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Endling #2: The First Paperback – Illustrated, April 7, 2020
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“Themes of truth, sacrifice, and unity are pitted against that of corrupt power fueled by murder and ideas of species superiority. Applegate’s commentary on the need for diversity and understanding is clear but not heavy handed. Byx must learn to lead herself—and readers will follow without hesitation.” -- ALA Booklist
“Endling: The First has so much to offer: suspense, drama and deep emotion, not to mention high stakes. It’s set to be the book of the summer.” -- New York Times
Praise for Endling: ★ “Applegate effortlessly constructs her fantasy world, briskly moving readers through its imaginative details while creating winning, unique characters. This epic series starter is a bracing, propulsive read that will be a challenge to keep on the shelf.” -- ALA Booklist (starred review)
★ “Fantasy lovers are in for a treat with this smartly paced, enthralling adventure. The heart and courage Byx and her companions must find as they stand up against unimaginable odds will inspire and delight. A sweeping fantasy epic that will have readers clamoring for a follow-up.” -- School Library Journal (starred review)
★ “Applegate skillfully builds a fully realized world of intrigue and wonder without ever letting up on the story’s quick pace. Themes of genocide, conservation, and magic are interwoven, providing thought-provoking questions for astute readers. A savvy choice for readers of fantasy.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
★ “The gripping first installment of Applegate’s new fantasy trilogy assembles a motley crew in a suspenseful, tautly drawn quest. Persuasive emotional underpinnings give depth and urgency to the adventure as the team unites against sinister forces.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Endling: The Last blends careful and often lovely prose into a wild, fast-paced fantasy. Readers will fall in love with Byx and race with her through Nedarra, breathless and eager, thinking deeply all the way.” -- New York Times Book Review
“The first book in a new series, this volume will whet readers’ appetites for more of Byx’s fascinating world and the next stage of her quest. Give this to lovers of animal fantasies and environmentally minded readers.” -- Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Praise for The One and Only Ivan: ★ “Will capture readers’ hearts and never let go. A must have.“ -- School Library Journal (starred review)
★ “Exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
★ “Animal-loving youngsters and their adults will find plenty of food for thought in Ivan’s extraordinary story.” -- Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
From the Back Cover
IN BOOK TWO OF KATHERINE APPLEGATE’S EPIC FANTASY ADVENTURE, BYX WILL BECOME THE FIRST TO LEAD A REVOLUTION.
Byx never expected she’d be the first.
The first of her pack to befriend a human.
The first to defy the ruler of their kingdom and live to tell the tale.
Byx always feared being the last dairne. The endling.
Now she is the first to journey into the unknown.
And the first to uncover a deadly secret.
She will become the first to change everything. BYX fears she’s the last of her kind, the endling. But legend tells of a place with a hidden dairne colony. So she’s on a journey into the snow-covered mountains of the country of Dreyland to find them, along with her friends:
Brave and resourceful KHARA,
Wise but deadly GAMBLER,
and RENZO the magical thief.
As the threat of war grows across the lands, they will face untold dangers at every turn. And when a treacherous plot that could bring both Byx’s dreams and the creatures of their world to the brink of extinction is revealed, they may just become the unlikely leaders of a rebellion.
- Publisher : HarperCollins; Illustrated edition (April 7, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006233557X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062335579
- Reading age : 8 - 12 years
- Lexile measure : 720L
- Grade level : 3 - 7
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.12 x 0.83 x 7.62 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #10,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Not the "fantasy" genre, but the "kid's book" genre. It's modeled for ages 8-12, which is too bad. I suppose it's because of the character types. One doesn't exactly picture a walking, talking golden retriever and a teddy bear sidekick as REAL characters... Which is too bad, because Byx and Tobble are very much full characters that could have fit into a novel not relegated to a young audience.
I think it's because of the characters and the shoehorned age group that this book suffers most. It's a children's book, but you can tell by the context that this isn't a book for children. I don't know if it's because of the editing or the actual writing; I'm tempted to believe the former, as the story is quite solid and interesting. But the execution leaves something to be desired.
Part of this is because KAA has a strict policy of not coddling people to the effects of war. This was true in Animorphs, which she noted after a controversial ending (which I don't agree with--fiction is a place to, at least in part, escape some of the harshest realities), and it's definitely true now. And this is where I don't know if the story suffers from an editing problem or not. KAA has always had morality lessons within her narrative, but in this case, the entire story grinds to a halt several times to deliver some vitally important moral nugget like "stealing is bad."
By this, the second book in the trilogy, it also becomes painfully apparent that this series needed to be much longer in terms of pages. Either that, or it needed to have several important events removed from it. While the first book had decent pacing, the second book suffers from trying to stuff way too much into a limited number of pages. It's also limited by the first-person point of view, as some of the events should be told by a different character. Furthermore, major events sort of get truncated in order to fit more events into the pages. This leads to long periods of "travel time" followed by extremely quick and unsatisfying payoff. And because there's so much happening, the event for which the series was specifically written feels lackluster and almost mundane within the sea of other major plot points.
And in the second book, a major character is introduced with no preamble and all. He's just suddenly in the story smack in the middle of the book, and I'm not sure whether I should care for him or if he's destined to die off. (More on that later.)
Speaking of the characters, I do like them. They start out with very original voice and goals, and they do pursue those goals faithfully. The problem is, their voices slowly meld together. Their quirks kind of homogenize and if one character speaks, whatever they say could almost be said by a different character. They end up with the same morals and temperaments and apart from their physical actions, they don't really feel like individuals. There's also one particular character whose actions don't make sense; he's used as a plot device to advance the story several times, then he dies.
Which brings us to character death. As I stated before, KAA has a preoccupation with the gritty realism of war. In her letter to fans post-Animorphs, she made it very clear where she stands on that front--war is bad, and the effects it has on people are long-lasting and aren't just dismissed with a Happily Ever After. While this is true, you have to walk a very fine line between realism and alienating your audience. I will maintain, and have believed since Animorphs ended, that you can both make a true statement and be completely wrong within the context that you are making it. In fiction, you can both highlight the terrors of war while giving your characters some semblance of a happy ending, especially in children's lit.
Still, I'll grudgingly accept that the end of Animorphs was reasonable, even if I don't personally agree with the execution.
The point is, she tries to do the same thing in the Endling series, but--as I previously stated--there's not enough pages in which she can do this. What she wants to do is to make us hurt for a character we've come to love. The problem is, there's too much happening, so I cannot love or even care much about the characters that die. There isn't enough time to build up their story or their personality. In one case, she gives us a character, starts to make us love him, then almost immediately kills him off as a plot device to show the protagonist and the reader Just How Bad War Is. And this could have been salvaged, since the protagonist does talk about mounting a rescue, but the characters just sort of collectively decide that, nah, they'll move on instead. It's very anti-climactic and disappointing.
To be fair, I feel like space is being left open for this character to return in a soap opera style reveal. However, the casual dismissal of his fate is (I believe) meant to evoke the horrors of your buddies dying in war. It falls flat when the characters simply care nothing about his loss. More time should have been spent on this. Again, there is a difference between storytelling in fiction and real, actual war. Don't punish your readers because you want to keep things real. You already have a talking dog and magic. Bend reality a little bit.
The reason this has three stars, and the reason I'll read the conclusion to the series, is that the story itself is fantastic. It's standard fantasy in the realm of Redwall, but it has its own unique twist and I really do care about the fate of the main characters. Despite its many frustrating shortcomings, it is well worth the read.
Applegate's writing does bring up difficult situations, such as death, which some parents may be uncomfortable with. However, it has not had a negative impact on my son and it has spurred some excellent conversations that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to have with him while he is still young enough to be influenced by his parents over his peers.