This is the first book the series of Guardians of Ga’hoole, and by the end, it shows. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s start at the beginning.
Soren is a young barn owl from the forest kingdom of Tyto. He’s only been alive for a few weeks in the tender care of his parents when he falls out of the nest and is snatched by the owls of St. Aegolius, what can only be described as an owl cult with eyes on conquering the other owl kingdoms. Along with an elf owl named Gylfie, Soren makes his attempt to escape and reunite with his parents, Kludd his older brother, and Eglantine his younger sister. On their journey, they meet Twilight, a great grey, and a burrowing owl named Digger; they even find Soren’s family’s nest-maid snake, Mrs Plithiver (Mrs P for short). Together the decision is made to find the Great Tree of Ga’hoole and get help from the Guardians that legends speak of.
It’s an okay enough plot that is, unfortunately, left unresolved by the end. The primary focus on escaping and then the forming of the team is fine enough, and the strings that have been left untied allow for future instalments to weave seamlessly into the story. It doesn’t feel wrong for the book to end where it does; there’s a good enough sense of resolution that your not going to be lying awake at night wondering what will happen next and enough left open that you don’t have to worry about how the next one will fit in either.
The main characters, Soren and Gylfie, are under-owls from the start; both were too young to learn how to fly when they were taken. And them being young, inexperienced owls looking for a way out is the cream of the story. Gylfie is the clever brains of the two coming up with most of the plans to learn more about their situation in order to escape. Soren is the heart of the duo; displaying glimpses of leadership and the ability to inspire others. The narrative mostly focuses on him, so we also get to see more of his doubts than Gylfie, but that does serve more to build on him as the heart of the team.
When it comes to discussing side characters in this story we have two pronounced divisions: secondary and tertiary characters. You can argue that most stories have this, but here I say it is more noticeable than a lot of stories I have covered so far. The secondary characters I would say are Twilight, Digger, and Mrs P because they are the ones being carried most prominently forward with our main characters Soren and Gylfie. Mrs P and Digger are pretty standard for the roles they occupy while I found Twilight an absolute delight. He’s the loyal, boisterous type that I love who will claw and sing his way to victory and celebrate the loudest afterwards.
There are a few good tertiary characters as well that I enjoyed, but Grimble stands out as one of the best characters of the book for me. I like the complexity of his character; he understands that he is assisting evil, but initially, sees it as the only way to keep his family safe and later does it solely out of grudging duty till the opportunity to betray his oppressors presents itself. He is the tragic hero of his story and an inspiration to our young main characters and myself.
There’s a certain charm to the story; it’s made for kids but not at the expense of children. It’s a well-done concept that doesn’t sacrifice good storytelling just cause the audience isn’t targeted at adults. The ideal audience for this book is certainly kids age 8 to 12, but I’m in my mid-twenties, and I enjoyed myself enough.