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By rath8325 - Posted on 27 May 2009

Ratha Returns with New "Courage"

by Clare Bell

Copyright 2008

Ratha, the fire-wielding leader of the Named prehistoric cat clan, has, according to the recent VOYA review of the new Ratha's Courage, "a long and venerable history". From the now-classic hardcover Ratha's Creature (Atheneum/Margaret K. McElderry/1983) to Ratha's Challenge (MKM/MacMillan/1996), Ratha's prehistoric Miocene world fascinated readers. Throughout four books, she and the Named grew and developed.

In Ratha's Creature, she learned how to herd three-horn deer, discovered the truth about the supposedly witless UnNamed raiders, tamed her "creature", the Red Tongue (fire), and led a blazing revolt against Meoran, the short-sighted, tyrannical clan leader. In Clan Ground, she fought down the challenge to her leadership by the orange-eyed demagogue Shongshar, who tried to turn the Named into a fire-worshiping hegemony. In Ratha and Thistle-chaser, she struggled with the daughter she wounded and abandoned. In Ratha's Challenge, she led the Named in a mystifying encounter with True-of-voice and the Song-entranced mammoth-hunting cat tribe.

Now, thirteen years later, comes Ratha's Courage: The Fifth Book of the Named. Why has there been such a long gap after Challenge and why at last did I return to the series with Courage?

When Ratha sprang from the pages in 1983, she created a whirl of excitement. She captured the 1984 IRA Children's Choice and the PEN Los Angeles awards. She became a regular on recommended book lists for teens and was hailed as an instant classic. CBS Storybreak not only optioned the book, but made an animated episode, which aired in 1987 (and is in clips on MySpaceTV and YouTube). She and the Named were on their way to recognition and popularity, like the kind accorded the present-day Warrior Cat series. .

Then time blew the dazzle away, like so much dust. I began to see the realities of the publishing world. Glowing reviews and awards, but low print runs. Praise by schools and libraries, but no shelf space in bookstores. British editions and paperbacks on Ratha's Creature and Clan Ground, but not on Thistle-chaser or Challenge. Invitations for author appearances and readings, but little publisher support. Finally, after 1996, the series sank out of sight in the mass grave of "Out of Print". Getting back the rights loomed as an impossible or at least a formidable process. I didn't pursue it.

I mourned, tried to put Ratha behind me, even though it was hard to see old copies at used bookstores reminding me of might have been. I turned instead to my other love and vocation, electric vehicles.




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Join other Named Series fans on the Ratha Series Forum.  Hunt up information in the Fire Den, read the new Twitter creation, "Ratha's Island", or strut before the clan to introduce yourself in the Fire Dance.

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