‘Endling: The First’ is the second book in the heartwarming and thoughtful Endling series

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Don’t miss Katherine Applegate’s newest series, “Endling,” consisting of the first book, “Endling: The Last” and this book, “Endling: The First.” Applegate’s genius is her ability to write a book filled with adventure and endearing characters, and at the same time use the beliefs and lessons learned in the stories to teach readers about kindness, compassion, and above all, justice.

With the Endling series, Applegate enters new territory as she describes in terrible detail the end of a species, presented with a specific purpose. Main character Byx is probably the last dairne in the world, her small pack having been killed by the Murdano’s soldiers. The Murdano is the evil ruler, who, like many in power, has an aversion to telling the truth. Byx, and all dairnes, have the instinctual ability to know when someone is telling the truth or not. This angers those who want to lie with impunity.

So the Murdano had set out to destroy the dairne species. And in the first book, “Endling: The Last,” it appears that Byx might just be an endling, or the last surviving member of an almost-extinct species. But in this book, Byx sets out with her friends to find out if there are, indeed, other dairnes. Byx’s character grows and matures over the course of the two books. It’s only in this second book that Byx becomes a true leader in her own right.

Over the course of the book, readers will be forced to consider questions of great import. Tobble, the wobbyk, who often serves as the conscience of the group asks, “Is my life more important than that of a struzzi? Just because I am cute and cuddly?” They discuss this question and larger questions of what happens during war, and Tobble comments with the truism, “It’s just so complicated. Nothing is black and white. It’s all shades of gray.” And Khara, the human leader of the group responds, “But don’t let the complications stop you from taking a stand, Tobble. When you know in your soul that something is evil, you must fight it. But you fight with honor. With mercy. With fairness.”

Applegate’s prose is poetic, and she has that marvelous ability to convey feelings and thoughts in words that clearly and beautifully define the character’s emotions.

“It’s a dread that stuns me with its ferocity at odd moments, then dulls to an ache, one that throbs like a broken bone, badly healed. A fear I’ve grown accustomed to, one that travels with me day and night: my ugly, inescapable companion.”

Byx has the first book and part of the second book to watch Khara, a true leader, and to learn from her steadfastness, her strength of character and purpose. And in this second book, Byx becomes a leader, much as Khara is a leader. Byx learns the triumphs and the travails of leadership and the heavy responsibility of having the very lives of others dependent on one’s decisions. Byx is not perfect, and her decisions are not always perfect. But make no mistake, she becomes a leader.

The series is filled with imaginative new creatures. In Byx’s new pack are Gambler, a felivet, which is a large cat, cunning, intelligent, and loyal; Tobble, the aforementioned wobbyk; two humans, Renzo the thief and Khara the leader; and Renzo’s dog, known as Dog. The six become family, and they are loyal and willing to sacrifice for each other. They all want to find more dairnes for Byx, but they have another mission as well. They must stop the forces of evil, including the Murdano, and even graver danger from the country of Dreyland to the north. There, the Kazar Sg’drit is killing and forcing other species into slave labor for his insidious plans.

Will the small group of friends be able to overcome the larger and more powerful forces of evil? The path they take is littered with the bodies of those who did not survive the journey or the dangers, and it’s probable that more will fall to violence before the upcoming war is over.

This book is perfect for middle grade readers, young adult readers, and adult readers. All will enjoy the adventure, the fantasy, the thoughtful nature of the journey that Byx and her friends take. Don’t miss this series!

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Harper, the publisher, for review purposes.

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