Here at Kettle we seem to have a bit of a cat thing going on. No, really, you should see the cat puns and cat memes spreading amongst the Kettle team. Without really knowing where it’s coming from, it’s still managed to infect almost every section of the magazine so far, even the highbrow literary prowess of the Books section.
It’s spurred a couple of us to think about our favourite feline fiction from years gone by, and sparked my memory to the Warriors series by Erin Hunter.
Honestly, I have no idea how I lost track of these books, because the minute the memory came back to me I could recall every single plot and character of this young-adult fantasy series. I was probably nine or ten years old when I read these books, (a bit premature) but they were everything I’d ever wanted in a series. A Harry Potter cross Hunger Games style series, full of adventure, warring clans, myth, legend and, of course, kitty cats.
The Warriors series are the kind of books that get you completely hooked because you feel like you, and only you, are in the know about the goings on in this new world. This makes it utterly brilliant for kids to teens, because at that age we just love to feel like we’re a part of something a little different.
The stories start when Rusty, an ordinary house cat, finds himself in the forest amongst the clans of wild cats that live there. There are four main clans: ThunderClan, RiverClan, WindClan and ShadowClan. There’s also StarClan, which is where all cats go once they’ve passed on, and they watch over and guide the clans through their trials and tribulations.
Rusty agrees to join ThunderClan as Firepaw, and across the six books in the first series graduates to being Fireheart, then Firestar, leader of the clan. He battles Tigerclaw, the deputy leader of the clan who is trying to overthrow his leaders and cause general havoc, and eventually wins.
Clan against clan
Make no mistake, these books are for young adults but not for little ones. There’s a lot of blood and gore, particularly during battle scenes and the kind of deep, emotional struggles that would go straight over the heads of anyone under the age of about twelve.
The mythical aspect of the stories with the elements of nature and ancestral gods in the sky – referred to as Silverpelt – combine to make this an intricately woven set of books. It’s about war and honour and family, but it’s also about a community, and for Hunter to have created such a vivid, lifelike and believable community of cats is impressive in itself, without the exciting action plots.
The stories work because they make you want to be a part of the story, and you begin to feel fiercely attached to a certain clan – note that ThunderClan is the place to be, like Gryffindor in the Harry Potter series. If you’re a quieter kitten, you might be in WindClan or RiverClan, but if you’re a dark soul you’ll find yourself in ShadowClan, which is basically Slytherin with paws.
A never-ending tale
After the Warriors series, there’s another set of books called The Prophecy series that follows some of the younger cats as they are sent on a journey by StarClan. These are the descendants of both Firestar and Tigerclaw (remember him?) who comes to his kits in dreams and tries to persuade them to take over the clan again.
In and amongst this we’ve got prophecies, blood-stained lakes, a war against the badgers and forbidden love. It’s another jam-packed set of stories, combining fantasy with some truly adult problems and situations to make for a thought-provoking bunch of tales.
After a ten year (or so) absence from Erin Hunter’s work, I was surprised to research and discover how far the stories carried on, long after Firestar and his kin and kin of his kin have had their adventure and passed on. There are currently five sub-series from the original, including individual stories surrounding some of the characters and their own personal quests.
The website is a whole world in itself, with family trees (highly useful) and games and stories, showing the capability of novels like these to infect the imaginations of so many.
These are not the kinds of books I would pick up today, after so many years of university literature, but it turns out that Firestar and his friends hold a place in my heart and memory that I never thought even existed.
If you’re a cat lover, these might be the easy-read summer novels you’ve been looking for. Otherwise, definitely ones to introduce to your nieces and nephews for the future.
Now, have a cat meme. You’ve earned it.
What do you think of Warriors? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: Fernanda Dottling Borges/Flickr