With The Swarm Descends, author Grey revisits many of the themes of the first book – from meeting a new girl to dealing with two scheming evil minions and a new ‘big bad’ feral. And although the character of Caw is not as socially awkward as before, most of the plotting closely (perhaps too much so) mirrors the first Ferals book. Fortunately, Caw’s adventures continue to be interesting even if Grey doesn’t elevate the story or deepen the mythology all that much here.
Story: Caw has defeated the spider, mamba, and rat ferals – but lost a crow friend in the process. Armed with his remaining crow friends, he longs to see the house he grew up in. Once there, however, he meets a lively stray girl and is summarily accosted by a strange pale feral. It seems the feral has an item he was entrusted with by Caw’s mother – a mysterious black stone with strange powers. Powers entrusted to the crow talkers but coveted by the shunned Mother of Flies. With the new girl, Lydia, Pip the mouse feral, Crumb the pigeon feral, and Lydia helping, will Caw be able to protect the stone from those who would steal it from him – and use it for their own evil purposes?
Following nearly the same exact story arc, but with new (but similar) villains and a new girl-pal, the lack of world building was a bit of a disappointment. Instead, we get yet another crow-guarded object, another girl with odd mother, two evil minions hampering Caw, and a big bad who lures Caw into a terrible place. Admittedly, it seemed a bit much that the crows had not one but two legendary objects to protect. As well, although we do get a few new ferals, we don’t see much of the previous ones or an insight into their lives or unique feral animal qualities. Even the big bad was, like in the previous book, an insect feral.
As a middle school book, I think kids will enjoy Caw’s adventure and not read too much into the lack of canon growth. Caw will be forced to explore his crow powers again – with the result being a new ability that will be the envy of other ferals. We do get more crow history, though briefly, and it will be interesting to see if the new girl continues in the next book as as a secondary character. Certain, Lydia didn’t play much of a part in this book as she did in the second and that seemed a bit of a waste considering Caw’s lonely upbringing.
In all, perhaps not as good as the first book but still a satisfying adventure for middle graders. My 12 year old enjoyed it but also felt the first book was a bit better. Adults, however, may be left wishing for more character development and a great exploration of the canon. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.