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Literature / Spirit Animals

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Spirit Animals is a children's series written by a variety of authors. The first book is Wild Born, by Brandon Mull. The second is titled Hunted, by Maggie Stiefvater. The third book is Blood Ties, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams. The fourth book is Fire and Ice, by Shannon Hale. The fifth book is Against the Tide, by Tui T. Sutherland. The sixth book is Rise and Fall by Eliot Schrefer. And the seventh book is The Evertree, by Marie Lu.

In the world of Erdas, every human has the chance to drink the magical Nectar of Ninani and summon a spirit animal, a magic Bond Creature that not only provides a companion for life, but grants a wide variety of powers. When four young children accidentally summon four of the godlike Great Beasts, they are thrust into an epic war that threatens to annihilate the world.

A sequel series, Fall of the Great Beasts, currently consists of 8 books. For the first four books, the children must fight against the Wyrm, a parasite weakening the Evertree and the bond between human and spirit animal. The next four books deal with the four on the run after they're falsely accused of heinous crimes, seeking out the bond token for each continent and trying to find out who framed them and why.

Spirit Animals provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A Boy and His X: Basically the concept of spirit animals. Conor and Briggan are fittingly the closest to the traditional 'boy and his dog' version of the trope, Abeke and Uraza are more aloof but still very close, Meilin and Jhi struggle to find common ground but help each other greatly, and Rollan and Essix take a long time to warm to each other but eventually do.
  • Action Girl: Meilin has been extensively trained in her world's version of karate. Ironically, her sprit animal is the extremely pacifist panda Jhi.
  • Action Pet: Most spirit animals, especially since Greencloaks are at least a semi-military organization.
  • Actual Pacifist: Jhi the panda. The one time we see her in an actual fight, she basically hypnotizes her opponent and causes it to fall asleep.
    • Meilin works around this by simply dropping Jhi on opponents.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: All spirit animals are, anyway. Even ones like crocodiles, wolverines, and leopards. Justified Trope, since spirit animals are not exactly normal.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Earl of Trunswick. He has a despotic reign over the town, abuses his son and encourages him to blame others for his pain, and threatens to have a eleven-year-old's mother raped and his family killed if he doesn't give him what he wants. He's also actively helping the Satanic Archetype of the story.
  • The Atoner: The Redcloaks in Fall of the Great Beasts have a few former villains in their ranks seeking to make amends, including Shane and Devin Trunswick.
  • Blow You Away: The crystal polar bear of Suka gives the wearer the ability to shoot gusts of wind from their fists.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Lord MacDonell and his rules. He'll force his harpist to smash her beloved harp just because she was higher than him in a banquet, and then commend Rollan for standing up for her and invite him to the knights' table.
  • Bond Creatures: The spirit animals themselves, naturally.
  • But Now I Must Go: It turns out that, for all her martial arts skills and being bonded to a god, Meilin is still a child, and at the end of Hunted she leaves the group to go back to Zhong and find her father. Might also apply to Conor handing over the artifact in the same chapter, since you can't expect a kid to let his family starve.
  • Canis Major: Briggan, one of the Four Fallen and patron of the realm of Eura. Bigger than any other wolf, and from what we've seen so far, an excellent fighter.
  • Child Soldiers: Lampshaded and justified. The four heroes are only eleven, and under normal circumstances the Greencloaks would never send them into a fight that young, but the Devourer is moving right now and they are the only ones who can stop him.
    • Also a specific example in which the three adults present all think Meilin is off her head when she offers to champion the party in a ritual duel. What they don't know is that Meilin has been receiving kung-fu training since she was five from some of the best martial artists in the world.
  • Disabled Deity: The Four Fallen were killed centuries ago saving humanity (that's how they got their name). While they have returned from the dead, they are still missing a lot of their old power.
  • Domestic Abuse: As revealed in Fire and Ice, Rollan's mother Aidana had the bonding sickness, which lead to her becoming dangerous and neglectful to her son on several occasions, leaving him with several scars from her rages. At one point, she mistook the infant Rollan for a rat and nearly killed him. She didn't want to abandon him, but she eventually realized her son wasn't safe with her and gave him to a family who she hoped would take him in.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Conor gets these after bonding with Briggan. Divination seems to have been a part of Briggan's portfolio before he died.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Devourer makes his own band of four in Book 2 to replace the Four loyal to the Greencloaks.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: After a massive battle at the end of Book 3, the four finally reconcile their differences.
  • Five-Token Band: A variant with four, but justified in that each of the Four is patron of a different continent/ethnicity and naturally appeared to a member of their chosen race. Zhongese appear to be Asian, Nilosians are African, Eurans are Caucasian, and Amararans are Native American (though their culture is more like modern America with medieval technology).
  • Improvised Weapon: The kids are taught to use them in Book 2, which comes in handy later.
  • Killer Gorilla: Kovo.
  • King of Beasts: Cabaro the lion has an oasis in the Nilosian desert full of animals that he rules over. However, it's subverted in that Tellun the elk is the actual leader of the great beasts. In Tales of the Great Beasts, Essix notes that Cabaro could have been the leader, if he weren't so lazy.
  • Kung-Fu Kid: Meilin. Her father is a general and wanted to be sure she could defend herself. She took to it like a duck to water.
  • Living Lie Detector: One of the more prominent gifts Rollan gains from bonding with Essix. A subset of a more general sensory enhancement, augmented by the fact that Rollan was already pretty good at reading people.

  • Make My Monster Grow: The slate elephant of Dinesh causes the wearer's spirit animal to grow to tremendous size.
  • Make the Dog Testify: In one scene, Essix votes for allowing Meilin to be the party's champion in a ritual duel. This immediately resolves the issue, as Essix is not only a Great Beast but one specifically known for her powers of perception.
  • The Medic: Jhi's powers as a Great Beast appearently revolved around healing. She closes a nasty scalp wound in one scene. She didn't heal Barlow after he lost his spirit animal and been run through with a sword, though it's unclear whether this was because her powers haven't fully returned after she died a few centuries ago, or because nothing could heal a wound that bad, or simply because Barlow was ready to die.
  • Men of Sherwood: Greencloaks form a pretty good example of this. Unaffiliated with any one nation, their primary function seems to be to police and counter rogue Marked.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: MacDonnell rejected his bond animal because it was just a hare, and as a result the hare ran off. He came to regret it deeply.Rumfuss the Boar helps them reconcile later.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: The majority of characters are either good, misguided but also good, anti-heroes, or a Well-Intentioned Extremist, with genuinely evil characters being few and far between.
  • Nice Guy: Rumfuss the Boar is the nicest Great Beast yet, not counting Jhi. You'd think he'd be resentful to Lord MacDonell for imprisoning him, but instead he goes right to the root of the problem (MacDonell is missing his spirit animal and thus a part of himself) and takes care of it.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Not only are the Great Beasts extraordinarily tough (to the point where a several-hundred-foot drop only temporarily stops them), even if you somehow managed to kill one it would reincarnate in a few centuries. On the other hand, reincarnating does at least temporarily strip them of the bulk of their powers.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Essix the Falcon, one of the Four Fallen and patron of the realm of Amara. In addition to adequate fighting skills, has extraordinary powers of perception.
  • Noble Wolf: Briggan, being strong, wise, a leader and the biggest wolf in the world.
  • Olympus Mons: The Four Fallen were once Physical Gods, and now they are bonded to four human children. In the sequel series, every Great Beast is bonded to a human child.
  • Opposites Attract: Meilin and Jhi complement each other very well, with Meilin motivating Jhi a bit more in fights and Jhi helping Meilin think.
  • Pals with Jesus: The four human companions of the Fallen.
  • Panthera Awesome: Uraza the Leopard, one of the Four Fallen and patron of the realm of Nilo. Supremely stealthy and an excellent ambusher. Cabaro the lion also applies; it's said that only Suka could match him in ferocity.
  • Physical God: The fifteen Great Beasts. In addition to super-human physical abilities and virtual indestructibility, they have more bizzare supernatural gifts, such as Arax's power to summon gales and windstorms, or Jhi's healing abilities.
  • Playful Otter: Lumeo is, according to his companion Tarik "more clown than beast." Doesn't stop the two of them from being two of the Greencloak's foremost operatives.
  • Psycho Serum: The Bile. Able to force a human-animal bonding, but with some undesirable side effects, such as allowing the Serpent to possess you. It can also be given to an animal directly, which causes the animal to become an enhanced, Ax-Crazy version of itself, but eventually kills it.
  • Power Tattoo: All spirit animals can choose to enter a "passive state" in which they become a tattoo somewhere on their companion's skin. While convenient for transport, entering this state means that the spirit animal does not grant any powers to its human.
  • Rags to Royalty: Three out of the four heroes have some variant of this. Conor was the shepherd's son who was trapped serving the local noble's Jerkass son in order to pay off his family's debts, Rollan was a criminal street urchin, and Abeke was the Unfavorite in her tiny village. Now they have bonded members of the Four Fallen, and are some of the most important people in the world.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent:
    • Gerathon the cobra is in cahoots with Kovo to take over Erdas. The bile that forces spirit bonds and turns animals into monsters is also created with her talisman, the jade serpent.
    • The Devourers, both past and present, have saltwater crocodiles for spirit animals.
  • Royal Brat: Devin Trunswick, so much. He gets much worse in Book 2, when the Devourer makes him into a false hero.
  • Sadistic Choice: Conor is confronted with one of these in Book 2: hand over an artifact he and his allies spent the whole book trying to get and need to save the world from the Devourer or allow his family to starve. He hands over the artifact.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: After the Devourer was defeated, the two Great Beasts that chose to aid him (the Ape and the Serpent) were locked away in some kind of magical prison by the rest of the Fifteen. Though this was the only way to contain the immortal Beasts, it has not made them any happier with the rest of the world.
  • Seers: Both sides have one, which grant useful intelligence. Connor is also developing into one, as divination was a part of Briggan's portfolio.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Meilin. Beautiful young lady who can spend hours getting her makeup just so and looks like a porcelain doll, but she's been learning karate since she was five and is a master at it.
  • Soul Jar: According to Dinesh, a Great Beast's artifact is a part of itself.
  • Super-Senses: Rollan gets these by bonding Essix.
  • Super Serum: The Nectar of Ninani. While the bonding process can still take place without it, unaided bonding is extremely risky, with a high chance of potential Marked going crazy, dying, or being crippled for life.
  • Super-Scream: The golden lion of Cabaro enables the wearer to roar - hitting their foes with hard core sound waves.
  • Super-Speed: One of the common powers granted by spirit animals.
  • Super-Strength: Another common power granter by the spirit animals.
  • Taking You with Me: To restore order to Erdas, the great beast (excluding the four fallen) must end their existence by charging into the trunk of the Evertree. This includes the traitors, who are less than eager to do so. After a great struggle, Suka goes to the Evertree with Gerathon clamped in her jaws while Arax goes with Halawir snared in his horns.
  • The Marvelous Deer: Tellun the elk, leader of the great beasts.
  • The One Guy: Of the Four Fallen, Briggan is the only male.
  • Trauma Button: Fire and Ice has supporting character Maya join the group for the journey through Arctica. After the climax, in which she and the entire group are nearly killed by Suka, she gains PTSD from the incident and has to retire from active duty, only being called in when there's no other choice and then having a panic attack during battle.
  • True Companions: What the core cast evolves into. At the end of the last book, Conor, Abeke and Rollan are reunited with what family each of them have left while Meilan stands alone. The other humans present all but demand she join them and they all vow to be family to each other.
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: Played with. It takes a while for Rollan and Meilin to warm up to Abeke, even though it's not her fault she was on the other side. Conor, on the other hand, is more welcoming.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Rollan is given a choice: steal an artifact they need and rob Dinesh of his Soul Jar, or leave it alone and hope they survive long enough to ask Dinesh properly. He leaves it. This convinces Dinesh to go to their side, and Dinesh gives it to them later.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Blood Ties is not kind to Meilin. She finds her father, then has to immediately leave him as Conquerors overrun the camp. The next time she sees him, he dies.