by Clare Bell
Ratha's Challenge continues the story of the Named. In this book, Ratha's group of intelligent cats has found a new prey species- woolly mammoths. But when they try to capture an individual, they discover the "face-tail" herd is protected by another group of clan cats, ones who seem to have a unified consciousness and follow their leader with fierce, mindless devotion. Ratha and her friends struggle to understand these new cats who walk around in a trance: are they like us? are they intelligent? can we be justified in just taking what we want? Thakur is willing to approach them slowly and try to communicate; Ratha sees them as inferior and wants to use fire to force their dominance. The only one who might be able to bridge the gap, by willfully entering the trance her fits often bring upon her, is Thistle (of the previous book). But that path seems fraught with danger for Thistle, as her subconscious is still haunted by old fears... As the Named struggle to understand the presence of different kind of intelligence in the strangers, Ratha and Thistle work their way through a painful reconciliation.
I enjoyed reading Ratha's Challenge more than Ratha and Thistle-Chaser. The storyline felt much tighter and suspenseful, with some interesting and unexpected turns in the plot. Coming to know the depths of Thistle's character and Ratha's fears brought these feline beings sharply to life. I still miss something from the first two books, which seemed to have more vivid details of the environment and went deeper into the characters' animal nature. But I'm looking forward to the fifth book, Ratha's Courage.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 231 pages, 1994
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