by Clare Bell
This third book of the Named series picks up where Clan Ground left off. Ratha's group of prehistoric cats are still battling for survival as they face a new threat: severe drought. Desperate to find new sources of water and more animals to add to their herds, the Named strike out exploring into surrounding territories. Thakur travels as scout to the coast, where he encounters the ocean for the first time. He finds some strange web-footed sea mammals there and even stranger still, a disabled cat living among them. This cat, who calls herself Newt, suffers not only from an old injury to her leg, but also an emotional trauma from her childhood which still strikes her with strange fits and terrifying nightmares. When Thakur arrives and befriends her, he begins a slow healing of both her physical and spiritual torments. But when the rest of the clan follows to settle on the coast, Newt must face the threat they pose to her livelihood as they begin to corral the "seamares" she scavenges from. And when she meets other clan members, Newt must finally confront the real terrors of her past.
The other face of this story is Ratha's. Not only does she struggle with living in a new environment, dealing with unfamiliar animals and the estrangement of her old friend Fessran, but she has to once again wrestle with the question of what makes the Named separate from other, less intelligent cats -especially when Fessran attempts to adopt an abandoned Un-Named cub and bring it into the clan.
Ratha and Thistle-Chaser has a lot of strong elements and themes running through it. The question of intelligence, the treatment of those who differ in their mental or physical abilities. Issues of controlling anger, child abuse, and the mis-management of animals whose needs are not understood. Unfortunately, the storyline isn't as compelling as Clan Ground or Ratha's Creature. The plot has some awkward points. I didn't feel as connected to or invested in the characters this time. And I was annoyed by the reminders of events from previous books in the series. I don't mind it when this is woven into story (with subtle remarks inserted into conversations perhaps, or things explained to a new character) or when it's relatively brief. But in this case the re-hash seemed to cover twenty pages, and I got tired of it. Nevertheless, I'm eager to continue and read the next story about the Named, in Ratha's Challenge.
Rating: 2/5 232 pages, 1990
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