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Now, when you think of bats–not baseball bats, but the little leathery winged things that flap around in the night–I’m sure you don’t think to yourself, “Oooh, how cute!” But amazingly, Oppel manages to make friends between you, the reader, and his hero, a runty silverwing bat named Shade.
Shade resents being smaller and weaker than the other little baby bats and wants to prove himself. But he just keeps getting into trouble instead–first, inadvertently triggering the wrath of the owls, who burn his whole colony out of their ancient hollow tree trunk (imagine, owls armed with fire!), then getting blown off course during the colony’s migration and being left behind for dead.
But after befriending a lonely brightwing bat named Marina, Shade (who thinks of himself as a bat of destiny) proves to be the hero of a very hairraising adventure in which he is threatened by pigeons, owls, wolves, rats, and (worst of all) two giant vampire bats escaped from a sort of zoo. These cannibalistic monsters want to manipulate Shade into leading them to his colony so they can feast on the hibernating silverwings all winter, then fly back to their rainforest. But Shade has some tricks up his sleeve too.
Along the way he and Marina meet an albino bat named Zephyr who tells the future…a religious cult of bats who think they are going to turn into human beings, led by Scirocco…a colony of rats where they are hindered by Prince Remus and helped by the mad, deformed Prince Romulus…and of course, they match wits and wings with two monsters with a three-foot wing span, called Goth and Throbb. And at the same time, Shade inches closer and closer to discovering the real fate of his long-lost father…to be continued in Sunwing.
It is a gripping adventure, and unless you have an absolute, clinical phobia of bats, I think you will actually grow to love Shade and his friend Marina.