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Ratha and Thistle-chaser
Thistle-chaser. Stubborn, scrappy, mentally and physically crippled, sullen, prickly, can barely speak, not pretty, hot-tempered, yet she rivals Ratha in the affections of readers. Thistle originated in Ratha's Creature, as the cub Ratha rejected and injured. Her appearance came from a portrait of my mother's calico cat, Jenny.
Into crippled and abandoned Newt, I poured feelings from a time when despair tore my life. The cloud around her mind comes from the slowed thinking of clinical depression. Her rage at the Dream-biter is my rage at the “blaming the victim” attitude before people recognized depression as a treatable illness.
“Throughout the series, Thistle's limitations and suffering bring her unexpected gifts of insight and empathy. Her fits and visions of the Dream-biter prepare her to understand the strange mental “Song” of the menacing face-tail (mammoth and mastodon) hunting tribe in Ratha's Challenge. Reconciling with Thistle may be the real 'Challenge' for Ratha, but in that book Thistle also becomes Ratha's conscience, asking the Named to look beyond the harm done to them by others: to reach out in friendship rather than strike back in fear.
“Readers of fantasy who demand excellent craftsmanship, complex
characters, a compelling plot, and fresh insights into family and society
will be more than satisfied with this powerful novel.”
—School Library Journal (Ratha and Thistle-Chaser)