Author Kathryn Lasky lays the groundwork for an owlish tale of good versus evil in this first adventurous installment of Guardians of Ga'Hoole.
After little Soren, a barn owl, finds himself pushed out of Mum and Da's nest, he's captured by two ruthless hench-birds and taken to the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. Now a mere owl slave to rulers seeking domination over all owl kingdoms, Soren is given a number and finds himself working in the Pelletorium, where brainwashed ("moon blinked") owls sort through stones for "flecks." Fortunately, Soren has an elf owl friend to help him get by, and the two begin clandestine flying lessons in the lair's library. Luckily, they narrowly escape a bloody battle, and with help from two more owl pals, Soren and Gylfie realize their mission to find the Great Tree of Ga'Hoole, warn its guardians of St. Aggie's plans, and "become part of this ancient kingdom of knights on silent wings that rose in the blackness to perform deeds of greatness."
With all the right elements -- a hero that's destined for greatness and the struggle between light and darkness -- Lasky's Guardians debut is a high-flying hoot. Soren's tale is suspenseful and riveting, and by the book's end, readers will even be impressed with how much they've learned about owls. Reminiscent of Brian Jacques's Redwall and Robin Jarvis's Deptford Mice, The Capture is bound to catch fantasy fans in its talons. Matt Warner