This is the thrilling fourth installment of Soren’s story with the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, this time the band of owls are working to discover more about St. Aggies, the evil school for orphaned owls and the Pure Ones, a group of owls working against the Guardians and lead by Metal Beak. Soren and his friends must go undercover as spies at St. Aggies to gather more information, but things don’t go as planned and they find out they aren’t the other owls who can spy.

I give this book 2.5 stars (out of five). I have some critiques for this book, although overall I don’t have any problem with the story or where the plot is going but because at least in my opinion the writing quality and style changed a lot compared to the previous books in this series. There were a few chapters that felt incomplete, I’m not calling it a first draft but it didn’t feel as developed as the rest of the story.

I’m only going to get into the plot minimally because I’ve decided generally going forward with this series not to give in depth summaries, mainly because they take a while to write but also because there’s wikis you can read for summaries and I’m mainly here to talk about my opinions. Also in this review I’m assuming you’ve already read the earlier books in the series or have knowledge of the series, so I’ll only be giving spoiler warnings for new things from this book.

Starting off at the Great Ga’Hoole Tree there’s some stuff happening, one of the rybs Dewlap is trying to stop the younger owls from reading a book about Flecks that Otulissa wants to read. This disagreement was taken to parliament and settled that way.

The main plot starts when the Chaw of Chaws (Soren’s band) gets a secret mission to go undercover at St. Aggies and act as if they’re lost owls from the Northern Kingdoms. Once there they’re supposed to act as if they’re moon blinked and gather information from the inside, figure out what’s going on in there and report back.

It was a long process, getting into St. Aggies and avoiding being moon blinked but once they made it they started spreading themselves out within the academy and learning more about how it worked and what was going on. Turns out they weren’t the only spies, there were also infiltrators from the Pure Ones who were also pretending to be moon blinked and working to secretly sabotage St. Aggies by putting flecks in the nests of unhatched eggs to mess up their minds before they hatch.

But then there’s another plot twist, the Higher Up owls take an interest in Otulissa; we find out that there aren’t just spies at St. Aggies there’s also double agents! Owls who originally came as spies and are now working with St. Aggies, feeding the Pure Ones false information and playing along. This means that the head owls at St. Aggies also know about the spies and who some of them are, they’ve already put things into action to counteract the infiltrators.

Otulissa is let in on this secret in exchange for more knowledge and information on flecks, higher magnetics and science that they don’t understand. Otulissa gives them false information but builds their trust and after gaining enough information they start planning their escape. Firstly, they all get jobs in the hatchery since it would be the easiest to escape from. Their plan was to have one of the owls who sit on the eggs complain about the actions of one of the double agents, expose them and start a fight between the spies and double agents, and then b able to sneak away turning the chaos of the fight.

[Spoiler Warning, skip to the My Comments section to avoid them.]

However it didn’t go exactly to plan, since some of the older and higher up owls rushed in right away and started attacking the Chaw of Chaws. But they managed to get out anyways using multiple methods of distracting and disorienting the other owls and fighting back. {I’m skipping ahead a bit here, in the period of time that I’m not covering Soren overcomes a potentially serious injury with the help of some old characters from past books, which gives more of a sense of how these character’s paths have crossed and been intertwined. }

By the time the Chaw of Chaws get back to the Tree there’s much more commotion, the Pure Ones have lots of owls ready to attack the Great Ga’Hoole Tree and are only holding back because of the bad weather. This gives the owls at the Tree some time to prepare and plan for an attack on the Tree.

My Comments:

This paragraph has spoilers and won’t make sense if you haven’t already read this book, but I wanted to highlight that I was super happy to see Hortense back. I was sad when it seemed like she died but I’m glad she’s still alive and able to be a recurring character. Although I was initially impressed that books for relatively young readers would kill off a character. Also seeing Finny, an already scary character from the first book, be revealed as a cannibal is just um unsettling to say the least.

Looking back through the book I couldn’t find the exact places where I was unsatisfied with the writing but it was within the first ten chapters or so. I just generally noticed it wasn’t the same as it had been throughout the rest of the series, I didn’t think it was terrible but there were some moments where there definitely could’ve been more description or even just filler, it felt sort of rushed and like it was more a list of dialogue and movements than a story in some places.

I really appreciate how even though this is an entirely fictional series it’s based on real world facts and written by someone with an extensive knowledge of many different types of owls. I also really liked how the book opened not by starting with the main characters but with a completely different perspective, I thought that was really smart, especially since the ending of the last book was intense.

Overall I really wish this series wasn’t broken up into shorter books, there’s 15 books in this series and two extras, that’s seventeen books in total at about $10 CAD each. All these books are about 200 pages long, but my main problem is that in every book in the series there’s so much summarizing of everything that’s already happened or recapping or things again that it gets extremely repetitive.

To the point where I feel like a good amount of each book is just recapping things that happened in the previous books, sometimes this is done well like when explaining certain concepts or details but it’s also not done very well in some places. I have a friend who absolutely loves this series and bought every book available. I know the price might be different for a longer book but overall I think this could be a way to make more money out of this story.

I know these books are for kids but I really wish the author had just made them longer and then there would be a lot less need for recapping. Also not to make assumptions but when I see series as long as this where all the books are short it just feels like trying to make more money or publishing deadlines, but the books are reasonably priced I just think this series could’ve been made a lot better and less repetitive as a whole by making the books longer and reducing the need for summarizing. This might just be my opinion because I prefer longer style books, I find the re-explaining very annoying while reading the books and since I’m an older reader I might be able to remember things from book to book better than younger kids would.

Another thing I noticed about the series overall is that it does a good job of keeping consistency, it’s almost like in the Harry Potter series. By the end of the year Voldemort will try to kill Harry, it’s the same thing here by the end of each book some major conflict or fight will happen. There’s always a good climax, and I think it’s good to have a sort of system or cycle in a series this long, although it is also good to mix it up and add changes and exceptions to that.

In this book we also get a lot more background on Klud and more time with the Pure Ones, not that I liked that as much but it’s a good thing for the series overall since we can have a better understanding of who the antagonists and their motivations are.

Generally I liked this book and the series so far, I love the concept and as the plot constantly thickens I get more and more into it despite being older than the target demographic. I’d definitely recommend it to younger readers, especially those into animals, birds and owls.