Warriors: Into the Wild is the first in Erin Hunter’s extensive and expanding series. My nine year old son loves these books about clans of feral cats—he read the first six in quick succession, although he got bogged down in the super edition, Firestar’s Quest. Many of his friends have read and loved these books, too. And to some extent, anything that gets kids reading voraciously deserves some leeway.
All of that said, when I finally got around to reading the first book, I had some issues with it. I expected some fighting—after all, the title of the series is Warriors. However, it felt to me like the fighting was nearly nonstop. If the cats weren’t fighting each other, they were killing prey. Several of the minor characters die. Honestly, I’m surprised my sensitive boy didn’t have issues with this. He’s the reason I think it’s criminal that nature movies are often rated G even when they have graphic hunting scenes in them.
Overall it’s a fine adventure; it’s part of a long series which has certain advantages to it, since it can keep even a voracious reader in books for several months. My son has enjoyed parsing the cat vocabulary (Twolegs, Thunderpath) and naming conventions. He and his friends talk about these books and make up their own stories. It’s great to see him so engaged with something.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
The cats all live in clans that compete with each other for territory and prey. Although there are hints that the sectarian boundaries are fraying, in general you don’t trust cats who aren’t part of your clan. You also don’t trust cats who are part of your clan who seem too friendly with cats from other clans.
There are few female warriors—most of the female cats are queens (basically breeders, though they don’t seem to be considered lower members of society) or healers. There’s no discussion suggesting that female cats can’t be warriors—in fact, the ThunderClan is led by a female warrior—but most of the warriors are male, and most of the female characters are queens or healers. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. But the delineated nature of the clans and the roles within the clans bothered me a bit.
The disdain with which “kittypets” are treated bothered me. Humans are bad, keeping cats as pets is bad, getting cats neutered is bad, feeding cats packaged food instead of live critters is bad…reading these books certainly hasn’t made my son start trying to free our kittypet, but I wonder if we had a kitten instead of a 12 year old “old lady cat” if he would have issues with us keeping it indoors and getting it neutered. The idea that a cat’s natural state is wild and free runs through these books and it bothers me a bit.
Due to violence, character death, and generally dark themes, I’d suggest this for a mature 8 and up. I’ll be looking for opportunities to talk about some of these things with my son, but I’m not concerned enough to forbid him to read a series that has so obviously grabbed his attention.
Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
Published in 2004 by HarperCollins
First in a series
Read on Kindle