This is an impressive book, and far from being a let-down or over-hyped it makes a good read, both for children and adults (it's not too gory for kids - at least, not for kids who live in the countryside and therefore know that nature is not all fluffy baby lambs or storybook farms). It is necessary in our over-protected urbanised society to learn about and face death, whether in human or animal kingdoms, and not hiding it behind layers of anodyne tinsel. Humans appear in the book as they do in the film "Ice Age" - (mostly) mute incomprehensible onlookers to the struggles within the Animal Kingdom, though the sequel promises more direct conflict between Man and Birddom. The endings of the two halves of the book both point to a higher purpose, not to simplistic "happy" endings. It is a good read for a Christian while not being overtly religious - Woodall is not so much the next Tolkien or Rowling as the next C.S. Lewis. (Although Rowling too makes her characters face harsh truths about the world, which is why her books are literature and not just junk.) It is definitely an epic quest, and Woodall has a good way of slipping supposedly irrelevant detail in and using it later on - as the seagulls realise. The idea of Fate chimes with my own spiritual journey - ironically I believe that I was "fated" to read the book. It is also a political book - it has echoes of Gormenghast with Slyekin and Traska taking the place of Steerpike - and Woodall, from his construction of a political system within Birddom would make a good and wise leader in a world where no-one in power seems to have any perspective and is too reliant on style over substance. It may be simplistic - and overly dependent on Fate - but it is a genuinely felt and powerful book nonetheless. Just the right size for light bedtime reading but offering a glimpse of the real natural world behind the gloss of modern life or the idealism of those environmentalists who have inadvertantly disrupted the balance of nature in the countryside with ill-thought out sentimentality for certain species. For an older child - say a young teenager - this is a very good introduction to the mechanics driving the unseen world and a powerful object lesson to anyone who either despairs that evil appears to be winning, or who in their own arrogance believes that they alone can bring down existing society and mould it in their own image.
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