The Battle Begins (Unnaturals #1)

The Battle Begins (Unnaturals #1)
Age Range
Release Date
October 06, 2015
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Castor has always been a stray, prowling with his pack in the back alleys of Lion's Head. That is, until the day that he's captured and taken to a dark laboratory full of terrifying creatures. They're called Unnaturals, and they're made to fight. Soon Castor is transformed from a mutt into a powerful beast with huge eagle wings—and he's thrust into the fighting ring. He knows he'll need all of his courage to survive. But it will take unexpected human and animal allies and something even more than courage for him to save the Unnaturals....

Editor review

1 review
For Warriors fans who like gaming
(Updated: August 07, 2015)
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Castor and his brother Runt are living with their pack on the ground level of a society where the air and environment has become poisoned enough that the well-to-do live in the sky. Marcus is one of these people, living with his parents and enjoying watching the Mega Monster Mash-up tournaments that have become popular. Even though his older brother, Pete, works as a medic for the animals, he thinks that these are virtual fights, and that the animals are not real. Leesa, however, knows differently-- her chihuahua, Pookie, was stolen and turned into a chihuahua/spider mix who fought in these televised battles. Castor also finds out how real these events are after he is stolen from the streets and experimented on until he becomes a dog/eagle mix and starts to train for the fights. Living alongside creatures like octopus/elephant mixes, Castor has to decide if he will turn into a killer or remain true to himself. With the help of the humans, the animals investigate ways that they might be able to break free for the horror of the games and make it to the elusive Greenplains.
Good Points
With its mix of fighting mutants and Dystopian setting, The Battle Begins has a lot of action and adventure. There are alliances, but human and animal, that need to be forged and then reexamined. There are vast conspiracies that are tantalizingly mentioned yet not quite resolved. Who exactly is making money off the fights? Why does Mayor Eris support them so much? Why are people kept out of the Greenplains?

I was surprised at the amount of character growth exhibited by Castor and the other animals. Castor is used to surviving in the wild, with his pack, but being brought into the Unnaturals makes him examine who he really is. Pookie serves as a cryptic adviser, and the two read Charlotte's Web together. Castor even tries to convince the other Unnaturals to fight the system and remain true to themselves. The humans also learn more about the society in which they live and their place within it. This philosophy is balanced well against the action, so never slows down the book.

Clearly, this series will appeal to fans of Hunter's Warriors books, and I've even seen blurbs saying that it will appeal to Animorphs fans, although considering that no new books in that series have been published for almost fifteen years, I doubt there are many young readers who are familiar with those! This series promises to be a nice mix of elements: Dystopia, animals, and games as well.
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