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Literature / The Familiars

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The Familiars is a series of children's fantasy books written by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson. The Familiars is also the title of the first book in the series, featuring familiars, magical animal companions to a wizard or witch, particularly three familiars: Aldwyn a cat, Skylar a blue jay, and Gilbert a tree frog. The series consists of four books, published between 2010 and 2013:

  • The Familiars (2010)
  • The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown (2011)
  • The Familiars: Circle of Heroes (2012)
  • The Familiars: Palace of Dreams (2013)

This series provides examples of:

  • The Chosen One: More like chosen three. Courtesy of three shooting stars circling each other Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert are prophesied to save the land of Vastia from disaster.
  • Cool Big Sis: What Marianne ultimately is towards Jack, comforting him when he's scared after they and Dalton are captured by the villain of the first book.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: The entire history and queendom of Vastia is built on a lie: that humans are the only true mages. At one point all species lived in equality, but humans invaded, took over, forced the animals to give up any magic other than their own innate talents, and reduced them from full citizens to mere familiars before rewriting history so that all of the animals' major accomplishments were credited to humans and save for a few groups the animals themselves forgot that it should be otherwise.
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  • The High Queen: Loranella is actually a benevolent queen, and the evil Loranella is an imposter. By the end of the third book another example Galatea, queen of the lightmares, rules at her side as an equal in order to bridge the gap between humans and animals in Vastia.
  • I Am Who?: Aldwyn had no idea he was a telekinetic cat until he used it to save his friends.
  • Instant Oracle: Just Add Water!: Gilbert can see visions in bodies of water though not the whole picture.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: Bloodhounds have the power to see the past if they'd made a different choice, and possibly show it to others, which many view as a curse since they feel like they're constantly seeing their mistakes. Aldwyn sees a world where he wasn't chosen and another familiar was chosen, one much better than him who finished the quest, and feels hopelessly inadequate. As we later learn though, Aldwyn was key to restoring the balance between humans and animals, and while the other world defeated Paksahara more quickly, the oppressive regime remained because the only one who challenged it was silenced.
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  • Left Hanging: The final book in the series, Palace of Dreams, ends on an as-of-now unresolved Cliffhanger, with several loose ends such as where Aldwyn's sister is not wrapped up.
  • Master of Illusion: Skylar is a heroic example as she can create magical illusions though she uses other kinds of magic as well.
  • Mind over Matter: Aldwyn has telekinesis though he didn't find out until near the end of the first book.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Gilbert is a funny character but he does get in on the action.
  • The Poorly Chosen One: Aldwyn believes himself to be this, firstly because he thinks he's a fraud, and secondly because he sees a vision where, if he was never chosen, Jack chose another familiar that finished the quest much more quickly than he did.
  • Power Trio: Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert of course.
  • Prophecy Twist: It was originally believed that the three young wizards Jack, Dalton, and Marianne were the ones the omen was referring to. Turns out it was actually their familiars Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert.
    • A "Vision Twist" example: Gilbert has a puddle vision where he is warned to beware of a gray hair witch (his own words). The trio assumes this is warning them about a human witch with gray hair but she ultimately turns out to be relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things. Then they confront the queen, who kidnapped the kids and has locked up her familiar, a gray-furred rabbit; when certain things stop adding up, Gilbert suddenly realizes he got the wording wrong and that his vision wasn't warning them about a witch who has gray hair but rather a witch who is a gray hare. Indeed the queen's familiar is a horrid monster who wants to bring down the kingdom for belittling familiars and downgrading their importance.
    • Throughout most of the third book, Gilbert lives in fear of a vision of Skylar supposedly killing him. Clues start to add up, things get closer and closer, and Gilbert realizes he won't escape and comes to terms with it...and it's actually Paksahara, shapeshifted to look like Gilbert, that Skylar kills.
  • Protective Familiar: Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert may be small and animals but no one hurts their wizards. Bonus points for Aldwyn who had originally intended to be a freeloader but quickly came to care deeply for Jack.
  • Smart Girl: Skylar is very knowledgeable in many branches of magic
  • Telepathy: Aldwyn finds out he also has telepathy near the end of the third book.
  • This Is My Human: The attitude most familiars have towards their wizards, with the main trio being utterly devastated and/or enraged by any threat towards Jack, Dalton and Marianne.
  • The Unchosen One: Jack, Dalton and Marianne are at best the sidekicks of their familiars though Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert are quite glad for their help.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Many of Paksahara's followers, and possibly the hare herself. While tyrannical and power-hungry, she's right about humans oppressing animals, erasing their contributions from history, and downgrading them to second class citizens in a kingdom they built. It's for this reason that many animals end up joining her.

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