My rating: ★★★☆☆
With The Burning comes the end of the series’ focus on Soren, the Band, and the Chaw of Chaws. (At least so far as I’ve read at this time of writing, which is up to To Be a King. The focus changes again after that, but from where we seem to be going, it looks like it’s going to be Coryn’s story from The Golden Tree to the end.) It’s a massive disappointment, of course, as the Chaw of Chaws was the single best aspect of the story. As a matter of fact, they’re just about the only aspect that make any sense.
Exhibit A: The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, an ancient order of owl-knights, act like they don’t have any more experienced or trusted warriors than the adolescent protagonists. The King and Queen, the teachers, all the other Guardians–they all leave every important aspect of the story up to the main characters with zero in-universe justification.
Exhibit B: Kludd’s initiation into the Pure Ones inexplicably demands the murder of a family member, ignoring the fact that there couldn’t be a more counterproductive method of proving one’s worth; if the Pure Ones want to build a pure race/society of Tyto Albas, why would they purposefully kill off the potential breeders?
Exhibit C: There’s no sense of time flow to the series. The narrative skips over massive periods, giving off the impression that only a few weeks are passing. And then a single line will suddenly clarify that years have gone by without so much as a nod.
Exhibit D: The protagonists are just as prejudiced and ruthless as the antagonists, and yet the narrative never once hints at the possibility that maybe the war isn’t as morally black-and-white as the protagonists think. When the protagonists do something, it’s good. When the antagonists do something, it’s bad. No one questions this. Not the snakes that the protagonists have enslaved. Not the other birds that they spend so much time insulting. Not even the vultures that Twilight threatens to maim (in order to get them to join the Guardians in fighting the Pure Ones).
So I’m hoping that with the shift of focus that’s coming in the next book, things will start to improve again. Unfortunately I’m starting to suspect it’s not the Ga’Hoole series that doesn’t work for me so much as it is Lasky’s writing in general. I’m honestly wondering if what this series needed was just a brutally honest editor. There’s enough here that it could have been great: an awesome team of characters at the core of the story, a secret society of owls who can use their specialized training and intellect for both war and humanitarianism (well, the owl equivalent of the term) depending on which needs doing, two opposing Big Bads to give the story some hints of moral ambiguity and opportunities for awesome team-ups and war tactics, a Cain and Abel aspect to explore psychologically, etcetera, etcetera. Instead, everything was handled in a rather clumsy fashion, and what could have been a great plot has thus far been lost on me.
Maybe I’ll have better luck with Warriors.