From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—The story of Darkwing
is set 65 million years ago, during the early Paleocene era just years after the enormous C-T dieback event. Dusk and his family are chiropters, small arboreal mammals that glide and feed on insects. Changes are coming to their world, and not the least of them are Dusk's abilities of flight and echolocation. Although his family stands by him, most of the colony is very uncomfortable with his flying, fearing reprisal from the birds that live above them in the trees. All concerns about Dusk's oddities or their avian neighbors are swept aside when an outcast prowl of felids, led by the bloodthirsty Carnassial, attack the colony and Dusk's special abilities help to guide his fellows and keep them safe. During their search for a new home, his quick wits are all that stand between the colony and disaster. In their quest, the chiropters encounter deadly predators, from saurian holdouts to shrewlike soricids with poisonous saliva. Betrayals from both within the colony and without add to the excitement in this adventure. Readers will feel for Dusk as he decides repeatedly not to abandon his colony, despite their treatment of him. In Darkwing
, Oppel offers a celebration of difference in addition to a wonderful imagining of a pivotal moment in evolution. An author's note highlights some of the actual fossil species that appear. One cautionary note—the descriptions of animals eating each other may be disturbing to sensitive readers.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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*Starred Review* In his Silverwing series Oppel spun a contemporary fantasy about the world of bats. In this ambitious new stand-alone fantasy, he turns the clock back 65 million years to imagine the world of the bats' earliest ancestors, which he calls "chiropters." These tree-dwelling creatures are flightless, using their wings (which they call "sails") to glide through the air, from tree to tree. Only Dusk, youngest son of the colony's leader, has made an evolutionary leap; not only can he fly, he can also see at night, using echo vision. Predictably, the others regard him as a mutant to be shunnedall but his father, who wisely considers his son's differences as gifts. Dusk's real nemesis, however, is a beast (a "felid") called Carnassial, who is the first of his kind to be carnivorous and, like Dusk, is shunned by his own. Clearly the world is poised on the brink of remarkable change, and the future belongs to these two. Oppel writes with keen insight and empathy about the condition of being "other" in the context of a richly plotted, fast-paced story thatthough sometimes too heavily anthropomorphizedis captivating reading from beginning to end. Cart, Michael