The Guardians of Ga'Hoole
Book 13: The River of Wind

by Kathryn Lasky

Kathryn Lasky's The Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book Thirteen: The River of Wind

Book review by Monica Friedman

Ages 8-12

The Noblest Owls Journey to a New World Across the Ocean

Otulissa has received astounding news. A hermit-scholar friend of hers, the elusive Bess of the Palace of Mists, has deciphered some arcane scraps of writing and learned of a sixth kingdom of owls, an entirely unknown civilization that exists across the Unnamed Sea. Further, Bess has a map that explains how any owl can ride the high air currents and easily cross this vast sea in only two days. It is quickly agreed that King Coryn and the Chaw of Chaws must investigate. In addition, Mrs. Plithiver, the faithful old blind nest-snake with unusual perception, from whom no one can keep a secret, wants to come, too.

(Start at the beginning. Read Monica's review of the first Ga'Hoole book.)

Meanwhile, the evil owl, Nyra, has not given up on her quest: to find a little owl and transform it, using the vilest magic, into a horrible monster. To her great advantage, Soren’s young daughter, Bell, decides to go play in some dangerous winds, and gets blown far off course.

A mysterious blue owl, who gives his name as Striga, rescues her. He seems to feel that saving this one chick can help his expiate the sins of his past. Unfortunately, he’s not much of a hunter, or a fighter, or even a flier, for that matter, and he and Bell are soon captured by Nyra’s Pure Ones. Using a truth serum, they learn that Striga comes from this strange land across the unnamed ocean, and discover the secret of how to navigate there. Nyra renews her old quest: she will ambush the Chaw of Chaws in the Sixth Kingdom, killing Coryn and Soren, and be one step closer to her ultimate goal of possessing the Ember.

Just as the society of the Northern Kingdom differs greatly from that of the Southern ones, this Sixth Kingdom constitutes a strange, new world, one that Lasky creates with delicate brushstrokes, so that once again, the owls must learn to navigate a completely different terrain. This one has a strong eastern sensibility, with owls flying kites (knows as “chi”) and discussing their karmic debt (known as “phonqua”). Of course, Otulissa distinguishes herself by learning the language from scraps of ancient writing that Bess has discovered, so she is able to translate, but these Sixth Kingdom owls are surprisingly all too familiar with the language and the history of the Southern Kingdoms. In fact, they have been expecting the Chaw of Chaws.

There is another battle, whose outcome is predictable, but otherwise, The Guardians of Ga’Hoole Book 13: The River of Wind truly triumphs in its appealing and innovative depiction of the society of the Sixth Kingdom, a place where reincarnated hagsfiends live out their lives as useless figureheads, imprisoned by ridiculous feathers in caves full of gems, and mostly-bald monk owls study martial arts with peaceful intent. Although there is some creepy imagery associated with the “tumblebones” (dangerous air currents in the river of wind), compared to some of the more violent installments in this series, The River of Wind contains much that is lovely and delightful.

Read the review of Book 14: Exile.

Read more of Monica's  reviews.

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