This continuation the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series works to solve the mystery behind Ezylryb’s disappearance and learn more about the new dangers that surround them. But gathering information and learning about these dark forces are nothing compared to actually fighting them, and Soren and his friends might not be ready for what they’re about to face.
I give this book 3.5 stars (out of five). I really like this book and the series so far, I especially like the characters and how they all have developed personalities, characteristics and motivations. I also liked how throughout this book the author includes refreshers and reminders which are very helpful if you haven’t read the last book in awhile. Not just about the characters or plot but also about certain mechanics, plot devices or how specific things work. They also have a section at the back of the book that has all the characters listed along with information about them and how they’re relevant to the story. I thought both of those things were very helpful and am glad they were included, especially in such a long series.
In this review I’m going to do a very basic plot summary and then talk about my opinions and comments on this book.
At the Great Ga’Hoole Tree Ezylryb, Soren’s mentor and an important owl, is still missing. No one knows where he is and every search party has turned up empty handed. Classes continued without Ezylryb, and Soren and his chaw are getting experience flying through a storm.
However, instead of the tropical storm they thought they were flying into they ended up caught in a hurricane and having to stop in a nearby forest. This forest ends up being a Spirit Woods. It’s rumored that there are Scrooms there, Scrooms are like owl ghosts, owls that haven’t moved on to owl heaven yet, usually because of unfinished business. But that’s only brought up because of the few younger owlets there, they have to stay the night there to wait out the storm. So they divide themselves up and the olders owls go hunting for food, when the sun starts coming up they go to sleep and take turns doing watch.
Soren gets up towards the end of the day for his watch, but something weird happens. He sees two misty owl figures, at first he doesn’t know what’s going on but he can talk to them. They were his parents and they were warning him of something, caleb Metal Beak. The problem is Soren has no idea what that is and his parents quickly faded away.
Back at the tree Soren didn’t tell anyone about the Scrooms right away, he wasn’t sure of what had happened or if anyone would believe him. Soren visits the Smith owl Bubo and asks him about Metal Beak, Soren finds out Metal Beak isn’t a thing but an owl. He’s a bad and dangerous owl, called Metal Beak because he wears a metal beak and mask on his face during fights and no one knows who he is or even what type of owl he is. Soren is especially shaken by this information because his parents were trying to warn him so something bad is almost certainly going to happen and Ezylryb is still missing. While Soren and Bubo are talking Bubo mentions Rogue Smiths, but Soren didn’t know what that was and Bubo had to explain them. They’re owls live alone and isolated, they make and sell weapons. He talks of The Rogue Smith of Silverveil and although Bubo specifically tells him not to visit her or get any ideas, that’s exactly what he does.
Soren relays all of this information to his band of Gylfie, Digger, Twilight and Eglantine. They decide to fly to Silverveil and try to find the Rogue smith to ask her about Metal Beak and Ezylryb. They’re planning on sneaking away during the Harvest season Festival coming up, Eglantine also wanted to come but Soren was worried she wasn’t quite strong enough or ready.
When the night of the festival came everyone was celebrating and dancing, they started to fly away one by one and met at the cliffs. Soren went first and the others joined one by one, but Eglantine still wasn’t at the cliffs after all of the others had gotten there. A few minutes after everyone else had arrived Eglantine joined them but she brought Primrose (another owl they’re all friends with, but not a part of the band) with her. But Soren couldn’t let Eglantine come along, because she showed she wasn’t ready by telling Primrose and sharing that private information. So they both flew back to the Tree and the others continued on.
After nesting for a day they flew on and ended up in Silverveil. When they got there, they all scattered a bit and went looking for the Rogue Smith owl. They know she’s a Snowy owl so in the darkness she shouldn’t be hard to see, but they can’t find her even after hours of looking. Until Digger decides to switch from scouting in the air to scouting on the ground, since he’s a Burrowing Owl he can walk a lot faster and better than the other owls. Not too long into exploring on the ground Digger runs into an owl, who doesn’t really want visitors. Digger found The Rogue Smith of Silverveil and he went to get the others right away.
They soon found out that she’s actually Madame Plonk’s, an older Snowy owl who lives at the Tree, sister and she welcomed the band into her forge. During their conversation she shares her whole backstory, Octavia, Ezylryb’s blind nest-maid snakes at the Tree, wasn’t born blind and was from the Northern Kingdoms, Ezylryb has enemies, an important t past and Metal Beak wears his mask because he got his face torn off in battle.
Gaining this information was crucial and gave them more clues to help solve the whole mystery; Who’s Metal Beak? Where’s Ezylryb? Are the two connected? But it came with a price, they were caught and they missed an extremely important part of the Festival. There were festivities that were a surprise to the new owls, a sorting and award ceremony as well as holding the special ceremonies for the owlets that had only recently arrived at the Tree. Including some ceremonies for the younger owls including Eglantine, Soren feels horrible for missing something so important.
[Spoiler warning, skip to the last section to avoid them.]
Using the information they’ve gathered so far; the fact that describing castle walls of The Rogue Smith of Silverviel’s forge triggered Eglantine’s memory and knowing that Ezylryb and The Rogue Smith of Silverveil both knew Octavia, Soren decides to sneak into Ezylryb’s hollow and search for more clues as to why he might’ve disappeared. But while Soren and Gylfie are looking around inside they discover a hidden room within the hollow filled with rusted battle claws (owl weapons). Octavia slithers in on them and starts to explain, Ezylryb is not Ezylryb’s real name, it’s Lyze of Kiel.
During the next conversation Octavia shares her entire backstory as well as Ezylryb’s, she explains how he lost one of his talons and how she lost her eyesight in battle, and even how they both eventually ended up at the Great Ga’Hoole Tree.
The next day Eglantine is having trouble sleeping, she’s having a bad dream and Soren and the other owls in the hollow wake up to try and help her calm down. But it isn’t just a dream it’s part of a memory, a few months ago in the Great Downing tons of owlets were found seemingly randomly dropped in a forest and none of them could remember anything. Eglantine was able to regain her memory because of a shiny object that jogged her memory. From her dream and using something similar Eglantine is able to remember more about where she was rescued from.
It was a castle in a forest and there were owls there trying to control the owlets similar to at St. Aggies, they hated music, they thought Tyto owls were better than other types of owls and Metal Beak had been there and was working with the other owls. From Eglantine’s memories they were able to decipher what the Great Downing was. The Owls from St. Aggies came to the castle and snatched a bunch of Owlets, the other owls followed them and they all fought in the sky. During the battle many of the owlets were dropping and fell, that’s why when the owls from the Tree found them it seemed like they had just fallen out of the sky.
Now knowing all this Soren’s plan is for them, the band who all have experience and skill in different areas, should fly out to where Eglantine was found and see if she can find the castle from memory. They were planning to go with just the five of them but another owl Otulissa eavesdropped on their conversation and wants to go with them. She’s very smart but annoying, Soren overlooks that and lets her join because she’s skilled, smart and would probably be a good addition. And with that they planned when to leave and set off.
It takes them a while but when they finally find the way to the castle, things seem off. It’s very quiet and there’s no sign of other owls, Gylfie the smallest owl, goes to check it out first. When she gets back she brings confusing news, the castle is empty. The band goes inside and starts looking around the castle, while exploring Gylfie stumbles upon something Eglantine says was called a Shrine, but it’s empty and the Sacred Flecks of the Shrine Most Pure are missing.
The band is able to determine that inside the Shrine were the same kind of flecks from St. Aggies, which have a strong magnetic force. Otulissa knows more about this and explains what she calls Higher Magnetics and how an owl’s brain could become completely muddled by the flecks. Eglantine reveals that there are three bags of Sacred Flecks which are now missing and Otulissa also knows about something called Mu Metal.
Metal Beak would normally be in danger from the flecks strong magnetic force but mu metal is a type of metal that can block magnetic fields and the doors of the shrine were made of it. And they guess that Metal Beak’s mask and beak are also made of mu metal. Soren asked what would happen if the three bags of Flecks were placed in a triangle around a certain space, that would disorientate any owl and essentially trap them. Otulissa also knows that fire can destroy the magnetic fields from the Flecks.
Once again they have a plan, to pick up some coal from a nearby forest fire since Soren and Otulissa are colliers. Using the mu metal from the shrine door as a makeshift shield to protect themselves they’ll be able to fly without getting lost. After getting the coals they started flying around looking for the bags of flecks. When they started getting confused they started using the mu shield and knew they were heading the right way. Digger and Gylfie were flying and walking lower to the ground, while Digger was walking out of the bounds of the magnetic field he spotted the first bag of flecks.
Using great teamwork they managed to knock the bag out of the tree and drop one of the coals on it, effectively setting it on fire and getting rid of its dangerous magnetic field. They repeated this process a second time with another bag of flecks. While the chaw was flying around trying to find the third bag of flecks, Gylfie suddenly spotted Ezylryb on a nearby tree. After that they finally found the third bag and burned that one too. Just as the owls from the Tree were reuniting with Ezylryb Metal Beak and his gang called the Pure Ones attacked them.
There was a full on battle, Twilight began singing one of his battle songs as Metal Beak attacked him, this completely confused and startled Metal Beak since he hated music. Out of nowhere two other owls from the Tree appeared, Ruby and Martin, two other young owls from Soren’s chaw. The odds were looking better for them, as they started using the coals and fire offensively. A few of the Pure Ones fell ill to the fire while being distracted by Twilight’s singing, one of the owls went yeep meaning their wings stopped working and they fell, and Martin dropped a coal on them.
Towards the end of battle the Pure Ones were losing, owls falling back and losing their ground. The final battle was between Soren and Metal Beak, teaming up with Twilight and Ruby Soren was able to get a burning branch under Metal Beak’s mask when he was distracted. Soren knocked his mask off and was shocked to see …. Kludd! His brother was Metal Beak and he was trying to kill him. Soren was confused at first but quickly refocused. In the last fight, Kludd was defeated by Soren’s flying and fighting skills and smart strategy. He flew off into the night with his surviving owls, shouting how he was going to kill Soren and the other impure owls. They were all obviously shaken after the fight, but mainly Soren and Eglantine. They both just saw their brother for the first time since they were very young and he’s now trying to kill them. They all head back to the Great Ga’Hoole Tree and everyone there is delighted to see Ezylryb back again.
[Start reading here if you’re trying to avoid spoilers.]
Throughout this book which is told from a 3rd person point of view but centers around Soren, there’s a lot of instances where other characters seem to read Soren’s mind. I think this is just something that older owls and nest-maid snakes are able to do but I think it happens so much that I think it should be explicitly stated that certain owls are actually able to do that and it got repetitive or seemed like it was more for plot convenience at certain points.
I think that there was some really good foreshadowing and all the backstories explanations were done in a good way where everything makes sense, even if the characters are getting all the information in dialogue. I also thought the ending and twist were very well written.
I don’t really think it makes sense that none of the other owlets from the Great Downing were able to remember anything. Considering that when most of the owlets got back to normal none of them remembered anything, but Eglantine’s memory was triggered quite easily. I think it’s more plot convenience that Eglantine was able to remember and no one else could.
There’s also some racism among the owls and that is certainly portrayed as a bad thing. I was thinking since this series is meant for kids it could be trying to teach a lesson about that or use it in this story in a reflective way. I think if that’s what the author is trying to do then it’s ultimately a good thing but it should still be handled and written in a reasonable, accurate, respectful and responsible way because it’s still racism even if it’s between different species of owls in a kids book.
And something that bothers me about this book and many other children’s stories is that they sort of glorify and romanticize not telling adults important things and information. Lots of main characters in kid’s stories keep information to themselves and try to fight the villain on their own and succeed. But in real life kids should go to adults with vital information instead of trying to solve the problem themselves.
When I was younger I really enjoyed this type of book because the young main characters are solving their own problems and helping others by doing it, but now I realize that it can give off the wrong message to young readers and potentially influence them in bad ways. Kids do need to learn to solve their own problems and deal with conflict, but some examples in books are too extreme. This is why I think even if the characters just considered telling the adults or older owls in this case, it could’ve been a better example for the kids reading. There was no reason why Soren shouldn’t or couldn’t tell the older owls what they found out, so that they could plan a rescue team with older more experienced owls. But he didn’t even consider it and jumped right to taking action himself, this is why I think that’s a problem and something that could be improved in stories like this.
Overall I really liked this book, it was another good installment in the series. The plot twist was very well done and I really liked all the characters, how they expanded the story and explored lots of characters’ backstories. This definitely felt like it was setting up something big so I’ll have to find out what happens next in the fourth book. I would recommend this series to any young readers, especially those who like animals and very different fictional worlds.