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Darkwing

Darkwing (known as Dusk in the United Kingdom) is a novel by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel. It is the prequel and fourth addition to the Silverwing series, and takes place 65 million years before the events of the first book, Silverwing. It describes the origins of the war between the birds and the beasts.

Setting

The story takes place 65 million years ago, at the very beginning of the Cenozoic era. A huge natural disaster has wiped out most of the dinosaurs (referred to as "Saurians" within the context of the story), though a few have managed to survive in the aftermath, albeit weakened by climate change, a shortage of food, and a flesh-rotting virus. The mammals, who were once at the Saurians' mercy, form The Pact: unable to wage battle against them on their own terms, they decided to band together to exterminate the remaining Saurians by destroying their eggs, so that the Saurian threat will be extinguished forever.

Plot Summary

The story revolves around a colony of proto-bats called Chiropters, which live in safety in a giant sequoia on an uninhabited island, having deserted the other mammals due to refusal to participate in The Pact, a union between all beasts to destroy all Saurian eggs to drive their disease ridden species to extinction. Dusk, a young Chiropter, is being taught by his father how to glide. Dusk is different from the other Chiropters, however; whereas his brethren have simple sails, Dusk has wings, and an urge to fly that he has difficulty suppressing. He is regarded as a freak by the other Chiropters, though he finds acceptance with his parents and his sister, Sylph. Dusk learns to fly, but keeps his secret to himself out of fear of being shunned.

Carnassial, the Felid (a type of proto-cat) also has a hidden desire. Born with shearing teeth and an insatiable appetite for flesh, he seemingly fulfills the pact when he destroys the last known batch of Saurian eggs. The world is changing, and now that the Saurians are extinct, he leads a pack consisting of other flesh-craving Felids to form a new world order, with his kind as its undisputed rulers. The rogue pack of Felids find their way to Dusk's island and devour many of his colony, among them Dusk's mother.

With their island invaded by these deadly new predators, it is up to Dusk and his unique powers of flight and echolocation to find the Chiropters a new home where they can live in peace. Carnassial strikes an alliance with the powerful (but unintelligent) Hyaenodons, who claim that the Saurians do still exist, and enlist the Felids to find and destroy their eggs. Carnassial comes to realise that in order for the Felids to rule, it will have to be through cunning rather than through power.

Along the way, Dusk and his colony seek refuge with a seemingly peaceful colony of "Tree Runners", only to find out that they plan on sacrificing them to a giant, meat-eating bird; the Diatryma. After escaping, Dusk finds a new home for his follow Chiropters, but it is on the other side of a savannah, which is home to many predators. While Dusk is scouting for a good place, he meets another creature that looks similar to himself; it calls itself a bat and tells Dusk that there are many others like them.

While trying to cross the savannah, the colony encounters Carnassial and the Hyaenodons. They seek refuge inside a hollow tree, only to be attacked by horrible venomous shrew-like creatures called "Sorcids". The Sorcids overwhelm and devour a Hyaenodon, and nearly kill Dusk, but he is rescued by Sylph. While trying to cross the Savannah, Dusk gets caught in the web of a giant spider, which cuts him loose from its web. He and Sylph are attacked by Carnassial and his Hyaenodons once again, and take refuge in the skeleton of a large dinosaur. Through it, they find their way into an eerie, underground cave, where Dusk and Sylph discover a nest of an unidentified meat-eating Saurian, along with a clutch of mostly unhatched eggs and the rotting carcasses of the parents.

Carnassial, meanwhile, discovers the cave but needs the Hyaenodons to find a larger entrance for him. He schemes with his mate, Panthera; they will destroy all but two eggs, and allow them to hatch. This way, he will be able to manipulate the Hyaenodons by using fear of the Saurians to keep them under his control.

Sylph and Dusk debate over whether to destroy the eggs. However, before Sylph can destroy any of them Carnassial and Panthera arrive and attack. However, before the Felids can kill them, a young Saurian (having hatched prior to the cave's discovery and grown large on the meat of its parents) appears and kills Panthera. Dusk and Sylph escape when Carnassial attacks the Saurian in desperation to help his mate. The Saurian follows Dusk and Sylph out of the cave, where it encounters the Hyaenodons outside and attacks them.

Eventually, Dusk leads the Chiropters to their new home, and the book ends with him leaving the colony to stay with the bats.

Characters

  • Dusk - Dusk is a young Chiropter who is considered a freak among his colony because of his ability to fly and his strange appearance. Dusk is clever and resourcful and tries his hardest to fit in with the colony. He looks up to his father, Icaron.
  • Sylph - Sylph is Dusk's older sister, and extremely reckless. She is loud, amazingly loyal and generally unaware of any possible repercussions of her actions. She doesn't always understand the reasoning behind her father's actions, leading to frequent arguments.
  • Jib - Jib is a young newborn Chiropter. He likes to show off and dislikes Dusk because of his appearance and his ability to fly. He bullies Dusk by saying that if he wasn't the leaders' son, he would have been taken down to the Death Branch and abandoned there after his birth.
  • Aeolus - [Deceased] Aeolus is Jib's cousin, and is usually in the company of both Jib and Sylph. He was attacked and killed by birds who believed that he was Dusk, and was buried in the Death Branch.
  • Icaron - [Deceased] Icaron is the leader of the colony and the elder of his family. His mate is Mistral and they have had many offspring, including Auster, their oldest, and Dusk and Sylph, their youngest. Icaron is kind and strong, reacting calmly in situations of panic. Icaron is accepting and is one of the only Chiropters in the colony to accept Dusk for who he is. His decisions are frequently challenged by Nova. Carnassial attacked him and gave him the wounds that brought him to his death.
  • Mistral - [Deceased] Mistral is Icaron's mate and mother to Dusk and Sylph, among many others. She is a source of comfort to Dusk, helping him when he is banned from flying. Like Dusk, she is able to use echolocation. She is killed and eaten by Carnassial whilst defending Icaron.
  • Nova - Nova is the elder of her family. She is reckless and stubborn, and often challenges Icaron's decisions and capability to lead the colony. She took advantage of when Dusk was away finding a new home to take more than half the colony back along the coast to find a home with other chiropters.
  • Sol - [Deceased] Sol is the elder of his family. He was very loyal to his leader, Icaron. While trying to protect his family, the poisonous Soricids (a prehistoric mammal similar to a shrew) paralyzed him. They killed and ate him.
  • Barat - Barat is the leader of his family. He is generally level-headed, but sometimes is a little rash in his decisions.He follows Nova when she abandons Dusk.
  • Chimera - A female Chiropter with an appearance similar to Dusk's. Dusk meets her while searching for a new home for his colony, astonished to find another Chiropter who is unlike the rest. She calls herself a bat, after the leader of her colony and supposedly the first Chiropter to evolve flight, Bat-ra. Chimera appears to be interested in Dusk and persuades him to join her colony,and at the end of the book he leaves Sylph and his own colony, promising to return in the future.
  • Carnassial - [deceased?] Carnassial is a felid and a ferocious hunter. He destroyed what was believed to have been the last of the Saurians, but his taste for meat encouraged him to eat the flesh of other species. This eventually led to his expulsion from his tribe ("prowl"). Near the end he is seen trying to rescue his mate from the jaws of a young Saurian.
  • Panthera - [deceased] Panthera is Carnassial's hunting partner and mate. After she discovers a kill made by Carnassial she keeps his secret, although he is found out anyway. Eventually she also discovers a taste for meat, and she joins Carnassial. She reveals to him in the Saurian cave that she is pregnant with his kittens. She is killed by a Saurian.
  • Patriofelis - [Deceased] Patriofelis is the felid leader and very old. He banishes Carnassial from his prowl and is later carried off by a proto-owl while confronting Carnassial's rogue prowl.
  • Teryx - A bird that Dusk meets on the Island.

Species

In Darkwing, animal species are often referred by their taxonomic clade name rather than their own, which makes it difficult to know exactly what species each creature is. Where the species name is not known, they are listed under the name that they had in the book. The creatures are listed in the order of their appearance. The chiropters are fictional; a hypothetical species intended to represent a primitive bat.

Publication history

Darkwing was first released in Canada and the United States in August 2007. It was shortly followed with its release in the United Kingdom in May 2008. Below is the release details for the first edition hardback and paperback copies in these three publication regions.

  • 2007, CAN, HarperCollins ISBN 9780002007443, Pub date August 16 2007, Hardback
  • 2007, US, Eos ISBN 9780060850548, Pub date August 21 2007, Hardback
  • 2008, UK, Faber Children's Books ISBN 9780571238323, Pub date May 1 2008, Paperback
  • 2008, US, Eos ISBN 9780060850562, Pub date August 26 2008, Paperback
  • 2008, CAN, HarperCollins ISBN 9781554680153, Pub date October 17 2008, Paperback

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