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Yellowfang's Secret and the Baldry Formula

.Shelly. November 11, 2012 User blog:.Shelly.


... I used to like Yellowfang.

I really did. Even though I didn't like her choices, I liked her as a character.

And so I'm not even going to consider this to be canon. Because I want to continue liking Yellowfang.

Because it might as well not be canon.

Honestly, with the inconsistencies in this book, I'm lead to believe that Cherith didn't actually read the parts of the series she didn't personally write. Heck, I barely think she reads what she does write.

But before I really go over my full opinion of Yellowfang's Secret, I want to try to discuss the pattern I've seen when it comes to the books in this series that Ms. Baldry has written.

Cherith Baldry

Don't get me wrong, Cherith is a brilliant writer... when she wants to be. But note this: almost every book Cherith has written (Forest of Secrets, Twilight, SkyClan's Destiny, Yellowfang's Secret, etc) has focused on forbidden love, which is perhaps the most overused stock-plot in Warriors at this point. She leans heavily on this kind of plot. Which would be fine if she did it in an interesting way, but... honestly, she never does. When she includes these plots, it just comes across as contrived and cheap.

But what I dislike about her writing most is the lengths she goes to to include this plot. She warps characters heavily to make them into the kinds of characters that would betray everything they know for the purpose of bumping uglies. Graystripe, Leafpool, Crowfeather, Dovewing (although she wrote the first book with Dovewing as a narrator and thus shaped Dovewing... which might explain why Dovewing's so weak as a character), and now Yellowfang. She takes characters that have already been developed, characters that are strong on their own, and turns them into... well, let's look at an example:

Leafpaw was a likable cat. A good medicine cat apprentice, a loving sister and daughter, and a diligent member of her Clan. Cherith gets ahold of her and suddenly Leafpool's weak in the knees over an angsty cat from another Clan that (doesn't really) save her life (again, I mention that Squirrelflight and Jaykit easily survived the same fall Leafpool almost took). She falls for a cat that has openly snapped at and insulted her in the past.

Funny, Yellowfang did the same thing in this book.

Cherith seems to think that good looks and an angsty attitude is all a guy needs. Crowfeather and Raggedpelt share this quality in Twilight and Yellowfang's Secret. Even Silverstream, though she was cordial and all that (since we didn't see much else of her), had her looks going for her above all else.

So, to me, it seems that Cherith not only focuses on forbidden relationships, but she focuses on very shallow forbidden relationships. The only one that really made sense to me was Billystorm and Leafstar, since Billystorm was not, in fact, an angsting d**kweed, but even then the whole dramatic subplot with the forbidden relationship was unnecisarry and came across as a cheap way to pad the book.

Which brings us to Yellowfang's Secret specifically, and what could be called "Why I hate the books I hate, pt 2."

Yellowfang's Secret

I'll split this up into sections, I think...

Yellowfang's Superpower

First off, this book broke the promise that there'd be no more of these silly powers. I was tired of it before and I'm tired of it now. There's no need for them.

I'm especially disgusted with the inclusion of Yellowfang's power... because it was so unnecessary that it's inclusion was nothing but... well, lazy, honestly.

I know it might be a little harder to write an interesting book about someone giving up Earthly pleasures for a pious life of healing and religious observation, but it's not impossible. They could have given Yellowfang a legitimate reason for wanting to leave her life as a warrior for the life of a medicine cat.

But instead they chose the superpower route.

So giving Yellowfang the power of physical empathy, a power she showed no signs of having in the Original Arc, was easier. Really, because children couldn't understand it otherwise? I dunno. Maybe it's easier for a kid to think "omg, she has ESPN" than it is for them to accept that sometime you have to make a decision that isn't selfish. And yes, Yellowfang's decision to become a medicine cat was made for selfish reasons in this case. She became one because she didn't want to feel the pain she inflicted, which, even though it's not a bad selfish reason, it's still a selfish reason.

Of course, I think that the fans of Warriors could handle something like this, and once again the Erins have drastically underestimated their readers.

But what about the titular character's mate?

Raggedstar

I actually liked Raggedstar at one point, too. From what I saw of him, he was a descent leader and I figured he must have been kind if Yellowfang risked everything to be with him.

So yeah... he was none of those things.

As a leader, he was mediocre at best. As a father, he was blind and overly proud until the last day of his life. And as a mate...

I can't begin to fathom how poorly done this romance was. These star-crossed lovers... Basically, Yellowfang fell for a cat that treated her horridly and, from what I can glean from her inner monologues, she went for him based solely on his looks. And because I guess she likes a project.

I'll give you an example:

"Fox dung! Yellowfang, if that's the best you can do, you'd better go back to camp."
—Raggedpelt (being a jerk) to Yellowfang Yellowfang's Secret, page 204
"Don't ever say that again! I have no father. Russetpaw is nothing to me. You're lucky I was there to defend you when he started to attack. You didn't stand a chance."
—Raggedpelt angsting and lying to cover up his own murder to Yellowfang even though Yellowfang witnessed the murder Yellowfang's Secret, page 205
Raggedpelt: "That is, if you want to be with me."
Yellowfang: "Of course I want to be with you."
—Yellowfang agreeing to be mates with this cat on the next dang page. Yellowfang's Secret, page 206

As the book progresses, Raggedpelt proves to be unchangeable in his angsting and cruel ways. He is harsh and controlling with Yellowfang and basically pushes mating on her when she decides to become a medicine cat apprentice by making her feel guilty about choosing to serve ShadowClan over him.

Young girls of the world, no, this is not an okay relationship. You shouldn't go for someone with the intent of changing them, you especially shouldn't go for a murderer, and you should not feel pressured into the relationship.

But then there's Yellowfang herself.

Yellowfang

I'll reiterate: this cat used to be one of my favourites. But this book didn't do anything for her character but prove that she is absolutely no better than Leafpool was. In fact, she's a carbon copy of Leafpool. She made the same exact decisions. She fell for a project after he "saved her life" (Though I don't think Talltail would have killed Yellowpaw), was pressured into a relationship when she was a medicine cat, she abandoned her kit so she wouldn't have to deal with her Clan's scorn and so Sagewhisker wouldn't have to train a new apprentice, and she lied to her Clan about it. There really isn't much else to say about her that I haven't already said about Leafpool, honestly.

But what about the betrayed Clan?

ShadowClan

I was hoping that this book would be like Night Whispers when we got to see ShadowClan through Flametail's eyes and ShadowClan looked to be no different from ThunderClan: a place full of Warriors proud of their Clan and training to get better with good-humoured cats that act no differently from any other Clan, no matter what they're stereotyped by the other Clans as being.

Of course, Kate wrote Night Whispers.

True, the last part of the book took place in Brokenstar-era ShadowClan, but throughout the entire book, with few exceptions, the cats of ShadowClan came across as every bit the stereotypes ThunderClan cats see them as. A descent chunk of the warriors are cruel and mocking, even to their medicine cats, something that's as bad as sassing their leader. Sagewhisker was portrayed as a rather lazy character, easily giving up on patients and tricking Yellowfang into becoming her apprentice (she told her that she could only escape the pain if she became a medicine cat and then immediately taught her how to control her pain. Nice) so she wouldn't have to train a different cat that might actually have to think to figure out where a cat is hurting. And the cats of ShadowClan are shown to be easily manipulated and fall for lies from Brokenstar despite the deaths of kits and the banishment of their elders and medicine cat.

It's ridiculous. They didn't show a single cat beside Yellowfang that would question Brokenstar.

Of course, these are the cats that didn't put two and two together when they saw Brokenkit's flat face and were told he was Raggedpelt's son and honestly what other cat with a flat face was close to Raggedpelt and female and looked fat recently but not anymore!?

Must be Foxheart. Yeah, totally.

In short, Cherith wrote ShadowClan to be every bit what ThunderClan thinks of them.

But there are a couple of redeeming qualities to the book.

What it did right

The only character whose portrayal I really liked in this book was that of the WindClan medicine cat, Hawkheart. Where before he was portrayed as a cruel, mother-killing monster, in this book he was seen as gruff but sympathetic, helpful, and kind. I feel this made him a more three-dimensional character, though I think that this was only done as a mandate from Vicky as setup for Tallstar's Tale Revenge. Most of the mentions of WindClan seemed to be setup for that book.

What we see of Brokenkit, though it doesn't change what he did as an adult, was kinda cute. Although I still call BS on the "born evil" thing they keep implying with the look on his face when he was born. Kittens of Persian ancestry just look like that.

And the back-story of Russetfur and Boulder joining ShadowClan was very well done. I enjoyed learning about their origins in the Clan very much.

But yeah... that's about it.

I literally cannot think of anything else in the book that really worked better than the back-story Yellowfang provided in the Original Arc and what we saw of ShadowClan in Bluestar's Prophecy and Crookedstar's Promise.

Tl;DR

This book sucked.

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