Kathryn Lasky's The Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book Fourteen: Exile
Book review by Monica Friedman
Censorship, Fascism, and Mass Hysteria in the Owl Kingdom
In Book 13 of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, the Striga saves little Bell's life, but Tengshu warns him that there is no shortcut to redemption, and warns the band that the Striga's intentions and actions may be less than pure. However, Coryn and the Band, grateful for his help with Bell, welcome him into their inner circle and the community of the Great Tree. Now, however, the Striga has the King's ear, and begins to insinuate himself and his ideals into the fabric of their society.
(Start at the beginning. Read Monica's review of the first Ga'Hoole book.)
After a lifetime of enforced vanity, he wages a campaign against frippery and frivolity. At first, his influence seems limited to a club of young owls, who receive one of his blue feathers in exchange for a pledge to give up their vanities: jewelry and decoration. However, his plan is more detailed. Sending the Band off on a contrived mission to test some of Otulissa's weather theories, he begins to take over the tree.
The Striga, convinced that a "Great Scouring is coming, bringing death to all but a few," begins by destroying little things that bring little pleasures: necklaces, merit badges, and chunks of colored glass, but his sights are set much higher. The wonderful, bacchanalian Harvest Festival is cancelled, much to the disappointment of the owls. Soon Otulissa notices books mysteriously disappearing from the library, and the Great Harp falls into disrepair, as singing is declared a vanity.
While the Band travels the Southern Kingdoms, they soon discover that the Striga has been creating allies and spreading his influence on the mainland. They are distressed to discover Blue Feather Brigades burning not just necklaces, but books as well, and soon enough, the owls who refuse to give up their books are being put to the pyre as well.
In some ways, this story is more horrifying than the war tales that preceded it. The enemy is not angry or cruel, but seems kindly and helpful, promising great reward for the revocation of small liberties. He infiltrates, working from within and converts the King, rather than attacking from without and declaring his destructive intentions.
If it is a type of terror (at least for the lovers of books) it is also an inspiring tale. In homage to Ray Bradbury and the solution of the humans in his novel Fahrenheit 451, the owls who love books begin to memorize their favorite tomes. Congregating in a secret area called The Brad, they recite their stories aloud, ensuring that, while books can be burned, ideas cannot be destroyed. Thus, two factions choose their missions and determine what is truly important.
Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 14: Exile warns against a special kind of danger: the fear of free thought and the constriction of individuality. While this story steps outside the main arc, which has, for hundreds of pages, been leading up to a tremendous battle waged by Soren, the Guardians and the forces of good, against Nyra, a possible renaissance of hagsfiends, and the forces of evil, this penultimate novel is a strong offering in a series that warns against conformity and promotes valor and honor.
Read a review of the 15th and final Guardians of Ga'Hoole book, The War of the Ember.
Read more of Monica's reviews.
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