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Firewing    by Kenneth Oppel order for
by Kenneth Oppel
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Firewing continues the fantastic saga of a bat colony. The first two books, Silverwing and Sunwing told the story of Shade, a young Silverwing runt who performed legendary exploits against cannibal bats. Along the way, he met and mated with Brightwing Marina. While Shade still has a strong role in Firewing, it is mainly the story of his newborn son Griffin. The latter is an engaging young worrier, who (like his father) questions everything, but tends to expect the worst.

As the tale opens, Griffin is soaring through the forest near the giant sugar maple, the nursery roost Tree Haven. He meets his fearless friend Luna and, attempting to show her and others that he is not boring, performs a reckless act with disastrous consequences. In hiding afterwards, Griffin is caught by a quake that opens a fissure, and he is sucked deep down into Cama Zotz's underworld. There he glows brightly, and discovers that others of his kind do not sparkle there.

In the meantime, his father Shade, south at Stone Hold with the other males, is anxious to meet his new son. Shade returns to Tree Haven to find Griffin missing, sets off on his trail, and also ends up glowing in the underworld. Father and son meet an assortment of bat species, including a friend for Griffin and an old nemesis of Shade's, out for revenge. Searching for each other, Griffin and Shade make their way through a bizarre and perilous land (the waterfall maze is brilliant) to Nocturna's Tree, which should take them back to the surface.

Griffin is a welcome addition to the series, uncertain and constantly worrying in a typical teen voice ... 'What we have here is a cave-in kind of situation' and later 'a slithering tendril kind of situation', but loyal and brave in defense of his friend. Even when frightened and in pain, he makes good choices. I look forward to seeing more of him, in the continuing battle against Cama Zotz and his cannibal cohorts.

If you haven't found this series yet, I strongly recommend it (my son's favorite of the three volumes so far is Sunwing). The series is excellent, both as a fantasy battle of good versus evil, and for its portrayal of echolocation and of a small bat's perspective on the world.

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