As an English major, I feel like I can say with certainty that I-- as well as my other fellow colleagues in the field-- all had that one book series growing up as a child. The one that you clung tightly to your chest and swore by despite its handful of flaws, plot holes and inconsistencies. The one that you and your friends would act out on the playground, possibly with your own original characters or simply playing as familiar faces from the series. For many at my age growing up, that book series was Harry Potter, the Artemis Fowl series, or the Chronicles of Narnia-- but for me, it was the Warrior Cats series.
Warriors-- or, better known colloquially as the Warrior Cats books-- was (and is!) a fantasy set of novels written by a team of authors who are known collectively under the pen name Erin Hunter. The books chronicle the life and times of domesticated felines, who rejected their lives as housecats and chose to live in the forest instead. The series follows the hardships of these cats and their colonies, otherwise known as Clans, seeking guidance from their ancestors when faced with starvation, threats, and-- yes-- even death and slaughter. The four clans-- ThunderClan, ShadowClan, WindClan and RiverClan-- live within the territories and must learn to survive against many dangers, some of which being themselves. Themes such as death, forbidden love, loss, manipulation and even the wrath of dictatorship are covered within the books. Think Watership Down, but change “rabbits” to “cats” and turn the visceral gore from the famously violent animated movie down a slight three or four notches.
Don’t get me wrong, though; children can still read these books. I wouldn’t give them to a first or second grader to read due to the violence and just the sheer reading level these books can demand, but a fourth grader such as myself back then when I was first introduced to the books could comfortably read them and ease into the storyline no problem.
The first arc of the series tells of a young tomcat named Rusty, who is born a housecat (otherwise known as a “kittypet” to the forest cats) and joins the wild felines. He soon discovers that his destiny is entertwined with that of his Clan’s, and the first six books recount his story of climbing the social ladder of his peers-- first as a pesky kittypet, but later as their Clan leader.
I remember the first time I cracked open the first book from the series; it was January of 2007, and I was immediately sucked into the pages of the story, and fell head over heels in love with the characters and storytelling. I stayed up long after my parents had gone to bed, my face inches away from the pages as the snow softly fell outside.
I was hypnotised by the plot of these books, and I begged my parents to buy me every book that our nearest Barnes & Noble could supply. I met one of the authors when I was 11, which was by far one of the coolest things that happened to me as a child. I joined an RPG website in which the users made their own original characters, and I was loyal enough to the website that I became an admin and even the leader of a few clans. (Yes, I have always been this weird.) I even named my own real-life cat by the standards of a warrior’s name.
By the time I was 14 I had a very reputable and impressive collection, that of which I still own to this day. However, nowadays my collection would appear a bit lackluster, as by the time high school came around, my demand for the books slowed down and I grew to care more about other things-- things that didn’t involve my feline friends. My collection of 38 books is now not even half of the books that have been released since my falling out of the series, as now there are at least 80 or so books.
It’s been a long ten years since I first discovered the series, but I know a part of me will always have a soft spot for the books that originally pushed me to become a lover of writing in the first place. Thank you, Warrior Cats. Thank you, Erin Hunter.