by Clare Bell
If you've read my Out of Love post, you'll know that a long time ago I was enthralled with Clare Bell's first two books, then a bit disappointed in the third and fourth ones. I was sad that I could not find any more of her books to read (this back when I was in high school). So I was thrilled when the author herself recently offered to send me a copy of her new book, Ratha's Courage. I wanted to re-read the rest of the Named series before opening the new book, to have the entire story fresh in my mind, so Ratha's Courage has been sitting patiently on my bedside table for many weeks, just begging me to open it.
It was worth the the wait. Smoothly continuing the storyline, Ratha and her clan of big cats become even more involved with the foreign tribe of mammoth-hunters who don't speak but have some kind of telepathic group mind. Attempting to befriend their strange neighbors and at the same time protect their resources from competition becomes difficult, as Ratha and her friends still struggle to understand the hunter tribe and their often unpredictable behavior. When the hunters give Ratha's clan some of their young "face-tail" animals, the Named cautiously approach the idea of sharing their use of fire in return. But this plunges them into a series of catasrophic events, with attacks on the Named in a manner no one could have forseen. One of the most intriguing new cats introduced in this novel is called Night-who-eats-stars, a member of the mesmerized hunter tribe who seems to also have the power of individual thought, who never speaks but haunts the Named with a serious threat they can sense but fail to understand until it's almost too late...
I really enjoyed the depth of characterization in Ratha's Courage, adding further dimensions to the feline personalities I first met back in Ratha's Creature. Here Ratha and her daughter both wrestle with their strongest emotions -love- Ratha struggling to accept and embrace love, and Thistle facing challenges to a love she's just recently come to know. Other characters have a significant part, but the story is mostly told from Ratha's perspective- with all the depth of feline senses and gestures that filled Bell's earlier novels. It doesn't shy away from the rawer details either- addressing very frankly how Ratha and her kind struggle against their animal instincts when it comes to mating behavior and fighting to defend their territory. They continue to use their intelligence to adapt, finding new techniques for handling animals and using resources. I was glad that the ending, while wrapped up nicely, left a lot open to continue the series. I really hope Bell writes another one, because I can't wait to read what happens next to the Named, especially the mysterious, fearfully brilliant Night-who-eats-stars.
If you're curious about the world Clare Bell has created, visit her website here. There's pages about the prehistoric mammals featured in her books, and lots of other information.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 368 pages, 2008
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