My rating: ★★★☆☆
The Outcast is the continuation of Nyroc’s change-of-heart story. He’s betrayed his mother and the Pure Ones and reinvented himself as Coryn. But he’s also come to realize that there’s no place for him in the owl kingdom, so he sets out for the volcano wasteland called the Beyond the Beyond. I will admit that every time “Beyond the Beyond” was mentioned, I would think of the Mysterious Beyond from Land Before Time and the “Beyond the Mysterious Beyond” song from the seventh movie. (Enjoy. Or, for diehard fans of the first movie, mourn.)
Anyway, the story leaves the owl world for the first time, bringing us in contact with our first creatures who escape blatant discrimination: the wolves. The wolves for some reason have Scottish-style clans and one of them is led by a Caligula who maims his children. (Did you think “acceptable racism”, child enslavement, and cannibalism were inappropriate in a RL 4 book? Try some violent domestic abuse on for size!)
(With the wolves of the Beyond, of course, comes the spin-off series. But more on that in my review of the entire Ga’Hoole series.)
Unfortunately, this story also marks the major plot shift of the series. Suddenly the Guardians of Ga’Hoole take a back seat to the Ember of Hoole, and a whole new mythology shows up. Speaking from the perspective someone halfway through of To Be a King looking back on The Outcast, this shouldn’t have been part of the Ga’Hoole series. Or, more accurately, The Hatchling should have started a second Ga’Hoole series instead of tacking onto the original six books. Because in all honesty, the series is fundamentally changed by The Hatchling and The Outcast. The protagonist changes from Soren to Coryn. The genre changes from adventure to fantasy. Things that were perfectly non-magical and explained mundanely in the first six books are suddenly magical and fantastic in the later books. Focus shifts from dealing with the Pure Ones to reliving myths (myths that are invented in these books rather than explained prior and feel “fake” as a result).
So what should have happened? Well, the first six books should have been the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series. Then The Hatchling and The Outcast should have been the Ember of Hoole series or maybe the Coryn of the Eclipse series, or whatever better title the publishers could have come up with. The First Collier, The Coming of Hoole, and To Be a King should have been the Legends of Ga’Hoole series (by which I have heard it called by fans). As I haven’t read the last four books, I can’t say how they should have rolled out, but it shouldn’t have been with all these fundamentally different stories mashed under one heading. I mean, really. If you’re going to have a mid-series three-book flashback trilogy, you’re writing a universe, not a series.
Anyway, on to the mid-series three-book flashback trilogy. Brace yourselves, mythology Retcons are coming.