Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

The Masters and Beginners Book Club!

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So, my apologies for not making the official announcement a little sooner — sickness swarmed in, as some of you may know, and my whole house was down for a week and a half. It was a miracle the cat got fed and the dishes got done, never mind editing and self-marketing.

Anyway, now we are more or less better, and I’m trying to get back to normal in my writerling ventures. One of these is the book club I’ll be hosting for each of my own books here on the blog!

We’re starting with (makes sense) Volume 1 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes. To join, all you need to do is have read or be currently reading the first novel, Masters and Beginners. Either cover/edition works (it’s the same story), and both are available for purchase. The most recent edition (new cover seen below) can be obtained through Barnes & Noble.com (the link is working on my Goodreads author page, or you can email me, per the sidebar/top menu, for details). Or I have copies of the original Toby cover as well (again, contact me by email).

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Okay, the awkward please-buy-my-stuff moment is moving on to what the actual discussion will consist of.

On October 30th (see, plenty of time to join in!), I’ll be posting an open conversation on the following questions:

  1. What were your favorite parts of the story?
  2. Which characters were you drawn to the most, and why?
  3. Did you identify any particular themes?
  4. Who would you like to see cast as who in the movie version?
  5. The Order is a secret organization stretching back about 3,000 years. What historical figures do you think could have belonged to the Order?

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See, easy! Just post your comments on October 30th, engage with your fellow commenters, and get ready for Volume 2!

Happy reading, all!

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Mini-Reviews: Just Finished And What’s Next

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So lately, I’ve gone through a few reading selections! One was an ARC, one was from the TBR, the rest happened because of the long sickness, and the fact that I simply didn’t have the energy to do much besides sit and read. (Yeah, I know, the tragedy.)

Anyway, onto the reviews…

The ARC: The Traveler by EB Dawson

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This is an interesting cross of sort of a spec-fic mystery and third world travel guide. (Yes, this works, trust me.) It was a bit slow to start, but definitely picked up the action about a third of the way in, and kept going. The world-building felt a little tricky early on, as it seemed we weren’t really given a concrete reason for Anissa’s disconnect to the society she lived in. Once we get to the “other world” (no spoilers, I promise), we definitely get a lot of established emotions and background and connections with other characters to propel the plot forward. There is a somewhat open ending, but I am aware a sequel is planned. If you like unique tales that don’t just tick the boxes of genre fiction, you might want to give this one a try! It’s a very clean writing style, little violence, no swearing or sexual references, totally appropriate for YA, but the subject matter may be more suited to adults.

The library-helping-me-through-my-sickness: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

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I’m aware that there are many, very negative ratings for Thirteen Reasons Why. This was a novel that I’d decided never to read, based solely on the negative comments. But I saw it as a completely new selection to my local library (it’s a small town, this is a big deal), and went for it, after all. While I could definitely see some holes in the writing/plotting, and could understand why certain scenes upset some readers, overall there is a lot in this novel that’s very important to consider and discuss and mull over.

One, I don’t agree at all with anyone who felt that the book actually condones suicide and suggests it as a “solution”. I didn’t see that depicted at all. Nor the idea that the narration somehow supported Hannah’s method of making the tapes and sending them out to blame individuals for her death. Some of the characters were truly horrible people, and something had to be said or done; but Hannah’s logic was skewed because of her depression and whatever else was going on with her that they weren’t responsible for. Are they actually to blame for her decision to take her life? No, of course not. Just because she felt that way doesn’t make it true. And while I don’t agree with Hannah’s ultimate choice (it was a selfish, cowardly move — the really hard part is sticking around trying to make it get better), I can honestly sympathize with her in a way. As someone who was a suicidal teen myself (well, this remark will get some interesting reactions), I completely understand her anger, her lack of rationing, her confusion and denial and urge to self-destruct.

Suicide is such an important topic to address, and most people are not. Novels like this are a good step — even if you thought it addressed the topic in the wrong way!, because that gets a necessary conversation started.

Onto lighter things now…

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I am still in a hurry, but still don’t understand astrophysics. I’ve wanted Neil DeGrasse Tyson on TV, but in text, I had a hard time pinning down the explanations. It seems that Tyson has created an interesting breed of celebrity scientist, while maintaining the elite view of keeping science unfathomable to the general public. I’m really not sure how I feel about this book.

Reading it in the doctor’s office will give you major bonus points with the staff, though, as you’ll appear smart and deep. 10/10 for that.

The TBR conquer: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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And “conquer” is totally accurate — this book is a doorstop. (If you’re being attacked by a Wildling or an Other, just throw a copy at them — you’ll survive.) I was so surprised I managed to read it within 2 weeks. Towards the end, there were parts I really didn’t like, and characters that made me want to scream, but overall this was a compelling tale with an engaging writing style and a well-thought-out plot. I found it easy to connect the dots as I progressed, and for a novel of this length (most over 400 pages can’t seem to follow their own stories after 75%), that’s impressive.

What’s next: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

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Since it’s next in the series, makes sense, right? There are a few other random holds kicking around my library requests list, but most likely this will be the one that shows up the quickest. (There are multiple copies in the system, thanks to the popularity of the show.)

Anyway, here’s my latest round-up. Hope you all are doing well, moths!

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Science fiction

On Historical Perspectives in Fantasy and Our Modern Expectations

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(Note: I have borrowed all of these images and have not a whit of claim to them.)

This is a discussion I’ve seen around the blogisphere a lot lately — why so much high fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction is sexist and prejudiced. I have several thoughts on the issue (and, necessary disclaimer, some of them might not be popular).

Well, for the first part, I can concretely say: Most high fantasy is based on approximately the 11th-17th centuries A.D. of this actual world, which was a very sexist and discriminatory time period. Sorry, not sorry, folks, it’s just the truth.

And in urban fantasy, generally it’s because the authors are reflecting the current state of affairs in our culture, and they have their reasons for doing so.

When it comes to science fiction — well, the first reason often applies, but also, until very recently, sci-fi was a genre dominated by white male authors (again, not suggesting anything, just stating a fact), so there was probably a sense of unwitting discrimination. (Meaning you have blinders on based on the society/culture you come from, and don’t realize you’re actually showing prejudice.)

Now, here’s what I think of people claiming so many of these series (some of them considered classics of the genre) are horrible and shouldn’t be read anymore in this “enlightened” era: That point of view is just wrong, and people need to stop pushing it.

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And, no, I am not defending any kind of discrimination. I am defending the accuracy of history. Whether we like it or not, there are lots of very not-nice things in humanity’s past. If we cover these things up and act like they never happened, we are in danger of repeating them.

If we remove conversations on biracial marriages, or disabled people having worth, from our fiction, then we’re denying the achievements we’ve made in these areas. If we declare none of our characters need to be chauvinist, then readers won’t understand the significance of what the heroines have overcome.

If we, as authors, want to portray a world without these damaging ways of thought (hoping that one day it will reflect reality), then please do. I do. But we also need to leave the door open for characters who don’t agree with our own POV, so that readers know what could be, and why it may be dangerous.

We have a responsibility to state the facts, even when we don’t like them.

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This probably won’t be a popular post, but I feel it’s a necessary one. (Refer to my previous posts on getting history right in entertainment to cement how strongly I feel about this issue.)

Part of the idea of society becoming more modern is that we become more tolerant of those who don’t share our opinions. There’s a huge, and vital, difference between not agreeing with someone else and believing they’re wrong, and literally attacking them to prove your philosophy is the more mature and civilized.

Guess which approach I hope wins out?

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Fantasy fiction, The Invisible Moth, writing

The Re-release Is Now A Thing!

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Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee….

(Yes, this was my actual response. White Fang was not amused.)

I put this on Twitter and Goodreads right away (though I am still waiting for Goodreads to approve me wanting to make changes to Volume 1’s page). But this second edition — new cover, with blurb on the back, but all the same story — is now alive and well through Nook Press.

If you go to this link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masters-and-beginners-daley-downing/1126998956?ean=9781538033111 , you should be able to find instructions on how to obtain your copy!

If you already purchased a first edition from me, here are some things to note: 

As far as content goes, the only thing that’s changed is the cover. Nothing different with the story. (I know this is a concern for some readers of self-published works.)

If you would like to acquire this second edition, I’ve set the price at a very reasonable $7.95. Even with Barnes and Noble charging shipping, it should still come to about the same or less than the $15 I charge. (And B&N can take all sorts of credit and debit cards, and will send you a fancy receipt and professional packaging. #thechallengesofbeinganindieauthor)

I do still have copies available with the Toby cover. If you would like one of those, please contact me! (Check the sidebar and top menu of my homepage.)

Since this is a re-release, there will be no “ARCs” as such. But there will be a giveaway on this blog coming up in the near future.

And of course I am so tremendously grateful for all your help and support so far!!! Here’s to continued success and sharing the love!

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Fantasy fiction, reading

The Conundrum

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to read. She mostly read whatever she could get her hands on — picture books, novels, biographies — as long as it came from a library or a school book fair, or as a gift.

Then one day, the girl realized she was technically all grown up, and capable of purchasing her own books. And she wanted to, because this sounded tremendously exciting and mature.

Except she didn’t know what to get. So she wandered the bookstore, and ended up buying newer editions of books she had read as a child, and copies of novels she had recently returned to the library.

This went on for a while. But eventually the young woman became a moth, and ran out of things to read.

(You tell me which one was more scary.)

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So, the moth started scouring the new invention of the internet to find recommendations for new authors, genres, sub-genres, and even graphic novels (a frightening never-before-attempted venture) to try reading.

Some of what she found really filled her soul with joy.

But, unfortunately, a lot of it was an epic fail.

As time passed in this pattern, the moth began to realize that she was no longer a fan of traditional historical fiction, mysteries, or contemporary romances (a.k.a. “chick lit”).

This meant the moth began to panic, just a little.

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Reading was so important to the moth, the idea of not having anything new and life-fulfilling in the form of books to add to her already vast array of fiction (and non-fiction) experiences created a slight problem.

The moth grew tired of fluttering endlessly around her local library, her wings weary of trying to carry 14 novels marked “new release” (11 of which would almost immediately be returned, after frustratedly skimming a few pages).

As she ruminated on this tragic turn of events, she began to hyperventalate, just a touch.

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Fast forward to the current time. Today, the moth hopes to calm her frazzled nerves by indulging in modern sitcoms on DVD, for a nice change.

She will soon be gaining another year of existence on this Earth, and she doesn’t like that, either.

To celebrate this twistedly momentous occasion, she’s planning to find new authors and titles that will bring a substantial influx of plot-excitement and character-love back to her heart.

Except she has very little idea of where to start.

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Review: Beaumont and Beasley by Kyle Robert Shultz

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So, here we are, with the first regular book review I’ve done in ages! We’ll start with the Beaumont and Beasley new fantasy series by indie author Kyle R. Shultz. The first novel is called The Beast of Talesend (new cover above), and the latest release (below) is The Tomb of the Sea Witch.

The premise of Beaumont and Beasley is that, in an alternate history and alternate Europe, fairytales were real, and very different (more dark and gritty) than those of us in the Disney-as-king era may be aware. The clever bit is that the author does go back to the actual Grimm, Christensen, etc. tales (which were often quite nasty indeed).

The protagonist/narrator is Nick Beasley, a private detective who is convinced magic is not real, and makes sure to uncover all the fraudulent wizards and the like of his city/time period. However, Nick gets the rug yanked out from under him when a magical spell turns him into a beast.

(None of this is spoilers; it’s all available in blurb form on various websites.)

Anyway, this sets the stage for some great adventures. Nick is quickly paired with Cordelia Beaumont (who’s a rather wild card enchantress), and along with turning our versions of Beauty and the Beast and Snow White inside out, there’s so much clean, fun humor, action, and witty banter (without an obvious lead to romance — something unexpected, and refreshing for many readers).

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If you’re looking for a fantasy read that’s different, not-tropey, and appropriate for a range of ages, I strongly suggest getting a copy of The Beast of Talesend. (Paperbacks and e-books are available. And now an audio version, too! See, you have no excuse!)

Also, if you don’t read The Beast of Talesend, then you’ll soon be behind, since book 2 has just been released!

The Tomb of the Sea Witch (original planned title was Song of the Drowned, which, sorry, but I liked better) picks up fairly soon after the events of book 1, but in a very different setting. This time Nick’s half-brother Crispin joins Nick and Cordelia for the adventures.

Let me wax poetic about the characters for a moment. As an autistic reader, I really enjoy it when I find characters I can connect to. Nick and Crispin (especially Crispin) Beasley do this. In book 1, there are very few secondary characters (which actually was refreshing, since 756 supporting cast in a fantasy novel becomes rather difficult for me). In book 2, there are many, but the major ones are fleshed out, with plenty to like about some of them.

To say I was infatuated with Headmaster Malcolm Blackfire is an understatement. Usually I don’t go for “the bad boy” type, but I totally loved his sophistication, sense of authority, refusal to take any sass, and his deep-down noble character. Also, the second novel includes a pooka, centaur, satyr, dryad, unicorn, and salamander. (I need Sparky the salamander and Edmund the unicorn.)

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I received an ARC of TotSW, but this does not sway my opinions. (I can be a bit merciless like that…)

Whereas Beast had a very light-hearted feel to it, Tomb seemed a bit more serious. Not necessarily in a bad way, though. I could tell that the author was working hard to further develop his characters, and when it comes to Crispin, it’s obvious that’s happening. With Nick and Cordelia, it seems slower, but it’s there (particularly Nick). (Maybe it’s because I’m not as attached to Cordelia, though? Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure Nick could trust her until about 25 pages from the end of Beast, so I guess it’s fair to say I’m not as invested in her growth? Part of me is still waiting for her to be revealed as a secret master villain.)

There are also many hints that the next books (at least two more are planned) will introduce more new characters and bigger plots. I like that idea, since the world-building has established early on there’s so much to possibly explore in this premise. My only concern (not even a concern, really, more of a note) is that, whereas Beast seemed to have all the relevant plot points covered down to a tee, Tomb had moments that felt a bit…disjointed? underdeveloped? But I read an ARC, remember, and sometimes changes are made to the manuscripts before the final sales product hits shelves/websites.

And please don’t let this minor notice deter you from this very fun, interesting, exciting, and sometimes poignant series. It hits a lot of high notes, and it’s appropriate YA fantasy, without feeling at all stodgy or too silly. Recommended for fans of fairytale re-tellings and modern-ish fantasy, of all ages.

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cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction

Warriors Update: Omen of the Stars

Warning: I am breaking all my rules about no spoilers. I just have to.

Also, this is probably going to be an extremely long post. Pull out that comfy sofa and grab some tea and biscuits, and a box (or two) of tissues.

Last night, I finished reading The Last Hope, which is the final book in the Omen of the Stars series, which is considered the last “regular” series of Warriors. (Really, it wasn’t, because there were already many plans for super-editions, and the prequel, Dawn of the Clans, which answers a lot of questions about the beginning of this society and its ways.) Anyway, the point is, in Omen of the Stars, storylines and character arcs that have been going on since either at least the Power of Three, or even the very beginning, are resolved.

I hadn’t really planned on reading through till the end of the book last night, but I hit a point where I just couldn’t stop; it was time to find out what happened. And yet, I’d really been dreading reaching the end of this series. For some reason, I found myself outright resisting reading too fast, or too much of one book at a time. I just…didn’t want this storyline to come to an end.

Just one of the many, many fantastic fan-imagined art images you can find by spending (way too much) time on Google.

This is most likely why I spent so much time looking for all the images I included in this post…

Okay, am I actually going to start reviewing now?

Throughout Omen of the Stars, it’s clear that a lot of things are coming to a head. There is an evil enemy gaining power, the Dark Forest cats. They are the cats that were just real, complete (read unprintable swear words here) in life, and when they die — quite often in bloody battle — they don’t go to a nice, peaceful afterlife (which is StarClan) — they go to (makes sense) the Dark Forest.

Dun-dun-dun!
(Dovewing and Ivypool) If only it could always be like this…

As we read through the Power of Three, we’ve been introduced to Lionblaze, Jayfeather, and Hollyleaf, who are siblings (from the same litter, so, littermates). There’s a prophecy about a trio who will rise to become more powerful than any other cats in living memory, and it’s so that they can defeat this terrible enemy. Because there were three in this litter, it’s just assumed that all three complete the prophecy. (Remember what I said about breaking my spoiler rules? Hold onto your hats, everyone; this is just the start.) Turns out…the prophecy is not that simple and clear-cut.

Lionblaze and Jayfeather are part of the trio; the third is a cousin of theirs, Dovewing. They all have special abilities and skills, apparently from birth, and they hone them to become the greatest threat the Dark Forest has ever seen.

And they’ll need all the help they can get. There are several formidable warriors on the villains’ side, and since they died, they’ve been stewing in what they see as wrongs the Clans did to them. So, the bloodthirsty desire for revenge has been growing; and of course, there’s nothing but time for these lost souls…

Oh my gosh, look! …Where was I? Sorry, just admiring the fan art again…

So, of course, the Dark Forest tries to trick otherwise loyal Clan cats to join the wrong side of the Great Battle…

And the worst part, for me, is that StarClan, which has always watched over the living cats, and not let Clan rivalries divide them, has let the Dark Forest encroach even on that.

One of the major issues throughout the books is the fact that the warrior code — which is basically their laws and regulations — is shown to have some pretty big flaws, and it creates tension not only between the Clans, but within the Clans, too. It means that if you belong to, for example, ThunderClan, you can’t take a mate from, say, RiverClan. But do cats from different Clans still fall in love? Of course. Do some cats take huge offense to that type of thing? Oh, my, yes.

A perfect example is when Tigerstar (think WORST GUY EVER) came to power, back in The Prophecies Begin. He decided that all “half-Clan cats” (meaning mixed parentage) didn’t deserve to live. (Yes, I’m talking genocide.) So, needless to say, he had to be stopped. However, it raised the very important question — how many cats kind of agreed with him that half-Clan lineage was dangerous to the society as a whole?

Gasp… Thank you so much for sharing your creations with us, guys, seriously.

So, I completely love it that Lionblaze and Jayfeather are in fact half-Clan themselves. And Dovewing’s grandfather (Cloudtail) actually started out life as a kittypet. That’s right, he was born to a housecat and then he grew up in the forest and became a warrior. But to many, that makes his origins and his blood tainted — and then his granddaughter is one of The Three! Well, guess what — kittypets are more than good enough for StarClan!

This is the other thing Tigerstar hates: kittypets. Since Firestar, one of the best leaders ThunderClan has ever had, was born a housecat (Cloudtail is his nephew), Tigerstar has had it out for Firestar from day one. And since The Last Hope really states a lot by its title, you get the idea that not only are The Three going to be majorly needed, but, chances are, so is the cat that was once prophesied to save all the Clans.

(Yes, we mean Firestar. Of course we do. To me, this was really a no-brainer. Some of the other cats are really shocked by just how important a former kittypet is to the salvation of their families and civilization as they know it. A really good lesson about not judging a cat by his origins.)

The all-powerful trio first alluded to in the Power of Three series.

So, as we draw closer to the Great Battle… As a reader, there were a whole lot of cringe-worthy moments. For example — as the Dark Forest (literally) gets their claws into nice cats, and tries to turn them, figuring out which ones may be traitors, and may not be, became priority number one. There were some cats that, if they turned out to be traitors, it would simply have broken my heart. (And of course that of the other characters… Er, really, I know it’s just a story…)

The other big thing was needing StarClan to get it together. In StarClan, there aren’t supposed to be boundaries, enemies, grudges or resentments. There are no separate territories to fight over; no reason to remember your differences. It’s all one big hunting ground, and the cats who lived noble, honorable lives — and that’s most of them — get to enjoy each other’s company and watch over their descendants and the friends they left behind. So when StarClan split, it was devastating. The living cats needed them more than ever, and… Oh, my gosh…

Both sides poised for battle!

But here comes in a very interesting thing (that I honestly didn’t think was that big a deal): the Ancients. (Wow, was I wrong.)

The Ancients are the cats whose descendants formed the Clan system. Their history has mostly been told through Jayfeather’s experience (and some time travel moments worthy of Star Trek). But in The Last Hope, there are some major players from that group that really step up to the plate, in the present time. Just amazing.

And, yes, StarClan gets its act together. Never doubted it. (Okay, for a bit there…)

A montage of some of the big plot points from the other series.

All of the information in the last 4 series have been leading up to this point…

From The Prophecies Begin, when Firestar receives his nine lives from StarClan.

And so, we finally reach the Great Battle…

Before I get into the outcome of that: This is literally what I think of the Dark Forest leaders. (I have never sworn so much while reading juvenile fiction.)

  • “Mapleshade, you witch!”
  • “Darkstripe, you bastard!”
  • “Hawkfrost, you a—–e!”
  • “Brokenstar, you wanker!”
  • “TIGERSTAR!” (read unprintable words here)

Begin major spoiler alert:

Hollyleaf, a lost but not forgotten warrior, who more than deserved a chance at redemption.

Hollyleaf thought she’d naturally be the third cat in the prophecy, since she was Lionblaze and Jayfeather’s littermate. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the truth. And being half-Clan really wrecked Hollyleaf. She made some very bad decisions, and ran away from ThunderClan, and was believed to be dead. Not only is she not, but she saves the lives of others in the Great Battle.

Get the tissues out. There was so much crying last night…

Since I generally only have time to read when Muffin is in bed or eating, I usually end up reading late in the evening or very early in the morning. Sometimes, this means I have to keep my feelings about a twist quiet, so that I don’t wake other family members.

Sometimes at 6 a.m. in my house, you might hear shouted out, “YELLOWFANG RULES!!!”

Last night, the tears flowed freely, and my husband asked me why I kept talking to the book.

(Totally worth it.)

Yellowfang came back to defend her adopted Clan in grand style. The Ancients were just awesome. Warriors like Whitestorm and Longtail and Honeyfern returned from their afterlife to kick serious evil feline behind. So…much…crying…

And Spottedleaf…oh, my, Spottedleaf…

Firestar and Spottedleaf, dear friends in life, dear friends forever.

Spottedleaf and Firestar were close friends — okay, almost more than friends, but Spottedleaf was a medicine cat, and she was supposed to not take a mate or have kits, in order to serve her whole Clan and treat every single cat as family. It’s a medicine cat rule. I think it’s kind of an unfair rule. But Spottedleaf chose to abide by it completely, and she never acted on the love she felt for Firestar. There’s a lot of honor in that. Firestar respected her decision; plus, he fell in love with Sandstorm. It all worked out. And after Spottedleaf died, she kept visiting Firestar in his dreams to help, warn and guide him when he became leader. What she wanted most for him was happiness.

So, when it came time to save Sandstorm…Spottedleaf made the ultimate sacrifice.

OH. MY. GOSH.

Firestar and Sandstorm, great mates for all of Firestar’s lives.

More tissues, please.

It was time for Firestar to move on. We all saw that one coming. But it doesn’t feel tragic. It feels right. The Dark Forest was defeated; some of its leaders utterly destroyed (and, man, did they deserve it). A new day dawns for the Clans; so much has been lost, but so much resolved, forgiven, and it’s been proven that they can go on.

As I watch my own kittypet (his name is Toby) sleeping so peacefully on the recliner, I can’t help but wonder, if there really was a Clan system in the woods behind our neighborhood, would he join it, become a warrior, defend their way of life? Would those cats welcome him? Even make him a leader?

The majestic leader of Thunderclan, Firestar.