We Have to Talk about Warrior Cats

Tears still run down my delightfully swollen face as I write this, muttering something darkly about “those ****ing books”. I told myself I wouldn’t cry. I tell myself this every time I open one of these ****ing books. And then I just end up blubbing uncontrollably.

I’m talking about the Warriors books, a micro-library of novels written by several authors under the collective pseudonym of Erin Hunter. So here’s the thing: they are middle-grade books and the characters are all … well … cats. I know, I know, not your kind of age group and not your kind of characters (sorry, no faltering heroines and no smouldering, dark-secret-baring heroes either). But let me tell you something potentially quite shocking and controversial … The Warriors books are some of the best books I have ever read, for children, young adults or adults. They are shamelessly sitting right near the top of my desert island books list. If the world were to end tomorrow, I would grab Harry Potter and Warriors – okay, I would need quite a large bag to accommodate them all, but there’s no baggage allowance in the apocalypse.

I’ve been a fan of Erin Hunter’s books ever since they first came to Blighty. I was working in a bookshop at the time during my sixth form years, and in the staff room was a table piled high with proof copies (this must have been 2003/4, which makes me really old!). I used to ferret around for young adult titles, but on that fateful day, a bright orange proof copy with the silhouette of a cat jumped into my hands. This book is about cats? I wondered to myself. How good can that be? The answer was very. Very good indeed. I was hooked from the start when a young pet cat called Rusty is taken in by a clan of wild cats who live in the forest. As he is trained to become a warrior, he has to fight not only the prejudices against him, but the dangers that threaten the clan’s existence.

Correction, I wasn’t just hooked, I was completely in love. These books embody that lost sense of a connection to nature that gives me daily pain. They are about survival, friendship, betrayal, fulfilling potential, fear, courage and understanding. And they are brutal. Oh, here come the tears again. Don’t think that just because they are middle grade that they are soft and fluffy and everyone rejoices in a happy ending. They are brutal. Like, Game of Thrones brutal, only for cats. I have the exact same mantra reading these as I do Game of Thrones: “Don’t get attached to anyone!” Of course I do. How can I not? They are cats after all! I don’t get anywhere near this upset over human losses as I do when one of those brave cats sacrifices themselves or is tragically killed for some preventable reason. The episodes those cats go through are the kind of plots you have to be mentally prepared to endure. In fact, I have to take quite lengthy breaks in between devouring two or three books at a time to rest my emotions. Do not read if you are feeling fragile! Middle grade they may be, but patronising they are not. There are no pulled punches here.

After the first book, Into the Wild, was released, the Warriors books seemed to go into some kind of publishing hiatus in the UK, which vexed me hugely. I began to think I was the only human on Earth who truly understood the value of these stories. But then, a few years later, Amazon obliged, and I was able to buy imports from the US. And I’ve been devouring all things Warriors ever since. Here’s my current collection, occupying an entire shelf by themselves.

warriros-shelf

And this just about scratches the surface (no kitty pun intended). These are just the main storyline books, which come in sets of six. There are numerous other novellas, manga books, guides and story collections available. If only I had unlimited funds! I’ve just finished the boxset on the left, Dawn of the Clans, which are stories about the origins of the clans, so a prequel to Into the Wild. I’m not going to tell you why I’m blubbing, but I will tell you this: just read them. Or even just read Into the Wild, and if you are the right kind of person, then you’ll understand why I will never stop spouting on about these books. The Erin Hunter team has written other series about dogs and bears, but I’ve tried them out and I didn’t like them as much. They really are middle grade in tone, but you’ll find no such patronising writing in Warriors. Just stories that verge on the emotionally unbearable and characters that will stay with you for a lifetime. It’s a wonderful, huge and constantly giving world to fall into. Thank you, collective authors of Erin Hunter. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And as a fresh wave of tears surge down my cheeks, I bid you happy reading and leave you with a link to find out more.

www.warriorcats.com

 

8 thoughts on “We Have to Talk about Warrior Cats

  1. Lauren @ BAOTB says:

    I fell in love with these books in eighth grade (2007), when I picked up a copy of “into the Wild” at Wal-Mart that said, “Get into the hit series for just $1.99!” So began my obsession with them.

    I read the first series, began the second series, and then started the third series. But somebody spoiled the ending of the third series for me, and as such, I couldn’t finish them. (The Power of Three series is the one I’m referring to.) I read a few of the Warriors Super Editions (I’ve got Bluestars Quest and Firestar’s Quest), and most of the graphic novels that were released, as well as the companion books (like Code of the Clans, Cats of the Clans), but I can’t bring myself to read any further.

    It may be because I fell so in love with ThunderClan that I didn’t want to see any of the other clans. I love Firestar, and I bawled like a baby at the end of A Dangerous Path (I think?!) where Firestar becomes the leader. I’ve never had a series of books bring me to tears like this one. I love cats, which is why I picked it up, but I hate reading about the cats dying, and boy, do they die. It’s almost as bad as Redwall.

    I feel the whole “Game of Thrones with Cats!” vibe, too, now that you mention it.

    I haven’t picked up this series in year… I feel like the writing kinda degraded the longer the series went on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elke Silvarain says:

      Hello wonderful kindred spirit! It’s so nice to share with someone who understands the pain of these books! Not that I want you to feel pain, but you know what I mean.

      I would definitely recommend reading Dawn of the Clans. I am totally in love with ThunderClan too, and these are honestly really good prequels that give you insights into how the clan culture developed. I think they are a nice refreshment for the Warriors books, as it’s a completely different perspective from the established clans. Totally new characters, but of course it’s just as harrowing as any other Warriors series. So be warned! I think the original series probably still remains the best series, but I’m completely addicted.

      Let me know what you think if you do pick these books up again!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lauren @ BAOTB says:

        I think the original series of anything remains the best.

        I remember crying so hard in eighth grade and in ninth grade when reading these books. I think the last time I touched them was when I read Book 5 of “The Power of Three.” Then someone spoiled Book 6, and I couldn’t bring myself to finish anything else. I’ve gone back and reread the first series maybe once since then, but I haven’t picked them up.

        I enjoyed Firestar’s Quest, dealing with going back and finding Skyclan, and maybe picking up the prequel trilogy will do something for me.

        I’ve been reading Redwall recently (a series I never got to as a kid), and it’s incredibly violent but I’m not as heartbroken reading about mice and badgers dying as I am whenever a cat dies in the Warriors series, even though I know the series is literally called Warriors and what warriors do is fight and die.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Elke Silvarain says:

        Yeah, for “middle grade” books, they are emotionally hardcore. There is just something very wrong about so many cats dying.

        And book spoilers are just plain bad people! I’m still traumatised by the girl in my high school Italian class who spoiled the ending of Harry Potter 5. She just shouted out who died like it didn’t matter. So thoughtless. After that I went on lockdown upon each HP release: no tv, no radio, no internet, no phone until I finished reading. So I’m sorry that happened to you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lauren @ BAOTB says:

        I worked in a bookstore for a few years, and I usually let people know that there are a lot of animal deaths in the book if they picked up the Warriors series, otherwise angry parents would come back with crying kids.

        I usually am able to finish a book/movie if someone spoils something, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it with Warriors! (I mean, I thought I was good on Star Wars 7 spoilers by avoiding everything SW-related, but someone commented ON A NON-SW-POST on instagram the biggest spoiler for the movie and I cried, got angry, and then went to see the movie and cried more when the spoiler was true!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lauren @ BAOTB says:

        I don’t know if you’re into other books like the Warriors, but one my sister was super into (and thus got me into) was the Guardians of Ga’Hoole. It’s about owls, not cats, so it’s a little less distressing when one of the dies.

        Liked by 1 person

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