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Posted March 20, 2013
Wise Bear Books Review "Prey of the Spirit Bear" by William Hill -- 4 Paws!
Prey of the Spirit Bear is an ambitious story infused with a lot of seemingly disparate components. The book incorporates Native American cultural folklore and mysticism; the basics of a national parks guide book; elements of the Boy Scouts of America handbook; and even aspects of an urban legend hunting field guide (if one existed—think Sasquatch). Juggling all these ideas within the confines of one book doesn't seem plausible—even for young adult fantasy fiction, but the author manages to create a unique adventure while simultaneously educating his readers.
The story follows the journey of three young teens whose lives accidentally converge through a series of mystical portals which are strategically located throughout the country's national parks. Normal humans are generally oblivious to these wormholes as they are only accessible to a select few chosen individuals. Three kids on a fantasy adventure is not particularly original in today's saturated teen fiction literary world, but the diversity of their cultures is an interesting component which allows the author to educate readers in a manner that is often lacking in a genre that typically defers fact for drama.
Colt Swiftfoot is a teenager prone to bouts of boredom which often leads to trouble. He lives with his mother and older brothers in Sedona, Arizona. A spontaneous joyride on his brother’s ATV without permission results in his ultimate connection with a spirit bear possessed by an evil entity. The outcome of this encounter is a quest to free his totem animal from a curse which has dire consequences for humanity.
In an uncontrolled portal experience, Colt is transported to Arches National Park in Utah where he sustains injuries and is rescued by teenage girl Alex and her park ranger parents, as well as overly-prepared boy scout, Jimmy Lee. The two boys are initially pitted as rivals, mostly because of Jimmy Lee's hinted interest in Alex, but the quasi-romantic storyline is short lived as the boys are forced to tolerate and ultimately learn to work together toward a common goal.
Alex, too, is mystically connected with her totem animal, a raven which enables her passage through the mysterious portals. We're not quite sure what allows Jimmy Lee's presence in these portals, but without his Inspector Gadget type efficiency, Colt and Alex would be doomed.
Like all good fantasy fiction adventures, the threesome meets a number of interesting characters along the way who all help to keep the story moving. Skin walkers, old wise women, enchanted objects—who can and can’t be trusted in their journey to free Spirit Bear isn’t entirely clear, which keeps readers guessing in a good way.
The fact that the trio isn't already friends is important to the book’s concept as this story is really about harmony and cooperation in all things. Spirit Bear's possession has thrown the whole balance of life out of whack. These kids must overcome their fear, distrust and differences with one another to reset the equilibrium of the life force. It is mature subject matter that the kids grow up literally before our eyes, especially in Alex’s case as she must overcome her own curse in the midst of the larger story.
Prey of the Spirit Bear is an enjoyable read, although it’s quite long for the genre and intended age group. We also felt some dialog between the teens at times could be a bit too formal as if the youths were speaking with a British accent.
On the other hand, we give great praise to the author for creating a fantasy fiction story without falling into the arduous task of world building. The author does a nice job of creating a layer of fantasy infused into our country’s most scenic and awesome landscapes. We appreciated the use and background knowledge of these glorious national parks. It was a smart and creative move by the author.
The author also does a nice job of creating an action packed ending. The final eight chapters move quickly from one twist to another. You may find yourself needing a break to catch your breath. It's a lot to taken in, but in a good way. To that end, we we're extremely pleased with the conclusion and look forward to the next installment.
The book has some wonderful, insightful moments, but also has areas, or rather opportunities, to enhance character development and dialog. We recommend this book for nature lovers and anyone interested in an enjoyable literary tour of our country’s awesome national parks with an action driven storyline. When you finish Prey of the Spirit Bear, don’t be surprised if you see the magical qualities throughout nature in a completely different way.
This book was reviewed as part of the Wise Bear Digital Book Awards competition. Entry fees associated with the contest are administrative in nature and do not influence our honest, unbiased book reviews.