Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Pretender (K. A. Applegate)

The Pretender
(The Animorphs series, Book 23)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
**** (Good)

NOTE: In honor of the re-release of the series, I'm finally posting individual reviews of the Animorphs books.

DESCRIPTION: When Tobias became trapped in a red-tailed hawk morph, nobody seemed to notice. His father dead, his mother vanished, Tobias had been bounced back and forth between indifferent relatives who hardly cared about him when he was around. That's part of the reason why, when the Ellimist restored his ability to morph, Tobias remained a hawk; even though he could morph to his old body, regaining his humanity at the cost of his wings, he had nowhere to go, nobody who wanted him.
Now someone's been asking about him at school. Some woman named Aria claims to be his cousin, and a lawyer says he has documents pertaining to Tobias's real father... who may not be the man he thought he was. This comes just as his life in the wild takes a turn for the worse, with a rival red-tail encroaching on his meadow and prey growing scarce. Tobias loves his wings, and doesn't want to sacrifice his ability to morph, to help fight the Yeerks, but somewhere deep inside his human self he yearns for a family he never had. Risk death and starvation as a hawk, or risk his heart as a human - which will Tobias choose?

REVIEW: This book seems to mostly be an excuse to relate information to Tobias that readers learned in The Andalite Chronicles, concerning his unusual parentage. It starts a downslope in the series, with some elements feeling forced: his sudden, crippling empathy for his prey, for instance, reads like a plot device, not a natural outgrowth of the character. Still, Tobias has always been a tragic character, the first casualty of the Yeerk war, so seeing him forced to suffer again isn't entirely unexpected. On the whole, it's fun enough, but not quite at the level of the previous books. (Then again, the David trilogy's a hard act to follow.)

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