Author: Steve Backshall
Published: 24 May 2012
Publisher: Orion Children’s
Summary: A superb, action-packed read for young adults and green oldies alike.
Steve Backshall is undoubtedly one of television’s best known wildlife presenters. Currently working for the BBC’s Natural History Unit, he’s fronted numerous television programmes including Deadly 60; a hugely successful children’s series that sees the adventurer tracking down and coming face to face with some of the world’s most dangerous creatures.
Whilst Tiger Wars isn’t Backshall’s first book (he’s released a string of factual titles and television tie-ins) it does represent his first foray into young adult fiction. The novel follows Sinter, as she flees from an arranged marriage to a much older man, and Saker, as he is hunted by The Clan – a shadowy sect that provides young renegades for hire, most recently, to a Chinese overlord who specialises in tiger poaching.
Backshall’s writing is fast-paced and crisp; there are no overly verbose descriptions of the exotic Indian and Chinese settings – something you could be forgiven for expecting from a naturalist, and, when the time comes for an injection of science or the green message, facts are woven into the narrative with a (mostly) impressive subtlety. The story arc is expertly crafted, too, with Saker and Sinter’s plots intertwining seamlessly before heading off towards the book’s satisfying conclusion.
Tiger Wars isn’t perfect, however. Whilst structurally effective, Saker’s amnesia storyline is clichéd and may prevent readers from losing themselves in the otherwise immersive prose. The villains are also slightly generic and forgettable, but Saker and (particularly) Sinter are brilliant characters; I recently wrote a piece on research suggesting readers may absorb personality traits from their heroes, and parents will have no problem with their children mimicking the central duo’s values.
It’s important to note that the book doesn’t shy away from difficult scenes, treating its target audience with enough respect to expose them to the horrifying realities of illegal tiger slaughter from the off. It’s a good move; with popular authors like Patrick Ness voicing concerns over censorship, younger readers have perhaps never been more wary of books that steer them away from sensitive issues.
It’s been a big year for young adult fiction and, with several well-known series and their cinematic counterparts grabbing the headlines, fanatic readers may well be looking for more of the same to sink their teeth into. It’s perhaps apt, then, that Tiger Wars’ fizzling narrative, relatively short chapters and numerous cliff-hangers have clear parallels with recent series like Gone and The Hunger Games.
- All remaining subspecies of tiger are currently endangered with three species, the Balinese, Javan and Caspian tigers, having already become extinct.
- You can get involved with tiger conservation yourself, here: http://www.wwf.org.uk/adoption/tigerthreat/
- Watch Steve Backshall risk his life kayaking down a swollen river in search of tigers.
Does anyone have any other sciency book recommendations for Christmas? Let us know in the comments section below.