The Evertree: Spirit Animals, Book 7

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Evertree: Spirit Animals, Book 7 Book Poster Image
Wrap-up of multimedia series is hasty but satisfying.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The end of The Evertree, when the origins of life and the Great Beasts are revealed, will get readers thinking about life origin stories from past civilizations and past and present religions. In all the books in the series, enhanced powers that the spirit animals pass to their human counterparts get readers thinking about animals' keener eyesight, superior jumping ability and agility, and so on and perhaps will 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 in the series, followed by forgiveness and trust. In The Evertree, the four main characters have a choice between vengeance and mercy, and they choose mercy for a former enemy.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Abeke, Rollan, and Conor refuse to leave Meilin behind, even when she's being mind-controlled by the enemy. As characters from diverse backgrounds and experiences, they've had their issues with trust and teamwork. By the end of the series they know how to use one another's strengths against the enemy and have become inseparable.

Violence & Scariness

Young heroes fight against a giant snake, a bird, and a large ape wielding a staff that inflicts pain and starts earthquakes when it's slammed into the ground. They constantly fear they'll lose their spirit animals in battle, especially after they see many animals sacrifice themselves to weaken the enemy. The animals are bitten and injured. Two ships fight with cannons, sinking the ships and many people and animals; there are burials at sea. One character dies from painful fish poison bites, and whales that power the ships are nearly poisoned by the bad water. The young heroes see villages pillaged by the enemy and starving people who are attacked by arrows and injured. A horse collapses and dies from lack of water, and the heroes nearly die of thirst. Blood is drawn from a sword fight, but mercy is shown before a killing blow. Conor nearly falls from a high tower when having visions while sleepwalking. A large battle rages in the background with many soldiers brainwashed into fighting.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Evertree is the seventh and last book in a multimedia, multiauthor series from Scholastic, similar to its 39 Clues and Infinity Ring series. There's a website where young readers can choose their own spirit animals and character identities and enter codes from the books they read to unlock prizes. Aimed at animal-loving tween readers just now 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. The Evertree's author, Marie Lu, wrote the YA dystopian Legend series. In the final installment, Spirit Animals, things get pretty dark, as well. Armies battle, the heroes' ship gets blown apart by cannons, with many casualties, a giant ape wielding a weapon of power inflicts pain on the heroes, and animals fight and sacrifice themselves. Themes of teamwork and loyalty are big throughout the series. In this installment, the main characters learn about mercy for a former enemy.

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What's the story?

After losing most of their hard-earned talismans to the traitor Shane and the mind-controlling giant snake, Gerathon, and losing their friend Meilin to Gerathon's mind powers, Conor, Abeke, and Rollan know their mission to save the world from the Conquerors is close to failing. All Gerathon needs to do is free the Great Beast Kovo from his prison and subdue the last good Great Beast who holds him. The Conquerors are on the move, amassing an army to defeat the remaining Green Cloaks. Most of the Green Cloaks march to meet them in the land of Stetriol, a diversion for Conor, Abeke, and Rollan as they try to sneak in and take the last talisman before Kovo is freed. They travel by a ship named for the Great Beast they seek. Before they can even reach port, they're attacked, their small band discovered before they even reach Stetriol.

Is it any good?

THE EVERTREE is an exciting conclusion to a fun multimedia series -- but it's a hasty one. Readers are given the young heroes' objective before they set off for Stetriol: Don't let Kovo out of prison, or else. "Or else" happens, and readers may feel a bit lost after that point. Nothing comes up about the actual Evertree and the stories around it until the eleventh hour -- unless you count Conor's dreams of golden leaves, but it's not enough of a hint of what's to come. Rush to the tree to catch Kovo, rush to understand its meaning to the Great Beasts and all of humanity, rush home for the heroes' celebration (there's not even a hint of how they got from Stetriol to home -- suddenly they're there). It feels a bit like fantasy-fiction Cliff's Notes.

Author Marie Lu had a lot to squeeze into the under-200-page formula the series was going for, and she did hit the high notes -- hooray for Meilin and Rollan -- but the formula misses an opportunity for a bigger series send-off.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the series ended. Was it what you thought? What surprises were there?

  • What were Shane's reasons for his behavior? Did you empathize with him? Do you think he deserved mercy?

  • Research time! Many mythologies throughout human history have included a tree that symbolizes life and the sacred. Compare the Yggdrasil from Norse mythology with the Evertree and stories from other cultures.

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