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A friend of mine asked me what I knew about the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Her kids had heard about the books from their cousins, and she wanted to know if they would be appropriate. I was curious too having seen them in my library with the paperbacks geared toward younger readers. I decided to read the first book, Into the Wild, and give y’all my thoughts.

In the tradition of Watership Down, Hunter has created an feline world with it’s own traditions, culture, customs and, possibly, religion. Rusty, a kittypet (house cat), joins the world of the warrior clans (feral cats) where he becomes Firepaw. He is challenged to prove himself and his loyalty to his new clan and friends. Fighting between the warrior clans, which can be quite brutal, is one of the main themes of the book. There are both good and malicious characters, and Firepaw quickly distinguishes himself as one of the good ones through his loyal and compassionate actions and choices. However, he is quick to physically attack those who mock him for being a former kittypet.

I’ll have to admit that I enjoyed this book more than I expected. I grew to like it as the plot thickened mid-book and as Firepaw grew as a positive character rather than just a cat who wanted to prove himself through fighting. I also appreciate the fact that Hunter does not dumb down the vocabulary in the book. If your child reads Into the Wild, they will be exposed to new words.

I do have some concerns about the amount of fighting in the book, especially the main character fighting just to prove himself. Though the author would probably argue that her characters are meant to be descriptive of feline behavior, your child will inevitably view an anthropomorphic animal as more human than otherwise. That’s where the danger lies. While feral cats understandably resort to fighting, even over small issues, this is not behavior we want our kids to view as natural or preferable. If your child is already prone to aggressive behavior, I would certainly not recommend this book. Here’s an example of the aggressive language in this book:

“At the insult, Firepaw felt a surge of fury. Just wait. He’d show this coughed-up furball what kind of warrior he was!”

I’m not against animals fighting in books, but the reason they are fighting matters. I feel that there are better books out there, such as the Redwall Series by Brian Jaques, where the main characters are fighting to protect and defend the weak rather than to prove themselves or over some hunting territory struggle. Or perhaps The Green Ember, which my family just began reading aloud together. The Guardians of Ga’hoole series would be another good option.

Also, maybe it’s just my library, but I’m also a bit concerned that this series is grouped with the shorter paperback fiction that draws the early to mid-elementary crowd rather than with the juvenile fiction where, I believe, it’s subject matter and pervasive violence should place it.

Overall, I’ll give the Warriors series a mixed review. It wouldn’t be a first choice for my kids to read, but if your non-aggressive older child is dying to read it, I wouldn’t be terribly alarmed either.

Have you or your kids read this series? I’d love to hear what you think.