them.
The first novel is by Brandon Mull, but each book in this series will be written by a different author. The second book, Hunted (written by Maggie Stiefvater) will be published in January 2014, and I can’t wait! This isn’t the next Harry Potter, but it is the next The 39 Clues.
The book is accompanied by a free online game. The game reminds me of a streamlined, kid-friendly version of Skyrim. The gameplay is simple, but enjoyable. Below is an action shot of my spirit animal (Pip the Penguin) and me (Jose IceRider) battling against several tainted beasts–these unnatural creatures are the result of experimentation gone too far.
You can play the game for free without any purchase, but you can do more if you own a copy of the book (verifiable by a unique code imprinted on the cover). During the loading screens, Scholastic doesn’t miss an opportunity to remind you to fork over your money.
You can also interact with your spirit animal in your room. This reminded me of my old Tomagatchi–you need to feed, bathe, play with, and pet your spirit animal each day (but not each hour like with Giga Pets).
While nobody is going to be throwing away their X-Box after playing this game, it is a nice complement to the book. The interactive game may get reluctant readers interested in picking up the first book. Check out the book, and then give the game a try!