Endling: [Book One] The Last, by Katharine Applegate – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Endling: [Book One] The Last, by Katharine Applegate. Illustrated by Max Kostenko. Map,
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Harper, May 2018, hardcover, $17.99 ([vi +] 383 pages), Kindle $10.99.

This first book in a Young Adult fantasy series, recommended for 8 to 12-year-olds, is narrated by Byx, a young dairne; apparently the last of the dairnes – the endling.

“My parents feared I would be the first among us to die when trouble came, and trouble, they knew, was fast approaching.

I was small. And sometimes disappointing.

But I knew I could be brave as well. I was not afraid to be the first to die.

I just did not want to be the last to live.

I did not want to be the endling.” (p. 5)

Dairnes are a golden-furred doglike people with marsupial-like pouches and arm membranes (glissaires) that can glide, like flying squirrels.

“Dairnes were often mistaken for dogs. We share many physical similarities.

Dogs, however, lack opposable thumbs. They can’t walk upright. They aren’t able to glide from tree to tree. They can’t speak to humans.

And dogs aren’t – forgive me – the sharpest claws in the hunt, if you take my meaning.” (p. 4)

Byx lives in the Kingdom of Nedarra, a large land shown on endpaper maps. Nedarra has nine talking animal species including six primary species:

“That was the closest I had ever come to humans, one of the six great governing species. Those six – humans, dairnes, felivets, natites, terramants, and raptidons – had once been considered the most powerful in our land. But now all of them – even the humans – were controlled by the despotic Murdano.” (pgs. 7-8)

Other talking animals of Nedarra include the wobbyks, the starlons, and the gorellis. Below those are the non-talking animals like chimps, whales, horses, crows, crickets, and so on. That’s Byx and Tobble, a wobbyk, on the cover by Max Kostenko. The wobbyks have three tails and are fierce fighters – according to Tobble:

“‘It’s only fair to warn you,’ said Tobble. ‘You do not want to see an angry wobbyk. We are fearsome to behold. I in particular am known for my fierce temper.’

‘Thank you, Tobble,’ I said. ‘But –’

‘Back home they called me Tobble the Terrible.’” (p. 93)

Byx has never seen a human, but they have been described to her.

“And I learned, most importantly, that humans were never to be trusted, and always to be feared.” (p. 8)

But now most are gone, and those left are enslaved by the Murdano. Byx’s pack of dairnes lived in hiding, only 29 left. They are about to migrate to the north searching for other dairne survivors. Byx is away from her home when the Murdano’s human soldiers attack, slaughtering her family and all the remaining dairnes, leaving her as the last of the dairnes – unless she can find any others in hiding.

Byx, alone, comes together with the equally alone Tobble, a wobbyk, and Khara, a 14-year-old renegade human girl. They set out all through Neddara – see the map – for a place where they can be safe and, maybe, find more dairnes. But they are an Odd Threesome, and Byx has been brought up to believe that humans can never be trusted:

“‘We’re going to Cora di Schola.’

I exchanged a look with Tobble. No, he didn’t know what that meant, either.

‘And that is …?’ I asked.

‘It’s an island city. Its real name is the Isle of Ursina. But everyone calls it ‘Cora di Schola.’ It means ‘Heart of the Scholars.’’

‘Why do they call it that?’ Tobble asked.

‘It’s shaped roughly like a human heart. And it’s home to scholars and students. The Imperial Academy of Alchemy, Astronomy, Theurgy, and Science is housed there.’

I had to digest each word separately.

‘Alchemy,’ I’d learned from Dalyntor, was the art of blending substances to create new substances, like medicines. ‘Astronomy,’ I thought, had something to do with stars. ‘Theurgy’ was the study of spells and incantations. And ‘Science’? I was not quite certain what that was, but it sounded impressive.

‘Imperial’ sounded impressive, too, until I remembered –

‘Imperial? I cried. ‘As in the Murdano?’

‘His Imperial Highness, the Murdano of Nedarra, Defender of Truth, Guardian of the Righteous, Peacemaker of the People, and so on and so on and so forth,’ Khara said, waving her hand.” (pgs. 90-91)

Byx and Tobble see amazing sights. Khara is familiar with them, although not entirely:

“Tobble hissed. ‘Pirate ship!’ he said, pointing at a boat slightly smaller than the freighters. It had two raked masts and shining brass cannons arrayed down each side.

‘Don’t worry.   We have no business with pirates,’ Khara assured him. ‘We’re looking for a ferry to the isle.

I looked around and risked a whispered question. ‘If the natites rule the seas, why do they allow pirates?’

‘That’s a very good question,’ Khara said. ‘They allow fishing boats and freighters but will not allow the Murdano to build a navy. No one knows for certain why the natites do anything, but most people believe they tolerate the pirates in exchange for information about the world of the land.   I doubt that’s the only reason, though.’” (p. 129)

Applegate first came to prominence as the author of record of the Animorphs fantasy series, 54 monthly Young Adult novels and ten spinoffs from June 1996 to May 2001. She has since revealed that she was helped by her husband and several editors and friends to produce a novel a month for five years. Since then Applegate has written several Young Adult novels on her own, many of which have been award-winning or –nominated; notably the 2012 The One and Only Ivan, which won the 2013 Newbery Medal. It contains talking animals including Ivan, a caged silverback gorilla. Her Crenshaw is about a boy who has an imaginary giant anthropomorphic cat friend.

With Endling, Applegate has begun a new series full of action, suspense, drama, magic, humor, and taking animals. This first book ends with two humans, a dairne, a wobbyk, a felivet, a horse, and a dog setting out for the north and Byx’s quest for other dairnes, in the hope that she is not an endling, after all.

Endling: The Last was just published in May 2018. I got it almost immediately from the Los Angeles Public Library. Try your local public library.

Fred Patten

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