Jun 12, 2018

Antar and the Eagles

by William Mayne

This book has a rather unique premise: a young boy refuses to go to school and instead climbs up to the church steeple, where his father is working on the roof. He is snatched by a golden eagle which carries him off to an aerie on the mountainside. There the boy is raised alongside the eagle chicks. It is a very uncomfortable life, needless to say. Several times he fears he will die. But gradually he adapts to his new situation, learns to stand his own against the aggressive eaglets, and starts to understand the eagles' communication. It turns out they abducted him for a very specific purpose: they have a mission only he can carry out, to rescue a special egg that was stolen. But first they have to teach him to fly.

It's rather weird and delightful all at the same time. At first I thought the dialog was rather stiff, and wondered if the text had been translated. But a brief reference to bison and a quick look at the authors' ouvre made me realize it's probably set in North America, in some unnamed, simple town. Further into the story I began to appreciate how real the characters feel, how very human Antar's reactions to everything, and the odd situations just made it more interesting. I was really not at all sure how the story was going to end. It has a few unexpected turns near the end- in part caused by the fact that the eagles nest close to an active volcano... . . .

Aside from the moment when the adult eagles pushed the young ones off the nest to make them fly, the behavior of the wild raptors in this book felt very authentic. Well, overlooking the fact that they talk to each other, and have a leader, and send a boy to save a missing egg... . . . It was quite a nice mix of fantasy and naturalism, and I liked the writing style enough that I will be on the lookout for other books by this author.

Rating: 3/5            166 pages, 1989

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