The Darkest Hour
is the sixth and last book in the original Warriors
series by Erin Hunter, featuring the fictional character Firestar, a cat
. The novel centers around a group of feral cats living in four Clans, ThunderClan, RiverClan, WindClan, and ShadowClan. It was published on October 1
, by HarperCollins Publishers
. The story chronicles the events directly after A Dangerous Path
and leads to the much-awaited final battle for the forest.
The Darkest Hour was published on October 1, 2004.
In the prologue, Tigerstar travels to make a deal to share the forest with Scourge and his clan called BloodClan, who live in Twolegplace and thrive off of crowfood.
Fireheart, along with the medicine cat Cinderpelt, travels to the cave of mothermouth to undergo the traditional ceremony to become a clan leader in which he receives his nine lives and the name 'star' as follows:
Lionheart gave him his first life along with the gift of courage, so that he may defend his clan
Redtail gave him his second life, along with justice to know how to judge the actions of others
Silverstream gave Fireheart his third life with loyalty to know what is right
Fireheart's fourth life was given to him by Runningwind, along with tireless energy to help him carry out the duties of a leader
Brindleface gave him his fifth life along with the protection that a mother has for her kits, for Fireheart to use to protect his clan
Swiftpaw gave him his sixth life, along with mentoring for Fireheart to train the young cats of his clan to do what is right
His seventh life was given to him by Yellowfang along with compassion for the sick and weak
His eighth life was given to him by his first live, Spottedleaf, along with love, for his clan and Sandstorm
His final life was given to him by his former leader and mentor Bluestar, along with nobility, certainty, and faith so that he may lead his clan well in the ways of the warrior code.
He then receives his leader name: Firestar.
The ceremony is interrupted when a huge hill of bones appears, followed by a river of blood. During this chaos, Bluestar, the previous leader of ThunderClan, gives him the prophecy:
"Four will become two. Lion and tiger will meet in battle, and blood will rule the forest."
Upon returning to ThunderClan, Firestar appoints a deputy, Whitestorm, and then turns his suspicions to Darkstripe, a former ally of Tigerstar's. On Firestar's way back from hunting with his apprentice Bramblepaw, Firestar finds Sorrelkit, a ThunderClan kit, poisoned next to a pile of chewed up deathberries. Graystripe attacks Darkstripe, whom he accuses of feeding the deathberries to Sorrelkit. Sorrelkit recovers and reveals that Darkstripe fed the berries to her so she could not tell Firestar that Darkstripe was meeting Blackfoot, the ShadowClan deputy, on their territory. Darkstripe is exiled from ThunderClan and goes to join Tigerstar.
Sandstorm is wary and uncomfortable with Firestar at the beginning of the book, but eventually warms up to him. Though their relationship isn't shown much because of the conflicts with Scourge and Tigerstar, Sandstorm made sure Firestar knew of her love for him. However, Sandstorm still doesn't know that Firestar's dreams are filled with Spottedleaf, his first and forbidden love. Because their time together is limited, Sandstorm is barely shown in this book, yet she still has a major role, filling Firestar with hope.
At the Gathering, Tigerstar proposes to unite the four Clans under one Clan, TigerClan. As Tigerstar is the ShadowClan leader, ShadowClan is automatically a part of TigerClan, and RiverClan has agreed to join them. ThunderClan and WindClan both refuse to join. Soon after the Gathering, TigerClan attacks WindClan, weakening their warriors greatly and slaughtering an apprentice, Gorsepaw.
Graystripe wants to see his RiverClan kits (children), now part of TigerClan, so Graystripe, Firestar and Ravenpaw go to TigerClan territory and find not only Graystripe's kits (Featherpaw and Stormpaw), but Bluestar's kits (Mistyfoot and Stonefur) prisoners. Tigerstar accuses them of being half-Clan cats and traitors. Stonefur is killed by Blackfoot and Darkstripe after refusing to kill Graystripe's kits to prove his "loyalty" to TigerClan. Firestar, Graystripe and Ravenpaw manage to escape with the remaining prisoners.
When time runs out for Tigerstar's offer, Firestar prepares to fight. Tigerstar orders BloodClan to fight for him, yet they will only obey Scourge. Firestar takes the chance to tell Scourge of Tigerstar's wicked past. After hearing everything, Scourge decides that there will be no battle that day, and Tigerstar attacks him. Scourge fights and kills Tigerstar by ripping him open, wiping out all nine of his lives in one blow. To Firestar's shock, Scourge gives all of the forest Clans three days to either leave the forest, or fight BloodClan for it.
To face this danger, the four Clans unite, calling their alliance LionClan, and go into battle against BloodClan. Whitestorm, the ThunderClan deputy, is killed by the BloodClan deputy, Bone, who is later killed by a group of apprentices. Whitestorm's last wish was to appoint Graystripe as deputy and Firestar complies. At the end of the battle, Firestar loses his first life to Scourge. He was revived by StarClan, and Bluestar tells him that there were always five clans (the fith being StarClan). Firestar then comes back, much to Scourge's shock, as Scourge did not believe in StarClan. Firestar then defeats Scourge. The BloodClan cats are driven away. LionClan splits back into four clans.
Literary significance & criticism
The series has been quite successful in its target audience group, young adults. This particular novel garnered this praise from Hilary Williamson:-
- "The Darkest Hour is the best yet in this thrilling series of feline adventure, that also stresses the importance of caring and community."
calls The Darkest Hour
"tension-filled. Children's Literature
, on the other hand, called the writing "mechanical", but still said the quick pace and fantasy elements would help the story succeed.
- Hunter, Erin The Darkest Hour. 1st ed., HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0060000073.