Spirit Animals Book 1: Wild Born HC
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: September 2013
Price: $12.99
Creator: Brandon Mull
Format: 208 pgs., 5-1/2" x 8", Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-5455-2255-7
Age Rating: 8-12 (moderate violence, w/ some deaths)
ICv2 Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
This new multi-media series brings some of Scholastic's main stable of writers to a new fantasy world.  Brandon Mull has written the first volume and apparently helped design the world, but subsequent volumes and other spinoffs will be by different creators.  The launch includes a novel and an online game.  The game is an online role-playing game on the Scholastic site, and each copy of the book has a code allowing readers to play for free.
Erdas, the world of the story, is Earthlike, but with a much smaller Atlantic ocean.  The story spans the globe, from their version of central China to the equivalent of the Rocky Mountains, as the characters are brought together and launched immediately into a dangerous quest.  Mull's writing failed to convey any sense of time or distance, even when characters traveled thousands of miles in between paragraphs.  This and other world-building flaws require a lot of suspension of disbelief, or the hope that things will be explained later.
The characters themselves and the magic of the world are intriguing, but some of the target audience will be savvy enough to wonder about the clunky world, and it will be up to later writers to flesh that out convincingly.
--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.