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4.5 1
Middle Grade Fiction 40
A Must-Read Middle Grade Series
Overall rating
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Throw anything at me concerning kids being mystically chosen for some magical group and you’re pretty much guaranteed that I’ll instantly fall in love. Whether it’s Hogwarts newbies throwing on the Sorting Hat to determine their House, or Camp Half-Blood kids getting put into cabins based on their godly moms and dads, I go magnificently crazy thinking about what group I’d be best suited for. So when I was asked whether I would like a book about kids who are spiritually linked to specific animals in a quest to end a maniacal villain from world domination, the response was a resounding, “DUH.” “Wild Born,” Scholastic’s first book in its Spirit Animals series, is said book, and will have kids like me mulling over what animal they’d love to have accompanying them for the rest of their lives.

“Wild Born” is set in the world of Erdas in which eleven-year-old boys and girls drink from a mysterious nectar that aids in linking humans with their spirit animal. This link only occurs for a small minority of people, and “Wild Born” follows four preteens as they are linked to the most surprising animals Erdas has ever seen: the Four Fallen. This group of spirit animals sacrificed their lives to save Erdas from an evil enemy – the Devourer – centuries past. Many in Erdas thought the Fallen were a legend, but thanks to their linkage to four children – Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan – the people of Erdas are learning that the stories of the Fallen were true after all. Their return also signals the rise of the Devourer, or someone who supports his goals of destruction.

What I loved about “Wild Born” and the link the children have between their spirit animals is that the link is not predictable. Whereas children are chosen for their Hogwarts House based on clear cut personality traits like bravery, loyalty, or determination, the characteristics that drew the Fallen to these four children are not so obvious. Meilin, for example, is an expertly trained warrior, and has a difficult time bonding with her panda, Jhi, because Jhi’s just not as fierce or intimidating as Meilin would like. Rollan similarly receives the cold shoulder (or wing) from his gyrfalcon, Essix. While they are all bound by their cause to save Erdas, they are not necessarily bonded in friendship. The story arc of these children learning to bond with their spirit animals is something I really look forward to as the series progresses.

“Wild Born” is also a great introduction for middle grade readers into a medieval-like setting. Medieval speech and society definitely appears more formal than what kids experience today, but Mull delivers this with a middle grade mentality, allowing young readers to still relate to eleven-year-olds in a time that has no resemblance to our way of life whatsoever. This seems like a great stepping-stone for young readers into formal fantasy epics like “The Lord of the Rings.”

With this digestible medieval setting, middle grade adventure, and the potential for many a “who’s got the best spirit animal” conversation, “Wild Born” is a must read.
Good Points
Relatable protagonists for boys and girls.
Digestible introduction into more formal medieval writing.
Exotic animals from all corners of the earth.
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August 09, 2013
Why have I not heard about this before?! It's going on my TBR immediately.
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