Goth, the monstrous cannibal bat who plotted to kill the sun, may have been blown to bits at the end of Kenneth Oppel's Sunwing
. But this doesn't stop Oppel from including his arch-villain in yet another electrifying sequel to the bat saga he began in 1997 with Silverwing
. The most fantastical by far of the three books, Firewing
takes its readers on a breathtaking journey into a bat underworld ruled by Cama Zotz and his dreaded Vampyrum Spectrum. While cosmology has always hung in the background of Oppel's bat novels, in Firewing
the struggle between the sun god Nocturna and her dark twin Zotz finally comes to the fore. Oppel also introduces a new hero in Griffin, the "newborn" of Shade Silverwing and his mate, Marina.
As this visually thrilling tour-de-force opens, Griffin has been sucked down into the underworld through a suspicious fissure in the earth's crust. Pursued by his father, Shade, but also by the dead Goth who wants to steal his life force, Griffin makes his way over a bizarre landscape to a fiery tree planted by Nocturna. Naturally, he meets a host of memorable characters on his journey, including a giant bat with the face of a fox and Luna, a newly dead silverwing from his own colony, who ends up playing Marina to Griffin's Shade.
Oppel's underworld is a smoke-and-mirrors purgatory where dead bats are tricked into believing they are still alive and where the enlightened "Pilgrims," who seek passage to Nocturna's better afterlife, are despised as radicals. Drawing on ideas from Christianity, Buddhism, and other religions, Oppel constructs an intellectually stimulating fantasy world that will captivate readers as young as eight. --Lisa Alward
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-8-With this sequel to Silverwing (1997) and Sunwing (2000, both S & S), Oppel begins a second cycle in his bat-centered, metaphysical fantasy, rearing up a new generation of good guys to face the older one's villains. Regarding himself as a more cautious sort than his famous father Shade, young Griffin tends to gabble his way through difficulties: "All right? What we have here is a cave-in kind of situation. Perfectly straightforward." Plunged into a barren, starlit Underworld created by Mayan bat-god Cama Zotz, however, Griffin finds plenty of opportunities for heroism. A rare living bat in a land otherwise populated entirely by the dead, he picks up a plucky sidekick, Luna, then joins a motley band of "Pilgrims" journeying to a fiery place of promised rebirth created by Nocturna, rival Goddess of Life. Bent on rescuing his son, Shade follows, but ranged against them are not only the god of death, who has designs on Nocturna's realm, but also Shade's old nemesis Goth, a ferociously predatory bat killed (temporarily, as it turns out) in a previous episode. Plenty of rousing action; special effects on a grand scale; a leavening of humor as well as stimulating thoughts on the nature of life, death, the afterlife, loyalty, courage, honesty, and other essential topics more than compensate for iffy internal logic.John Peters, New York Public Library
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