Cavern of Secrets: Wing & Claw, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Cavern of Secrets: Wing & Claw, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Well-paced animal-rescue sequel with admirable hero.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Despite this being a fantasy series, the ways of these apothecaries are rooted in numerous healing traditions. The main character's enthusiasm when he discovers an unknown plant species is infectious. And there's a tidbit about how hot springs are heated.

Positive Messages

As in the first book, there's a strong plea for respect for animals resonates throughout. Also, respecting what's natural for animals. While humans would like them to be companions and have some control over animal instincts we find less desirable, they deserve to be wild animals. A difficult dilemma pops up twice: should a single life be sacrificed to save many?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Raffa's main focus is on saving animals and he's heroic in his attempts. He discovers that he's a leader and is uneasy about it at first with so much responsibility resting on him. He reads his friends and allies well as he solicits help from them and tries not to ask too much of a friend who has too much to lose. But sometimes his determination to protect his friends and family from harm makes things worse.

Violence

A few near-drownings, a cut hand, and a tense scene of substance-controlled animals attacking and killing many farm animals. Some fires are set and a childhood home is found burned down with no sign of missing parents. Talk of substance-controlled animals held in cages and trained to kill and young children nearly dying of a croup-like illness. Continued mention of an earthquake 200 years before. In the first book readers learn that it killed millions of people.

Sex

A boy admits to tickling a horse on its "underparts" to get it to jump and his friends all laugh.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cavern of Secrets is the second book in the Wing & Claw fantasy series by Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard). It's a great fit for animal-loving kids who are just digging into fantasy, but expect to run across some hurt and mistreated animals, particularly a tense scene in which substance-controlled animals attack and kill many farm animals. There are also a few near-drownings, and the main character, Raffa, returns to his childhood home to find it burned down with no trace of his parents. Raffa is a gifted young apothecary who becomes more of a leader in this book, bravely fighting to save animals from a life of servitude.

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What's the story?

In CAVERN OF SECRETS, after a bitter-cold winter hiding out in the Sudden Mountains, Raffa, his cousin Garith, and his friend Kuma decide they must head back to civilization. While it's a dangerous idea after they stole back Kuma's bear friend from the clutches of the shady Gilden Chancellor, they have to find out what happened in Gilden. Are the other animals still trapped in cages, taking daily doses of a vine that helps control their minds? And what happened to Garith's father who worked as an apothecary for the Chancellor in her secret animal labs? And where are Raffa's parents, who refused to help the Chancellor? While it will be dangerous to return, when Raffa's bat Echo becomes sick he knows he needs to seek the advice of his parents. They stop in Kuma's village first and are in for a shock. Even though it's the farthest from Gilden, guards are out looking for them. And shortly after they arrive, the controlled animals come and wreak havoc.

Is it any good?

If you're someone who adores animal-rescue videos, this apothecary adventure series will reel you in like a turtle caught in fishing line heroically saved by a kayaker and his Swiss Army knife. Raffa is the selfless character at the heart of Cavern of Secrets whose determination to free captive animals drives most of the exciting action in the story. Having his likeness on Wanted posters everywhere adds to the cloak-and-dagger danger and keeps the story moving.

While the pacing is great, sometimes Cavern of Secrets feels as if it sacrifices clarity and logic for action, leaving a few questions unanswered: Why wasn't Raffa trying harder to find his parents? He barely asks questions of his friends when he arrives in Gilden. Why didn't he just give an antidote to his cousin to deliver since he's the one who doses the animals anyway? Why isn't Raffa spreading information about this secret animal project to others in the government? What good will it do to just rescue animals if more will just be obtained? Between those questions and the cliffhanger ending, much is left swirling around readers' minds -- readers who will surely be excited about Book 3.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the animals in Cavern of Secrets. Why is Raffa so worried about Echo's eyes turning black again? Why does he wants something different for Echo than he does for the other animals?

  • Humans exert a lot of control over animals. Do they deserve to be wild? 

  • What do you think will happen to Raffa in Book 3? Will you keep reading?

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