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Literature / The Book of the Named

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The Book of the Named is a series of Young Adult novels by Clare Bell, told from the point of view of a sentient species of prehistoric cat-like mammal called a nimravid. The story primarily focuses on one nimravid named Ratha and her people, who call themselves the Named and practice a simple version of herding with prey beasts.

Ratha defies tradition and becomes a herder, nearly unheard of for female Named. Herders not only keep the animals safe from predators and slaughter them for the tribe, they also defend them from the Un-Named, nimravids who look like the Named but are non-sentient. It is in this role that she discovers her "creature," fire, which she names the Red Tongue. She also discovers that some of the Un-Named are capable of speech, just like the Named. Her discoveries will change the dynamics of the Clan forever.

The series deals with the social and political conflicts between Ratha, her people, her daughter and mate, and the Un-Named.

The first book in the series was adapted into an episode of CBS Storybreak.

The books in the series are:

  • Ratha's Creature (1983)
  • Clan Ground (1984)
  • Ratha and Thistle-Chaser (1990)
  • Ratha's Challenge (1991)
  • Ratha's Courage (2008)
  • Bonechewer's Legacy (a published short story, 2009)
  • Ratha's Island (a Twitter novelette, 2009)

This series provides examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love: Played up to a very creepy eleven in Ratha's Courage.
  • All There in the Manual: The author's website. See Shown Their Work.
  • Abusive Parents: Ratha lashes out in rage and despair when she believes her cubs are unintelligent, severely wounding Thistle-Chaser. This comes back to haunt her, big time, when Thistle-chaser survives and tries to kill her.
  • Animated Adaptation: The first book was adapted for an episode of CBS Storybreak. According to her website, Clare Bell was pleased with it, especially the scene where Ratha tames her "creature," taken almost verbatim from the book. She uploaded it herself here. Strangely, it changes the setting from nimravids on prehistoric Earth to "intelligent mountain lions on another planet". Alan Oppenheimer voices Meoran, even.
  • Arranged Marriage: Early in the first book, Ratha worries that Meoran will pair her off with "some old graycoat."
  • Beast Fable: Abusive parents, racism, superstition, and a few other issues all get targeted, some in a more realistic manner than others.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Ratha and Bonechewer. Although the "will they or won't they" portion of the relationship was cut short by Ratha going into heat. To be fair, Belligerent Sexual Tension is par for the course in feline relationships.
  • Blood Knight: Fessran is hot-tempered and — as leader of the Fire Keepers — eager to promote feeding the Named's enemies to the Red Tongue. Ratha herself comes to recognize and struggles to overcome her anger issues, bloodlust, and hatred of those different from the Named.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
    • The Named and Un-Named were originally based on Nimravus before being retconned to a sentient species of Dinaelurus — a cat-like carnivorous mammal reminiscent of cheetahs.
    • The three-horns the Named have tamed are based on Synthetoceras.
    • The bristlemanes/belly-biters were originally intended to be prehistoric hyenas, later retconned to being amphicyonids or creodonts.
    • The treelings are a species of lemur related to Notharctus.
    • The seamares are a species of Paleoparadoxia, a hippo-like relative of dugongs and manatees, the "barking raiders" are a species of prehistoric sea-lion called Enaliarctos, while the "blubber-tusker" is a short-tusked walrus.
    • While the books call the face-tails "mammoths", the author retconned them to being Deinotherium or a species of mastodon.
    • The "rumblers" are a species of long-necked hornless rhinoceros called indricotheres.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Thakur. Every breeding season, he hides himself away for fear of creating wild cubs due to his Unnamed genes.
  • Cats Are Mean: Considering the way the Named treat everything, including each other, this is kind of played straight. It gets better as the books progress.
  • The Chains of Commanding: As Ratha undergoes Character Development over the course of the series, she frequently questions whether she is a good leader for the Named; and in later novels blames herself for the misfortunes the Named suffer.
  • Challenging the Chief: The leader of the Named can be challenged for their position.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Has one in the planning stages.
  • The Corruption: Ratha learns the hard way in Clan Ground that the Named's religious reverence of the Red Tongue can be twisted into something dark and violent.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Shongshar's cubs being taken from him causes him to turn against Ratha and plot to undermine and overthrow her.
  • The Discovery of Fire: Named are prehistoric big cats with rudimentary herding abilities. The first book starts with Ratha learning how to use fire, and introducing the rest of the tribe to it.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The above-mentioned Arranged Marriage and Ratha's parents are never mentioned again after the first book. The former may be justified by Ratha abolishing the law after she became leader, the latter by the Named not caring about familial bonds outside of mating season. The first book also has the most sexual content in the series.
  • Enemy Within: The Dreambiter, a trauma-induced hallucination of Newt's/Thistle-chaser's. In later books, Ratha later comes to consider it one for herself, the embodiment of her rage and bloodlust, and expresses concern to Thakur it will consume the good part of her.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Fessran, who bordered on being Ratha's Psycho Supporter at the end of Ratha's Creature, falls under the corrupting influence of the Red Tongue and Shongshar in Clan Ground. She comes to her senses by the end of the novel, and remains on Ratha's side for the rest of the series.
  • Feathered Fiend: A terror bird briefly appears in the first book.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Ratha faces this more and more often as each story progresses, at times straying into Villain Protagonist territory when she considers committing genocide against the Hunters.
  • Head Pet: The treelings' favorite places to hang out are the backs and heads of the Named. Justified since they've formed a symbiotic relationship with the Named: they provide grooming and perform simple tasks for the Named, while the Named protect them from predators. Riding on their partner gives them maximum protection as well as making them available to their partner whenever needed.
  • Hive Queen: True-of-Voice channels the Song that guides the Hunter clan, and when he nearly dies they almost go insane.
  • Hive Mind: The face-tail Hunters, who are guided by the Song of True-of-Voice. As you can imagine, this freaks out Ratha's clan to the point where she seriously considers carrying out a genocide against them. One, Quiet Hunter, manages to partially break away with Thistle's help and become her Love Interest.
  • Ignorant About Fire: The characters are intelligent cat-like animals with rudimentary ranching skills. It isn't until Ratha learns how to tame fire, or her "creature" as she calls it, that the characters learn to fear fire less.
  • Intellectual Animal: The Named and some of the Un-Named are sentient.
  • Kill It with Fire: The appeal of the red-tongue, and what Ratha uses it for in the climax of the first book — immolating Meoran when he tries to kill her.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The latter two books introduce quasi-supernatural elements via the hunter clan, have the Named forming monogamous couples who behave romantically with each other, and refer to the Named as cats rather than nimravids.
  • Mature Animal Story: It's a Young Adult aimed xenofiction work with its fair share of violence and other mature themes.
  • Morality Pet: Ratha becomes a lot less self-righteous and narrow-minded after Thistle shows up. Thakur also serves as this to Ratha, pushing her to seek alternatives to violence.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Every female in Ratha's clan at the end of Ratha's Courage. Weirdly enough, Ratha forgives and allies with the attackers almost immediately, because... wisdom means befriending those who brutally attacked you, caused you severe trauma, and show no regret for doing so?
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished : Ratha saves the leader of the face-tail hunters only to have the other clan attack the Named again.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Ratha points this out to Thistle-chaser when the latter attacks Mishanti to get at Ratha.
  • Official Couple: By the end of the series, Ratha and Thakur, as well as Thistle and Quiet Hunter.
  • The Ophelia: Thistle-chaser, at first. She is healed in the fourth book.
  • Only Sane Man: Thakur — barring his terror of the Red Tongue in the first book — is the most level-headed and philosophical of the Named, expressing concern that the clan's use of the Red Tongue is corrupting them, and frequently advising Ratha to reconsider her prejudices and consider alternatives to burning everything she doesn't like.
  • Panthera Awesome: The main characters are Dinaelurus illumina sapiens , a fictional species of nimravid — a family of cat-like mammal closely related to true felines and possessing traits of cheetahs, lions, leopards, and cougars. Shongshar has some traits resembling Smilodon, possessing enormous fangs and longer forelegs, though Claire Bell states he could be a hybrid between a saber-fanged Nimravus and Dinaelurus.
  • Pokémon Speak: Thakur names his treeling Aree after the sound she makes.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Ratha doesn't like it when Thakur advises an alternative to burning and killing. As she undergoes Character Development, she mellows out and ultimately makes a vow to never use the Red Tongue as a weapon again.
  • Shown Their Work: The author's website goes into detail about nimravids like Dinaelurus crassus , which inspired Ratha's species. She also clarifies what the sea mares, belly-biters, and treelings are.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: The Named begin the series as Partially Civilized Animals - they talk, herd animals, and live in a clan with laws, but that's about it. As the series progresses and the clan makes more technological advances under Ratha, they progress toward fully Civilized Animals, able to build simple structures such as animal pens, use the treelings' opposable thumbs to make things such as nets and saddlebags, and use a pair of tame Paraceratherium for demolition and very heavy lifting.
  • Team Pet: The treelings, who form such close bonds with the Named that the Named admit to feeling lonely without them.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Ratha gets pregnant from her first heat, when she's just out of cub-hood herself.
  • Theme Naming: Treelings are named a Portmanteau of the owner's name and "aree"; Ratharee, Biaree, Fessree, etc.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Ratha understands and forgives the face-tail hunters, refusing to attack them with fire. Thakur tells her that being able to forgive after being betrayed twice is true courage.
  • True Companions: The clan, especially after Ratha takes over.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ratha gets this from Thakur a lot. Although when he's invariably proved right, he's nicer about it than she is.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Shongshar, after Ratha forces him to abandon his un-Named cubs and he hijacks Fessran's cult of fire worship.
  • Xenofiction: The stories are told from a uniquely feline... er... nimravid point of view.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Thakur finds out that his treeling Aree is female when she becomes pregnant.