Kathryn Lasky's The Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book Four: The Siege
Book review by Monica Friedman
Spying Owls, Fighting Owls, Dying Owls, Persevering Owls: Owls at War
At the end of the previous installment of the increasingly action-packed Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, the scarred and fearsome Metal Beak has been unmasked as Soren’s sociopathic older brother, Kludd, and even more grossly marred by his fight with Soren. Book Four opens with Kludd, his face having caught on fire, being nursed back to health by a Pilgrim Owl of the Glauxian Brothers of the Northern Kingdom, eventually demonstrating that no good deed goes unpunished where Kludd is concerned.
Bottom line: Kludd is alive and well and more determined than ever to utterly destroy his little brother’s intolerable niceness.
(Start at the beginning. Read Monica's review of the first Ga'Hoole book.)
Meanwhile, spies are everywhere as the different owl factions desperately try to figure out what the other owls know and what they intend to do with their knowledge. Following an act of literary censorship in the Ga'Hoole Tree, Soren and his Chaw of Chaws are entrusted with the vital and terrifying task of returning to St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. Armed with their bravery, their knowledge, and the ever-important legends of the Ga’Hoolian cycle, they are charged with figuring out how many spies are hiding at St. Aggie’s, and how secure the supply of precious flecks might be from those infiltrators.
Book review: The Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Book 4: The Siege
This book continues to reveal tantalizing details while maintaining the original sense of suspense that makes the series so successful. The philosophies and practices of the Pure Ones are illuminated a little more clearly, as is Kludd’s meteoric rise to the pinnacle of that organization. (Hint: behind every evil male owl is a female owl of equal or greater evilness.)
With so many spies—or slipgizzles, as the owls call them—infiltrating here, there, and everywhere, and inexplicably switching sides, no less, the fact that the Pure Ones have begun amassing their numbers on Cape Glaux is being reported from all quarters. The intention is obvious: Cape Glaux is the most strategic launching point for a siege on the Island of Hoole.
Once Soren and the Chaw of Chaws complete their mission at St. Aggie’s, bringing intelligence on slipgizzle activity, spreading misinformation about flecks, and leaving chaos in their wake, they just have time to escape death once more, meet up with some old (and presumed dead) allies, and return to Hoole to defend their home.
What follows is a battle worthy of JRR Tolkein. With owls. All the birds must work together to rout the enemy, identify the slipgizzles in their midst, and tolerate the privations of war. There will be blood, and death, and the outcome is not assured.
The violence of the story is balanced by the righteousness of the protagonists. While the Guardians stand for peace, education, and equality, the Pure Ones’ doctrine of ethnic cleansing is an evil that cannot be tolerated. This book advocates fighting back in self-defense, not only in the spirit of self-preservation, but also for the good of those who cannot fight for themselves. The Guardians of Ga'Hoole appear to be all that stands between the Pure Ones and the massive genocide of their dreams, making this series an excellent metaphorical illustration for young people of the true meaning of war along with the true meaning of equality. As Soren’s beloved teacher, Ezylryb says, “We know that one breed or species of owl is not better or more pure than another. We are all of us sisters and brothers in owlkind.”
Fighting for the sake of fighting is wrong. Fighting in service of hatred is wrong. The Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book Four: The Siege demonstrates these real and adult truths. However, Soren and his friends cannot stand idly by while innocents are slaughtered. Although they do not wish to fight, they must fight to protect those who need protection. Their careful monitoring of the situation is due diligence for an inevitable war that everyone hopes will not happen. The Pure Ones, well aware of the Guardians’ position, are determined to bring the war to Hoole, destroying all opposition to their cause, while the Guardians are determined to heal the world. The story ends with Soren’s once snooty friend Otulissa beseeching him to take charge of the future: “Dream, Soren, dream. Dream your starsight dreams. Dream for your life, dream for our lives. Dream for the Guardians of Ga'Hoole.”
Continue to Book 5: The Shattering.
Read more of Monica's reviews.
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