Review by Roz Gibson
The huge success of fantasy series for older children such as Harry Potter, Warriors and Wings of Fire has developed into an industry led by authors who hope their books are the next big hit. Luckily for fans of anthropomorphic literature, a number of these series feature animal characters.
Pride Wars is a recent series about a war between anthro lions and tigers, set in a typical feudal world with a vaguely African setting. It faithfully follows the major tropes of this genre: a bullied, socially outcast lead character with a hidden special power (who is also an orphan!), a scheming uncle, misunderstandings, and a hidden danger no one knows about. So if you’re looking for something groundbreaking and unusual, this probably isn’t it. But on the other hand, if you were simply interested in a decent yarn, you could do worse.
Leo (not a terribly original name for a lion character) is the bastard grandson of the current king, the son of his dead daughter and an unknown male. Despite this, he’s heir to the throne, which makes his uncle a bit resentful. The opening sequence shows Leo on his rite of passage—a life-or-death hunt against a venomous creature called a slaycon. Nobody expects him to survive the hunt, since he is small and not a good fighter.
When, through dumb luck, Leo successfully takes out the slaycon, he’s sent to an elite battle school to learn to be a fighter. Of course his cousin, daughter of the jealous uncle, is there and prepared to make his life a living hell. I was worried that this was going to turn into yet another “bullied kid at school story,” having to slog through chapter after chapter of Leo getting humiliated and beaten up. Luckily, he only spends a couple of days there before events beyond his control call him back to the capital city, where the plot really gets moving.
The lion’s society is shown to be strictly science- and reason-based. It’s a terrible crime to lie, and they consider fiction stories as lies, since they’re not true. But there are some people, known as "spinners" that have a magical compulsion to tell stories. Spinners are outlawed and reviled, and if one is discovered, their tongue is cut out, and they’re sent into exile. So of course Leo is a very powerful spinner.
Besides the involuntary need to tell stories, Leo’s magic is so strong that after each story a character from it appears to him, ready to do his bidding (a plot twist not unlike the Inkheart series). At first he sends them away, fearful of being found out, but later they prove to be valuable allies.
Forced into exile when his devious uncle seizes the throne after the death of his grandfather, Leo flees into the land of the enemy tigers, trying to avert a war that could destroy both sides. He is helped along by some wise elders and friends from the battle school, and learns the truth behind the long conflict that has divided the lands. Volume 2 ends on a cliffhanger (though it does answer some questions), and so far volume 3 hasn’t been published.
Because this is meant for a younger audience, there’s no adult action. There are plenty of battles and fighting, but no excessive gore. The book would probably appeal to people interested in stories with lion characters, or a younger audience. Readers looking for something unique or challenging (or adult themes) should probably look elsewhere. All that being said, I’m still planning to read book 3 whenever it comes out. The story did keep me reading, and that’s a success for any book.