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The Darkest Hour: Warriors #6    by Erin Hunter order for
Darkest Hour
by Erin Hunter
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The time has come. Fireheart, who joined ThunderClan as a 'kittypet' named Rusty, has moved up through the ranks to become apprentice Firepaw, warrior Fireheart, and then Clan Deputy. As this 6th episode opens, his Clan is leaderless after Bluestar's sacrifice of her last life to deal with a pack of dogs in A Dangerous Path.

Fireheart travels with ThunderClan healer Cinderpelt across the Thunderpath to the Moonstone, and a dream meeting with StarClan. As expected, they give him the nine lives that are a Leader's due (along with the traits it takes to lead well), the name Firestar, and the 'guardianship of ThunderClan'. But there's more and it's terrifying ... he's shown a future that includes a 'massive hill of bones ... many tail-lengths high'. Firestar is told that 'Lion and tiger will meet in battle, and blood will rule the forest.' Indeed, it will be the Clans' darkest hour yet.

When things turn black in the Forest, readers who've been following this series know that Tigerstar has to be involved. After unleashing dogs on his old Clan, Tigerstar has made an overt alliance between ShadowClan and RiverClan to form 'TigerClan', and also a covert alliance with very sinister, scary outsiders. Tigerstar incites treachery within ThunderClan, but it's balanced by help from Firestar's oldest friends - Graystripe who's back where he belongs once more, and Ravenpaw who long since fled Tigerclaw's malice, but returns when the need is greatest. There's also lithe, green-eyed Sandstorm, for whom Firestar's feelings grow ever stronger, and his hot-headed nephew Cloudtail.

We see Firestar develop as a strong, fair Leader, who soon faces a dire battle against what seem like impossible odds. There's a daring rescue of friends targeted by Tigerstar and his allies as 'the abomination of half-Clan cats.' And there's preparation for the ultimate battle that may be the end of everything that true cats believe in. But eventually Firestar's dreams of 'LionClan' come true, and he finds out that there really are five clans in the forest. The Darkest Hour is the best yet in this thrilling series of feline adventure, that also stresses the importance of caring and community.

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