Grass-eaters, meat-eaters, scavengers, predators and prey—all live together in the grassy savannah lands of Africa, more or less peacefully, following the ancient code of Bravelands. The primary rule of the Code: Kill only to survive. But things are changing in Bravelands, first among the lions where Gallantpride, headed by the male lion Gallant, is stolen by treachery and becomes Titanpride, ruled by an autocratic and cruel dictator. Then, things begin to go wrong among the baboons and among the great elephants, too.
“Windrider paused as the clamor rose around her. She swiveled her head. ‘Do you smell it, Blackwing? Do you taste it?’
‘The scent in the sky?’ He nodded once.
‘Do you know what it is?’ she asked him. ‘Something we have not tasted for our lifetimes, Blackwing, for though it is slow and constant, it happens so slowly it can’t be noticed.’
He tilted his head. ‘And now?’
‘Now it comes fast; fast enough to be dangerous. Change, Blackwing. What you smell on the Bravelands sky is—change.'”
I’ve never read any of Erin Hunter’s* Warriors series about clans of wild cats.Nor have I read her Survivors series of novels, which focus on the lives of wild dogs. She also has a third series, Seekers, about bears in the wild. I’m not really an animal person, although I have enjoyed the occasional animal book. Nevertheless, I would recommend Bravelands, at least the first book, Broken Pride, to all my friends and fellow readers who are animal lovers—and to those who love books set in Africa.
The animals in this book are somewhat anthropomorphized; they talk to one another, they plot, they plan. But the Code of Bravelands is similar to the unwritten “code” of wild animals everywhere. Predators kill only to eat. Animals, particularly male lions, fight to establish dominance. But there is no sin, no arrogant pride, no violence for the sake of violence. However, in this book, unlike on the real savannah of Africa, the animals take on some human characteristics. The title “broken pride” has a double meaning as the young lion cub, Fearless, sees his pride of lions scattered and has his own pride and self-respect also broken.
The balance of Bravelands has been disturbed, and only the combination of a lion cub, a young elephant, and a baboon can set it right. Maybe. If only they can figure out what has happened to make such horrible change come and what they can do to make things right. As I said, I haven’t read Erin Hunter’s other, very popular, books, but I thought this one was every bit as good as Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. The writing is adequate, and sometimes exceptional, as the author describes the beauty and danger of sub-Saharan Africa. (No human characters are in the book, and the place name “Africa” is never used.) And the characters and plot are memorable and engaging.
Bravelands #2: Code of Honor comes out in February, 2018 and takes up where Broken Pride leaves off. And, fair warning, I can see why Ms. Hunter’s books are known as a series, rather than individual books. The ending to Broken Pride is a cliffhanger, leaving the reader thirsty for more.
*It turns out that “Erin Hunter” is a pseudonym for six people: Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, Tui T. Sutherland, Gillian Phillips, and Inbali Iserles, as well as editor Victoria Holmes. They write these books in the series that I mentioned as a group—somehow.