The Last Wild is the first in a trilogy of books by Piers Torday which is making waves on the children’s literature scene. Torday has been picking up armfuls of prizes for this series, specifically for his latest book; ‘The Dark Wild’. I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.
Normally I avoid books with animals in. Ever since I cried myself sick over Lassie and allowed myself to be traumatised by Black Beauty I have never trusted a book with animals in. BAD THINGS HAPPEN.
Which upsets me.
In this book, which is full of animals, BAD THINGS HAPPEN.
This would normally put me right off. In the interests of reviewing, and because children, unlike myself, usually flock to books with animals in them and enjoy weeping and wailing about them, I continued to read the book.
Actually, it was great.
It tells the story of a boy called Kester. Kester lives in a kind of dystopian future, presumably earth, although it is not entirely clear. Kester lives in one of four great cities which now house all the humans on earth (supposedly), who are kept safe from the wild, and particularly animals. Animals you see, have been stricken by a plague which has run rife through the entire animal/bird/fish population and killed nearly every animal in existence. Because bees are dead, the crops have failed and food has also become incredibly scarce.
That is until the corporation, FACTO, invents a total food substitute, which saves the humans from starvation. FACTO sweeps in and takes over everything in a kind of Big Brother sort of way.
As the story opens we find Kester in a children’s home/detention centre for troubled children. He has been there for six years. He doesn’t know why he was taken away from his father, a brilliant vet and scientist, and he cannot communicate with anyone because Kester cannot speak.
Then Kester finds he can communicate with varmints. Varmints are the animals that did survive, cockroaches and pigeons mainly. Kester begins to discover that he can link minds with these creatures and communicate telepathically. He discovers this on the day that the varmints stage a break out, and kidnap Kester. They want him to save the last animals on the planet.
Can Kester do it?
This is a rip roaring adventure story that moves at a cracking pace. It has lots of great plot twists and turns, and plenty of surprises along the way. It really keeps you turning the pages, and wanting to know what happens next. It will also leave you desperate to read the next volume, as it does not end neatly and you know that Kester’s adventure will go on.
The characters are well drawn, particularly those of the animals, and there is a lot of humour which helps to leaven some of the darker elements of the book. Having said that, the darker parts are not hugely troubling and this is a book that would be excellent for primary aged, KS2 readers, aged 7-12. It has plenty in it to appeal to boys if you’re looking for something to grip reluctant readers, but it really is a book for everyone to enjoy. There are sad moments and if, like me, you are very sensitive to animal deaths, you might need a box of hankies in certain parts, but it is really well done and the story wouldn’t be half so strong without the sad parts.
I am looking forward to reading the next book.