It would be really hard to not enjoy Bravelands. We have an intrepid hero in the form of a brave lion cub, plenty of interesting side characters (from elephants to baboons, and a story with many places it can go in the future. Although this is the first book in the series, the authors do an excellent job of keeping the story moving and not getting bogged down in too much worldbuilding. Of course, there will be many parallels drawn to the Lion King story.
Synopsis: In the African plains, young lion cub Fearless watches in horror as trickery is used to overthrow his noble father, leader of the pride. Cast out from the pride, he is saved by a baboon tribe and becomes friends with Thorn. But life isn’t easy for a lion with baboons, especially since Fearless has his own enemies and the tribe itself is divided. Meanwhile, a young elephantess named Sky is being groomed to take her mother’s place as the Great Mother – the wise woman that all the plains animals except the lions turn to for guidance, wisdom and order on the plains. As trouble brews across the savannah, all three animals will find their spirits tested as betrayals, murder, and infighting disturb the peace of all the plains creatures.
Most of the book is about Fearless interacting in the baboon tribe. The authors have done an excellent job of creating different social structures and hierarchies among the different animals; e.g., the baboon castes are by tree height and the lions social structure is dictated by the alpha male. There is perhaps good parallels to actual animal structures, which I appreciate seeing incorporated here.
The characters are engaging and this book should appeal to both boys and girls since it has such a diverse set of characters. Themes of friendship, bonding, family, and facing adversity are all discussed here – especially since Fearless has to deal with being so different than the baboons (he can’t climb trees like they can, etc.).
In all, this is a great start to a new series by the authors collectively known as Erin Hunter. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.