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VOYA Review of Ratha's Courage
Bell, Clare. Ratha's Courage. E-Reads 2007. 368p. $8.99. 978-0-670-06170-9.
Ratha, a prehistoric cat, has a long and venerable history, from the publication of the now classic Ratha's Creature (Atheneum/S&S, 1983/VOYA October 1983) to the current fifth installment of The Named. Picking up where the previous volume left off, readers find that the big cat is the clan leader of the Named. Overseeing the communal life of this complex group comprised of herders, fire-keepers, and nursery attendants is job enough. But her revolutionary daughter's innovations continue to create consternation as they promote change. In addition, Ratha decides to attempt rapprochement with the clan of True-of-Voice, a cat whose tribe is ruled with a type of groupthink called the Song. When a herding and skill demonstration goes disastrously wrong and the power of the Song becomes manifest, the full potential for inter-tribal strife becomes clear. The creation of a renegade splinter tribe group from True-of-Voice's clan and the tragic theft of live coals from the Named trigger a war.
The narrative oscillates between deep description, world building -- an amazing array of visuals, smells, and kinesthetic responses -- and action, with some ruminative passages providing background. The characterization is successfully realized, rich in nuance, and alive with individual quirks and humor. The skill of the writing is not in question, but knowledge of the prior books in The Named series is necessary to appreciate the narrative fully. This installment is a must purchase for collections in which the previous books circulate, but those without may want to invest in a copy of Ratha's Creature before buying the later books. -- Ann Welton.
3Q . 3P . M . J. S