Kate Thompson,
Wild Blood
(Bodley Head Children's Books,
1999; Hyperion, 2000)

Kate Thompson concludes her Switchers trilogy with Wild Blood.

Tess is distressed to learn that her parents are going on vacation without her. They plan to send her to stay with relatives in County Clare, which ordinarily might have been fine, but she will be there on her 15th birthday. There's no way that she can explain to her parents that at dawn on her 15th birthday, she will have to choose whether to remain a human or change her shape one last time -- and if she does, there will be no chance to say goodbye.

Although cross at her dilemma, Tess does like her Aunt Deirdre, Uncle Maurice and her three young cousins: Orla, 11, who suffers from severe asthma, Brian, 10, and 3-year-old Colm. She also enjoys being in the country, and she has opportunities to slip away and try on different shapes now and then.

Before long, Tess realizes that there are secrets running under the current of daily life. Animals no one lays claim to roam around the property, then seem to disappear. The children refer to an uncle, Declan, but neither Uncle Maurice nor Aunt Deirdre are forthcoming with explanations. There's a woods on the edge of the property that Uncle Maurice is eager to sell, but the cousins are just as adamant that the woods remain in the family. Tess is rather on Uncle Maurice's side regarding the woods: she has an uneasy feeling about them.

When Uncle Maurice is on the verge of making the sale, Orla, Brian and Colm run into the woods. Tess follows them, but she is unable to stop them from running toward the strange beckoning figure she sees there -- and when they do, they disappear.

Now Tess is the only one who can find her cousins, and she is running out of time. Her only chance is to wrestle the truth from her uncle, and when the secrets are revealed, she learns more about herself than she could have imagined.

Thompson ties up the loose ends of the trilogy in Wild Blood as Tess learns the truth about where Switchers come from. I won't spoil it by identifying it here, but I will say that while it is obviously in keeping with the story and appropriate, it was also a bit of a disappointment for that reason. Still, Thompson wraps up the story well, and builds the suspense to a pitch as Tess races the dawn to find the missing children.

While Switchers was my favorite of the trilogy, the overall quality of the books is high, and the concept is unique. Thompson presents the point of view of a rat like no other author I've encountered -- I've never before felt compelled to sympathy for rats before -- and she's not afraid to go outside the box.

Wild Blood stands well enough alone, but it's likely that you'll get more out of it by reading the whole trilogy. Pick it up and settle yourself in for an entertaining and satisfying read.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

Buy Wild Blood from Amazon.com.