My thanks to Penguin Random House Children’s UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
This is the first of a fantasy adventure series, the Endling series, (I’m not sure how many books it has). Byx, our ‘heroine’ is a dairne, a dog-like creature who has opposable thumbs, can walk on two legs, and can speak. Their most valuable characteristic is their ability to tell when anyone (human or otherwise) is lying. Byx is the runt of her small pack, who themselves are the last few of the dairnes left in their land, hunted by humans and constantly needing to move about. One day, just before the pack has planned to move on, Byx sneaks off to take a last look at the sea, in which process she ends up rescuing and befriending a much smaller creature, Tobble the wobbyk. When she returns to her home, she finds her pack has been ruthlessly killed and she is the last of the dairnes left alive, an ‘Endling’. Now she must set off on a journey, accompanied by Tobble, and a young human girl Khara, who has actually captured them, to look for a home, or rather a place where according to legend other dairnes once lived. While this isn’t a very straightforward quest and their path is riddled with danger, Byx and her friends soon find that what they are looking for and what they are fighting is much bigger than any of them had realised when they started off, and there are very few along the way that they can trust.
This was a very enjoyable read for me. While it may be set in a fantasy world, many of the issues it deals with and throws up are things that are very much a part of (and relevant to) the world we live in. Most important among them is inequality, not only between the sexes, but also between different living beings—certain species being dubbed (and treated) inferior simply because they don’t do things like others do. Then there is the more important problem—of humans’ destructive nature. Their greed for money, power, control, to demonstrate their superiority has led them to destroy everything around them, and then hypocritically mourning their loss after the damage is done. It is a characteristic of the humans in this fantasy world, as it is in our real world. [The fact that the book opens with a quote from Silent Spring pretty much conveys the message the book is trying to deliver.]
But coming back to the fantasy element, I enjoyed the world the author has created—fraught with danger though it may be—there are several interesting beings and places, all of which I thought very imaginative (there is even some language that she’s created for the different species). I would have preferred a map of the world to help me picture it better, but one was not included in the ARC. The main characters themselves are from different species who find themselves thrown together by circumstances, and who must learn to overcome their mistrust and understand each other for who they are. As a result, they develop some unlikely but strong friendships which was nice to see. The characters themselves are all very likeable, though I particularly found Byx, Tobble, and Gambler the felivet endearing, and liked the relationship that develops between them. The illustration of Byx and Tobble on the cover is pretty perfect, and is really cute too.
I liked that the author wrapped up the adventure (unlike some books which stop somewhat abruptly) although it is clear that the main quest will continue with more adventures and dangers along the way. Though this is classed as a children’s book, I think adults too would enjoy this read. Looking forward to the next instalment.
The author Katherine Applegate has previously won a Newberry Medal in 203 for her book The One and Only Ivan.
This book, The Last released on 1st November 2018.