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Book Review

This fantasy adventure book by Brandon Mull is the first in the "Spirit Animals" series published by Scholastic Inc.

Wild Born is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In the world of Erdas, children participate in a sacred coming-of-age ritual at age 11. Each child drinks a sip of a special nectar and hopes to be able to summon his or her own spirit animal. The people of Erdas believe that when human and animal unite, the greatness of both is multiplied. People with strong bonds to their spirit animals are able to develop powers and significantly enhance skills they already possess.

Eleven-year-olds Conor, Abeke, Meilin and Rollan each live in different corners of Erdas. Conor is the servant of a noble. Abeke lives in a remote village. Meilin is the wealthy daughter of a high-ranking general, and Rollan is an orphan, recently jailed for theft. At their nectar ceremonies, each summons an animal. They're not just any animals: They are the reincarnated spirits of some of the world's 12 Great Beasts, known as the Four Fallen. The great wolf Briggan appears to Conor. Abeke receives Uraza, the leopard. Meilin gets Jhi, the giant panda, and Rollan receives the falcon Essix.

Olvan, Lenori and Tarik are members of a sacred order of spirit animal keepers called Greencloaks. They send representatives to Conor's and Meilin's nectar ceremonies and immediately invite them to join the order. Abeke and Rollan are approached at their ceremonies by a man named Zerif. He vilifies the Greencloaks, accusing their leaders of keeping the nectar from the people in certain regions of Erdas. Rollan immediately distrusts Zerif, but Abeke follows her father's orders and goes with the man. Greencloaks find Rollan and invite him to join them. He goes with them since they have offered to provide for him, but he remains skeptical of their secrecy. He refuses to take their vows until he has spent some time with them and has been able to think it through. Meanwhile, Zerif has his assistant Shane befriend Abeke and help her learn to bond with Uraza (the leopard).

The Greencloaks explain why they are eager for the children's help. Olvan recounts a war centuries earlier in which the four nations of Erdas battled an enemy called the Devourer. Two of the Great Beasts sided with him, and four, the Four Fallen, sided with the Greencloaks. The Devourer was defeated. The other nine Great Beasts got involved briefly at the end of the war. Since that time, the primary concern of each Beast has been to protect his own powerful talisman. Olvan believes the Devourer is back, intending to collect the Great Beasts' talismans so he can harness their power and become the ruler of Erdas. He believes the Four Fallen have returned to help save Erdas. The Greencloaks need the Four Fallen and their human counterparts to help collect the talismans before the Devourer can.

With the help of former-Greencloaks-turned-explorers Monte and Barlow, Tarik, Conor, Rollan and Meilin set out to find a Great Beast and track down the giant ram Arax, arriving at his lair just before Abeke, Zerif and his soldiers. A battle ensues for the ram's talisman. Abeke finally realizes that Zerif is the Devourer's henchman. She gets the talisman and helps the Greencloaks defeat Zerif. She later becomes a Greencloak. The four children prepare to collect more talismans and battle for Erdas with the help of their spirit animals.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

Nectar ceremonies vary by region and include superstitions and rituals. People with spirit animals sense a powerful, unfamiliar energy in their bodies when the animal is aiding them. A person must bond with his or her spirit animal to develop powers. If bonded, a person can borrow energy from the animal in times of need. People can keep their spirit animals hibernating on their bodies in the form of tattoos when they're not using them. Jhi the panda has healing powers and heals Rollan's battle wound.

Meilin's father tells her that he's foreseen that she will summon a spirit animal. Meilin doesn't know whether her father has visited a soothsayer or seen the vision himself. Zerif says a wise woman foretold that Abeke would call a special spirit animal.

A jailer scolds Rollan for being almost 12 and not having had his nectar. He says a person who is supposed to receive a spirit animal bond and fails to do so may become mad, ill or die. A man in the jail tells Rollan he had a spirit animal and it died. He says the absence is so great that he would have rather lost a limb.

Lenori is called a gifted visionary. Her foresight showed that the Four Fallen beasts had returned. The Greencloaks tell the children they will be rewarded if they explore the connection they have with their animals. They tell the kids their dreams may be prophetic. They urge them to have waking visions so they can provide the Greencloaks information glimpsed from afar. When urging Conor into such a vision, Lenori tells him to relax and allow his connection with his animal to take him into this dream. Olvan criticizes the government of Erdas, saying it just enforces laws and participates in human squabbling. By contrast, he says the Greencloaks are gifted with something beyond the concerns of man because they receive spirit animals. He believes it is their responsibility to protect Erdas.

Each of the Great Beasts protects a unique talisman, a totem that houses great power. Abeke prays that the talismans of Arax will aid her. With the talisman, she finds her power is increased fourfold.

Authority Roles

Abeke's father worries her disobedience will mar the family honor. He turns her over to the stranger Zerif without much deliberation, which deeply saddens Abeke. Rollan's mother abandoned him. Conor's father rented him out as a servant to pay off his father's debts. The Greencloaks promise the kids good lives in exchange for a vow of loyalty. Zerif tries to trick the children into helping him and the Devourer.

Profanity/Violence

The book includes several battle scenes, hand-to-hand combat and some blood. The nondescriptive violence involves both people and animals. Animals shriek in pain as men seeking an alternative to nectar experiment on them.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Theft: Some of Rollan's friends steal to survive. He doesn't like to steal and avoids it at all costs. He goes to jail for a theft one of his friends commits.

The "Spirit Animals" books promote Scholastic's online Spirit Animals video game. The books include codes readers can type in online to gain rewards in the game. Players create their own character, summon their own spirit animal and learn how to bond with and train it so they can harness great power working together.


This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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