Kathryn Lasky's The Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book Two: The Journey
Book review by Monica Friedman
Soren and Friends Begin Their Training among the Brave Owls of Ga’Hoole
Book two of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series begins pretty much where book one (also reviewed by Monica) left off. Soren, along with his companions, Gylfie the elf owl, Digger the burrowing owl, Twilight the great gray owl, and Mrs. Plithiver, the blind snake who was his nursemaid as an owlet, are flying north, hoping to reach the Island of Hoole in the Sea of Hoolemere, where the Guardians of Ga’Hoole live in the Great Ga’Hoole Tree, flying out each night to undertake brave deeds.
Despite certain naysayers who insist that the Guardians of Ga’Hoole are a mere myth, pointed questions about whether the owls are truly a band and must stick together regardless of circumstance, and some surprising obstacles along the way, the group, tired, cold, and struggling through nearly white-out blizzard conditions, is at last escorted the final leg of their journey, by a pair of snowy owls, Boron and Barran, the leaders of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole.
Life in the Great Ga’Hoole Tree is far different than the terror they knew at Saint Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, but it is not entirely all they have expected, either. Young owls like Soren and his friends are required to undergo extensive training before they may assist in any brave deeds, and, as at St. Aggie’s, they are not allowed to choose their jobs, but must accept the paths laid out for them by the rybs, the older, wiser owls who serve as their teachers. Of course, some of the other students are obnoxious snobs, and some of the teachers are creepy. Also, there are poop jokes. Still, there is plenty of food, a cozy, moss-lined hollow where they can live together, and even a place for Mrs. Plithiver to continue serving the noblest of birds.
Soren is assigned the job of collier, an owl who swoops through forest fires selecting burning embers to feed the owls’ forge, and undergoes the rigorous training, which involves not only a familiarity with fire, but also a detailed understanding of the most abhorrent weather conditions. Although he feels, at first, that this is an ignominious assignment, he soon comes to understand the glory of his position.
This book begins to answer some of the questions posed in the first novel. The meaning of the mysterious flecks, the fate of Soren’s little sister, Eglantine, and the existence of something far worse than the travesties of St. Aggie’s are all examined to various degrees. The relationship of the owls’ world to our own reality is also hinted at, with the suggestion that human beings have done themselves in long ago, and that owls, as the wisest and noblest of birds, have inherited the best part of our legacy: metalworking, harp music, and sun catchers made of colorful bits of debris.
The real thrust of the series still seems like an unspoken secret. That there is an enemy more terrifying than the cannibalistic owls at St. Aggie’s is assured, as is the fact that St. Aggie’s is not the only institution in the business of kidnapping and brainwashing young birds, but the nature of this threat is kept hidden from the heroes, who are soon too busy rescuing baby owls and carrying hot coals to do as much poking around as they’d like.
Guardians of Ga’Hoole Book Two: The Journey builds on the strengths of the first book and comes out, overall, as a more powerful story, which both answers questions about the past while posing new questions for the future. The storyline improves on the slower-paced Book One and leaves the reader hungry for further revelations in Book Three.
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