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“I wondered if I was going to die. I wondered if my parents would be mad at me if I died,” Byx. –The Last
by Katherine Applegate
Byx, a dairnes, has always been a part of her family and a part of her pack. She has always had the love of her parents and the guidance of her pack. One terrible day, Byx wanders off from her pack’s nest. When she returns, she discovers that soldiers have killed everyone. Now Byx is the last of the dairnes. The endling.
As the youngest and the smallest of her siblings, Byx doesn’t feel like she is capable of taking off on her own. But she has no choice. She’s alone. Byx sets off on an epic journey in search of a legendary island where other dairnes may live. In her search for the island, she must travel through a war-torn kingdom and flee from knights who want to kill her.
During her travels, she finds allies who join her. There’s Tobble, the worthy wobbyk, Khara, the girl of many disguises, Renzo, the honorable thief, and Gambler, the principled felivet. Their enemies will stop at nothing to kill Byx, the last of the dairnes. Will Byx’s allies be able to keep her alive?
Byx’s story comes to life as she tells her own story of heartbreak and hope. As Byx meets others, she feels incapable of leading because she was the runt, and she feels like she was “too young to be clever. Too small to be helpful.” Many readers will relate to Byx’s insecurities, but also her determination to keep working towards her goal. Even though Byx feels that “this hope of mine is ridiculous. And I’m a fool,” others choose to follow her because Byx believed in them first. Through Byx’s experiences the message is clear; it is never wrong to hope.
The interesting and compelling characters are one of the best parts of the story. Readers will fall in love with Tobble, who according to wobbyk code, must save Byx’s life three times. Even though Tobble is small, he’s determined, fiercely loyal, and willing to fight for others. Each character has their own reasons to help Byx, but through teamwork they overcome obstacles. Each character has unique talents, which allow them to help their friends.
The Endling highlights that all people are capable of being a hero or a villain. In the story, humans are portrayed as untrustworthy deceivers who are hungry for power. Humans “do not understand the balance of life. They do not understand their will to dominate and control, to use and abuse, is destructive to all.” Throughout the story, humans are shown in a negative light, and younger readers may be frightened by the deception and the violence in the story. Much like real life, the death in the story is disturbing and the scenes may remain with the reader for a long time.
From the very first page, Applegate creates captivating settings and fascinating characters readers will love. The fast-paced adventure shows that even those who feel unworthy can become leaders. The Endling is an epic story that will take readers to an imaginative world where good must fight evil in the hopes of saving the last of the dairnes.
- A group of humans begins shooting arrows at Byx, who jumps off a cliff and glides down to the sea. Byx is safe from the poachers, but they kill her pack. Byx hears the “howls and screams. Agony. Pain beyond words. Terror and despair.” She then sees her family “piled on the ground like discarded hides, blood pouring, white and pearly, soaking the leaves, eyes glassy and open, mouths open. Torn and stabbed.”
- When Byx tries to run to her dead family, someone hits her with an arrow. “It wasn’t a killing arrow. It was an arrow meant for capture. . .” When Byx continues to struggle, the person hits her on the back of the neck, but she “felt it for only a second, maybe two, before I was lost in swirling darkness.” Later the person cleans Byx’s wound.
- Byx thinks about her dead family and all that she saw. She “closed my eyes and heard the screams. I smelled the brackish blood, steel and iron, sword and armor. I saw a spear poking at the dead bodies, the pitiful dead piles of fur.”
- A giant snake pins Byx to a tree. She “struggled, but with each movement the enormous snake coiled around me, tightening its hold. . . I tried to free my arms, but the strength of the huge serpent was infinitely greater than anything I could muster.” Byx’s friend Tobble tries to help. “He leapt to my defense, digging his teeth into the serpent that had pinned me, but suddenly the little wobbyk was snatched away, as if someone had him on a string.” Someone appears and chops the snake in half, and “the two pieces thudded to the ground. They writhed for a moment, then went still.” The scene takes place over four pages.
- A group of soldiers discover Byx and her friends hiding. Gambler, a huge cat, “swiped at a careless constable, leaving bloody tracks down his sword arm.” As they try to escape, “a reckless raptidon constable came at him, talons at the ready. In one move, Gambler knocked him out of the sky and sent him in a tangled, bloody heap down to the ally below.” They are able to flee safely.
- Khara talks about her great-grandfather, who was “given the treatment reserved for traitors. . . He was roasted over a slow fire for days, screaming in agony, before they finally cut off his head.”
- When knights begin following Byx and his group, Gambler attacked the knights so his friends could escape. Gambler, “flew through the air, paws outstretched, and slammed full force into the knight. The knight toppled from his horse but was up in a heartbeat, reaching for his sword. Gambler leapt on the knight before he could draw. . .” The knight uses magic to shoot a spear, “from the end of the spear came a jet of flame.” The grass catches fire and the group ran for their life.
- A soldier sees Byx, assumes he is a dog, and kicks him, “in my ribs with enough force to knock me over.”
- When Byx’s group comes across a rat-like creature that spies, Gambler attacks it. “. . . Gambler ended the creature’s life with a bite that crushed its skull.”
- A group of guards throw a net over Byx. His friends try to help. During the scene, Khara, “staggered from a savage blow from the hilt of a guardsman’s sword against the side of her head. Her eyes rolled up.” During the fight, Tobble “hurled himself with mad fury on the guardsman. . . dug his claws into the man’s ears, and began ripping at his nose. . . Blood flew everywhere.” The scene takes place over 6 pages.
- When Khara accuses someone of treachery, the person “swung a backhand and hit the side of her face with a sharp report that seemed to echo off the walls.”
- A knight suspends a boy above a fire. “The knight meant death to come slowly to his human prisoner.” Before the boy can be roasted, Byx and Gambler save him.
- The knight attacks a group of guards. “Crossbow bolts few. One missed. One struck the Knight in his right thigh.” As the guard tries to escape, one of the men was “wreathed in flames.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Byx and his friends go into an inn where, “two barmaids threaded through the crush of people, carrying pitchers of ale, mead, or cider.”
- Byx is a dairne who can tell if someone is lying because she can “feel the falseness.” Byx explains that when she hears a lie, “there’s something missing, and you hear the wrongness of it. You feel it in your belly. . .”
- Some of the characters know “theurgy” which is the “study of spells and incantations.”
- A natite has a fishtail and is “vaguely human in shape. . . Green flesh covered its powerful shoulders and chest, and two huge, writhing tentacles rose from the creature’s shoulder blades.” In order to cross the sea, Khara must pay a “blood tax” that allows the natite to “pin down elements in it that identify a particular person. Somehow, by means we don’t understand, they can share this information instantly with every other natite in the world. Once they know who you are, if you cross the sea again, they will know you by some obscure natite sense . . . It’s like having your travel documents.”
- One of the characters is a seer who has “magical runes and seals, the visible manifestation of powerful theurgic charms. It is said that she cannot be killed.”
- Khara has a magical sword that conceals its true nature until it is drawn in anger.
- Byx hears a voice and wonders, “Was it some echo of my mother’s voice? Did she still call to me from the land of dead?”
- One of the characters sings a song about the beginning of the world. “In ancient times/When life was new, /The great ones met/At Urman’s yew. /Beneath the tree, / Beside the sea, / They planned the world /For you and me.”
- Byx asks what a ‘knight of fire’ is. Someone replies, “Pray to your gods, dairne, that you do not find out the answer.”
- When Gambler thinks he is about to die, he sings a song. He explains, “It’s a death song. Felivet who knows he is about to die sins his love to the moon and stars, our guides.” Gambler says that he will never end his own life because “we believe that a felivet who dies well in battle ascends to a great forest above the clouds. There we hunt endless prey and gather sometimes without others of our kind to tell of our great deeds in life.”
- Byx and her group are looking for a moving island. Someone says that, “the sentient islands are gods to many. Others think they’re home to foul beasts and monsters. Still others believe that anyone who sets foot on the island will be eaten, consumed by the very trees.”
- The Knight of Fire chases Byx and his group. In order to get rid of the knight, they make a trap. When the knight approached the group, “Khara, screaming, attacked the knight . . . The knight, unable to stab her, instead slammed the pommel into her face. Khara fell back, her nose spraying blood.” The knight, “tumbled into the stake-filled gully.” Byx hopes “never to see anything as awful as the sight of the fearsome Knight of the Fire and his charger, pierced through with sharpened sticks. The knight had died instantly. His horse, impaled by five spears, still lived, whinnying and kicking, but it was clearly doomed.”