Survivors: The Empty City

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Survivors: The Empty City Book Poster Image
Exciting start to dog fantasy series.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 15 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Young readers will learn about different kinds of dogs, their behavior and their particular talents. They'll also get a look at the dire effects of earthquakes, both on city infrastructure and on the lives of humans and animals. Kids who are into mythology will enjoy the tales about the Earth-dog, the Sky-dogs, and other beings in the dog's-eye view of the universe.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about belonging, working together, getting along, learning from one another, the importance of everyone's different talents, and staying to take care of your pack when they need you rather than going it alone. Also: It's good to have friends, especially during hard times.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite being a Lone Dog who craves the solitary life, Lucky has a strong sense of responsibility and fairness, and teaches the other dogs vital skills. The other dogs, conflicted about their responsibility to their absent owners vs. their need to survive in a new environment, reveal many hidden strengths, from the little dogs' talent as sentries to the Newfoundland's ability to swim.

Violence & Scariness

The dogs hunt to survive; they are also attacked by enemies from gun-toting humans to foxes and other dogs guarding their territory. They also deal with post-earthquake hazards from live electrical wire to gas leaks. A human who was kind to Lucky is killed in the earthquake.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Survivors: The Empty City is the first volume of a new series by "Erin Hunter" -- the author name for a collective of different writers whose previous multi-volume animal fantasy series, Warriors (about cats) and Seekers (about bears), have been huge successes with middle-grade and older readers. Writer Gillian Philip makes her Erin Hunter debut with this tale of dogs fending for themselves in the wake of an earthquake. There's some violence, as dogs cope with their enemies and hunt their prey (they are attacked by gun-toting humans, foxes, and other dogs guarding their territory). And one human character is killed in the earthquake. But mostly there are positive messages about friendship, belonging, and the importance of everyone's different talents.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byburgundydog May 12, 2019

Action packed

This book is very exciting, action packed, and engages readers with battles, hunts, longpaws (humans), and patrols.
Parent of a 5 and 12-year-old Written byCloverstar April 20, 2015


Teen, 17 years old Written byQwertykey January 2, 2020
The Survivor dogs series is quite interesting, however I think, Survivors-the gathering darkness series is more interesting.
Kid, 9 years old October 31, 2020

Very AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This series is JUST AWESOME!!!!!!!It is gripping, engaging, and interesting. I love how *SPOILER ALERT* Lucky is actually more than he seems. I read the gatheri... Continue reading

What's the story?

To the dogs, it's the Big Growl of the Earth-dog, a favorite theme of their mothers' tales, but human readers will recognize the devastation of an earthquake, which strikes the dogs' town one night. By morning they're trying to stay alive in THE EMPTY CITY, a strange world of collapsing buildings and many dangers, without a human in sight. Lucky, who's lived on his own since he fled his abusive owners as a puppy, wants to go it alone, but when a group of formerly Leashed Dogs helps him out of a tight spot, he realizes their pampered life has left them completely unprepared for the challenges of their new environment and decides to repay their kindness by teaching them survival skills.

Is it any good?

Erin Hunter's previous animal series have a large, devoted following, and this one is off to a promising start. Survivors is told from the dogs' point of view as they make their way through an earthquake-devastated world in search of safety and a new home. As with many first volumes, there's a lot of groundwork, from learning to see the world through dog eyes to understanding the different characters. Lucky, his pack, and the lessons they teach each other ring true in the human world as well as the canine: friendship, having each other's back, appreciating each other's differences. More sensitive kids may be distressed by the dogs' hunting to survive, though it's more matter-of-fact than gory; others will have trouble with the wholesale abandonment of dogs by humans who supposedly loved them and deserted them in the night when disaster struck.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Have you read any of Erin Hunter's other books? How does this one compare? Why do you think animal fantasy books are so popular?

  • Which of the dogs do you like best? Why?

  • Does your family have a disaster plan that includes your pets, so they won't be left to their fate, as these dogs were, if you have to evacuate?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate