Fire and Ice: Spirit Animals, Book 4

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Fire and Ice: Spirit Animals, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Characters face loss, frostbite in exciting installment.

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age 8+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

In Fire and Ice, readers get to think about how people survive in extreme cold; frostbite is narrowly avoided, seals are hunted, and oil from their fat is burned in place of firewood. In all the books in the series, enhanced powers that the spirit animals pass to their human counterparts will get readers thinking about animals' keener eyesight, superior jumping ability and agility, and so on, and perhaps spark some conversation about which skills are natural and which -- such as prophecy, healing, and invisible fighting arms -- are magical.

Positive Messages

Teamwork and loyalty are the two big themes here, followed by forgiveness and trust. Kids continue to struggle with conflicting loyalties -- to their heroic cause and to their families. In Fire and Ice, two characters grapple with loss.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The foursome becomes an even better team in this installment. Meilin chooses to trust Abeke at a crucial moment, Rollan forgives Conor and stops holding a grudge against him. Rollan and Meilin both deal with a loss, and both choose to suffer alone instead of telling their friends how they feel.

Violence & Scariness

Fire and Ice opens with an unknown boy being swallowed whole by a giant magical cobra and a woman being hypnotized off a cliff and then eaten by the cobra. The march north brings on hunger and falls into crevasses and icy water, with one bad leg injury and near-frostbite. Seals are killed for food. In final battles, humans and animals fight; many bad guys die from arrows, fire, swords, and knives, and a few of the good guys are injured and bleeding. One main character deals with his father's death at the end of Book 3. Another has a painful reunion and parting from a family member who deserted him as a young child due to mental illness.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fire and Ice is the fourth book in a multimedia, multi-author series from Scholastic, similar to its 39 Clues and Infinity Ring series. There's a website where young readers can choose their own spirit animal and character identity and enter codes from the books they read to unlock prizes and whatnot. Aimed at animal-loving tween readers just digging into fantasy tales, each book since the series debut in September 2013 -- Wild Born, by Brandon Mull -- is written by a different, seasoned children's author with new installments appearing every few months. Kids may recognize this author, Shannon Hale, from the Newbery onor book Princess Academy. The four diverse 11-year-old characters at the center of the story, all with their own cool spirit animals, continue to fight against an evil cobra called the Devourer. The cobra eats people in the beginning chapter, and his followers stage a big battle near the end; many bad guys die from fire, swords, knives, and arrows. The rest of the story follows the foursome north, where the harsh elements nearly cause frostbite and starvation, and there are multiple rescues from falls into crevasses. Although the four characters mostly suffer minor injuries, two deal with the loss of close family -- one from battle -- and another has a painful parting from a family member who deserted him as a young child due to mental illness.

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Kid, 10 years old June 13, 2018

I really like it.

A good book for good times.

What's the story?

After fighting for the Slate Elephant's talisman in the steaming jungle, narrowly escaping the Devourer and his evil followers in Book 3, the four chosen and their special spirit animals can't wait to escape the oppressive heat. Heading to Artica in the very far north of Erdas may have been taking that wish a little too far. But that's where the Great Beast with the next talisman is hidden, so off they go. Their last stop before braving the endless ice fields filled with dangerous hidden crevasses is a remote village sacred to the Great Beast. Here they're hoping for directions, but something smells a little fishy. The villagers don't like visitors or the idea of someone after their sacred animal. And why does everyone in the village look so young? Just when they're about to gain their trust, some of the Devourer's followers barge in. 

Is it any good?

The Spirit Animals series is definitely built on a solid foundation. The four 11-year-old characters are great, and there's a big adventurous journey in each installment, with bad guys always on their tails for that jolt of excitement. In FIRE AND ICE, Rollan faces some painful decisions when he reunites with the mother who abandoned him. This is handled poignantly by author Shannon Hale and adds a nice depth to the story.

Once again, the baddest bad guy of the series -- the Devourer -- barely makes a cameo, and very little is revealed about the bigger story here. Another disappointment: There's a fantastic moment where characters think all is lost -- they've been tricked and may die on the ice. The tension stops there, though, and the problem is resolved in two pages. Luckily, Fire and Ice makes up for that in the final, nail-biter battle scenes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they like about this series. Do you most like the friendship part, the adventure-laden travels, or the action?  

  • Do you only read the Spirit Animals books, or do you visit the website, too? Is it more fun to read a series when it comes with a website?

  • What would your spirit animal be, and why? What special powers would it give you?

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