Blood Ties is the third book in the middle grade, multi-platform Spirit Animal series. Much like The 39 Clues and the Infinity Ring series from Scholastic, each book has a different author. Garth Nix and Sean Williams are the brains behind Blood Ties, and personally, I think this was the best book in the series yet. As much as I love Maggie Stiefvater, who wrote Book 2: Hunted, I still think Nix and Williams wrote a more compelling story.
Erdas is a land of balance. A rare link, the spirit animal bond, bridges the human and animal worlds. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan each have this gift-and the grave responsibility that comes with it. But the Conquerors are trying to destroy this balance. They're swallowing whole cities in their rush for power-including Meilin's home. Fed up with waiting and ready to fight, Meilin has set off into enemy territory with her spirit animal, a panda named Jhi. Her friends aren't far behind . . . but they're not the only ones. The enemy is everywhere.
The third book has more action and more twists and turns than the previous two. Meilin is the focus of the story, and she chooses to go off on her own with Jhi (her panda spirt animal) to help her father defend her home of Zhong (this has been a constant source of guilt throughout the series). The mission to obtain the next talisman, poison, exposure, the lethal and distrusting rhino-riding tribe, animals driven mad after being bonded with Bile, and of course, the war. There's lots going on, and given the length, this is a fast-paced and exciting book for young readers. The book ends with two shocking twists, including a character death.
I really like Meilin's character. She has the tough exterior of a warrior, but deep down is a girl who is afraid of things we're all afraid of, like losing the ones we love. Moreover, she is just as much of a survivor as other YA heroines like Katniss, Tris, and Hermione, and she has strong moral values for one so young. Regardless of what you think of Meilin, the Green Cloaks are all unique, so readers will be able to identify with and relate to at least one of the main characters.
Spirit Animals Book 3: Blood Ties has restored my faith in this series to continue to perform well in the market. With several more books in the works already, I'm thrilled that book three ended with a bang to help young and easily distracted readers coming back for more.
The series will appeal to both genders and reads very "middle grade"--this is not a YA book. Although there is a lot of action, the violence is limited and it is not a frightening story. This is a great choice for home, school and public libraries alike!