The Silverwing Book Series is a series of books by Kenneth Oppel featuring the adventures of a young bat, Shade. The books are commonly assigned in the curriculum of upper elementary and middle school grades in Canada.
When Shade Silverwing breaks an age-old law, looking at the sun, the owls burn down Tree Haven and the bats migrate to Hibernaculum where they rest for the winter. Along the way, Shade meets Marina Brightwing who helps him throughout the series. They also confront their nemeses, Goth and Throbb, cannibal bats who are part of a group calling themselves the Vampyrum Spectrum; Zephyr, a bat that can see past, present and future; and Scirocco, a bat who wants to be Human.
- Shade: A runt, often mocked by the other newborns, who take pride in their size and strength. He does not know of his father, but has heard many great stories about him from his mother and the rest of the colony. He is naïve to the dangerous world around him, where owls rule the skies, and he is dared to look at the sun - which in their world is forbidden - without much idea about the consequences. This starts off a chain of events, which test both his loyalty and strength to the fellow bats. He is the main protagonist of the series, and saves his colony more than once, and slowly rises in the ranks to become the respected Silverwing he always wanted to be. In 'Firewing', he plays the father role and appears briefly in the main plot.
- Marina Brightwing: An Eastern Red Bat who is Shade's closest friend and companion. She is one year older than Shade. Because she has a tracking band, she was banished from her colony and went to live on an island. At the end of the first book, Goth tore off Marina's band from her arm. In the first book, Shade and her meet one night during Shade's migration. Shade goes off track and starts to end up over the ocean. He clings to the sail of a boat and reaches an island. There he is greeted by Marina. She is of great help to him, even if he found her mildly annoying. In the second book, the two fall very deeply in love and in the epilogue the two become mates. In Firewing, Marina's role is much more minor compared to the other two books in the series; she briefly appears in the beginning and is only mentioned in the ending. This was probably to give Griffin, their son, more character growth and development.
- Goth: A cannibal bat, prince to the Vampyrum spectrum, is deceptive and cunning. He was taken from his home in the jungles by humans, and seeks to return home, he and his trusty sidekick Throbb. His carnivorous nature makes him eat many kinds of animals, including birds, turning the owls against Shade and several colonies of bats, including Graywings. In the first book Goth and Throbb are captured by scientists. They escape, meet Shade and Marina, and plot to follow them to the Silverwings' Hibernaculum, where they could spend the winter devouring the entire colony. In the end, Goth was badly wounded by lightning while Throbb killed by it. The demon-god Cama Zotz healed Goth and made him King of the Vampyrum Spectrum, but Goth was killed when the high priest Voxzaco dropped a powerful explosive device on the temple in an attempt to sacrifice everyone to resurrect Cama Zotz. He later reappeared in the Underworld in Firewing, attempting to take Griffin's life as his own and give Shade's life to Zotz. He again failed, but was reborn and went to the Upperworld to restart worship of Zotz.
- Luna: A female Silverwing newborn who is Griffin's sole friend in the colony. While the other Silverwing newborns see Griffin as "boring", she sees his neurotic and worry-wart antics as amusing. Luna invented "the owl game", where the goal is to land as close to an owl as possible; a game that Griffin hates and repeatedly tries to explain to Luna why it is a bad idea, which leads the newborns to see him as a spoilsport. Near the beginning of the book, Luna, Griffin and a few of the Silverwing newborns spot fire in the forest and fly to see why it's there. They discover humans near the campfire and Griffin, wanting the others to notice him for once, suggest they steal some fire from the humans. He then says that if they steal it, they can keep it inside Tree Haven and not have to migrate in the winter. Luna agrees to help him, and Griffin gets fire on a stick and starts to carry it back to Tree Haven. It starts to burn his foot, though, and he accidentally drops in on Luna, who suffers horrible burns. Despite the efforts of the Silverwing healers, she dies, leading to Griffin finding her when he gets sucked into the Underworld of Cama Zotz. Thanks to Shade's life, both Griffin and Luna are able to return to the upper world and make it back to Tree Haven.
- Griffin: Shade and Marina's son, and therefore a Silverwing/Brightwing hybrid. He hates the idea that he is nothing like his father, whom he deeply aspires to be like. He is constantly worrying over anything and everything and looks for the worst in any situation. However, by the end of the book things change and he becomes bolder, similar to his father. After Goth killed Griffin and took his life, Shade sacrificed himself to give Griffin and Luna life, so they were therefore "reborn". During his journey with Luna through the Underworld, Griffin gains confidence throughout his adventure in the book series.
The Northern Bats have an Elder hierarchy, with one being elected high elder. Silverwings are based on the Silver-Haired Bat.
- Ariel: Shade's mother. Since the loss of her mate, Cassiel, she has become very protective of Shade. At the end of Sunwing, she is elected elder.
- Cassiel: Shade's father. He went missing searching for the "secret of the bands", before Shade was born. He is also banded. Shade eventually found him in an abandoned Mayan temple being used by the Vampyrum Spectrum for sacrifices.
- Mercury: A male; the only one who stays with the females and their young outside of winter. He acts as a messenger amongst the Silverwings, befitting his namesake.
- Chinook: A promising newborn in Silverwing. He looked down on Shade and, at times, didn't seem to notice him. At the end of Sunwing he and Shade become friends and brothers because his parents died and he was adopted by Ariel and Cassiel at Shade's request (though Shade kept this a secret from Chinook, believing his once-rival would never let him hear the end of it). Chinook is frequently scared, like his step-nephew Griffin, but is brave when he needs to be, and he has good survival instincts. He was once very fond of dumping snow on Shade's head, though this may have just been an attempt to gain attention from Shade and Marina.
- Plato and Isis: Chinook's parents who travel with the other Silverwings to the human building at the beginning of Sunwing. They perished in the firestorm in the jungle.
- Jarod, Osric, Yara, Rasha and Penumbra: Newborns; friends and admirers of Chinook.
- Frieda: An elder of the Silverwing colony who is banded. She is the oldest bat in the colony, thus the wisest and helps Shade, even though he did something foolish. At the end of Sunwing, she dies at Bridge City. In the Underworld, she meets Griffin, telling him where to find the tree of life, a possible means of escape for him. She commends Griffin's desire to take Luna with him despite the fact that he knows she may slow him down.
- Bathsheba: An elder who seems content the way things are. When Shade breaks the law, she was very vocal about having him turned over to the owls rather than suffer the consequences. In the TV show, she betrayed her colony by telling the owls where their winter roost was, and she was temporarily elected Silverwing leader by the owls in return.
- Lucretia: One of the female elders. She became chief elder in Firewing.
- Aurora: One of the female elders.
- Icarus: A male; he is optimistic about what the bands foretell.
- Luna: A Silverwing newborn, and Griffin's best friend. During Griffin's plan to steal fire from humans, Griffin drops the lit grass on her causing her to burn to death. He meets her in the Underworld, and they fly to the tree together. She comes back to the Upperworld with Griffin thanks to Shade.
- Ishmael: A Silverwing who was captured by the Vampyrum for their ritual. He escaped, but his brother and others did not. While helping rescue Chinook and the other captives, Ishmael knocked his brother off of the Stone and was killed seconds later by Voxzaco on the sacrificial stone.
The Vampyrum Spectrum, unlike the Silverwings, has a monarchy. They are carnivores and eat just about anything smaller than them, including other bats. They worship the Mayan bat god Cama Zotz. Vampyrum spectrum is the Latin name of the Spectral Bat.
- Throbb: A weakling taken from his home in the jungle, alongside Goth. He lacks courage and is forced to do Goth's bidding. He ends up being turned to ashes by a lightning bolt inside a Cumulonimbus cloud. His ghost serves Cama Zotz in the Underworld by aiding in an attempt to tunnel through to the world of the living.
- Voxzaco: A High Priest that talks to Cama Zotz by eating strange, possibly hallucinogenic, herbs (shrooms). His spine is crooked due to age. He is able to interpret the stone calendar that serves religious purposes. He commits suicide by dropping a bomb that destroys the temple in an attempt to sacrifice 100 hearts to Zotz. In the third book, Zotz reveals that his ghost is suffering eternal torment in his stomach for his failure. While alive, he tried to remove the heart of Ishmael's brother, but Ishmael sacrificed his life for his brother, allowing Voxzaco to devour him.
- Phoenix: One of the dead. A female servant of Zotz. Her name is derived from the phoenix, a legendary bird who rejuvenates itself through an immersion in fire. She failed to be restored with Goth, for Shade kills himself for Griffin when she was meant for Shade's life force. She was to become Goth's mate when she was restored to life, but it is unknown when she will be able to do so, as it isn't very common for creatures to be sucked into the Underworld.
- Murk: A rare benevolent Vampyrum who traveled to the Tree with Shade, Yorick, Nemo, and Java.
- Zephyr: An albino bat who lives in a church spire, a central hub for migrating bat colonies. He is very old and has lost his ability to see, but he uses his sonar with great accuracy. He also can see into the past and future using his ears. He has a vast knowledge of medicinal herbs.
- Scirocco: A long-eared bat that led a movement among the banded bats, saying they were promised to become humans. It is unknown what happened to him, but most likely he is killed by Goth and Throbb.
- Penelope: A banded Brightwing who was originally part of Marina's colony. Like Marina, she was exiled from the colony for having a band. She later became one of those who followed Scirocco. It is unknown whether or not she escaped from Goth and Throbb.
- Caliban: A mastiff bat who leads a survival group living in Statue Haven. The group consisted of bats used by humans to carry fire (bombs) and were led by Shade's father until he was captured by the Vampyrum Spectrum. Statue Haven was based within the statue of Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro.
Dead bats in Zotz's kingdom
- Yorick: A Silverwing bat who had been dead for roughly 500 years. He always wants his way because he has the map to the Tree. He crashed into a tree and died, which severely damaged his wing and has to suffer the pain.
- Nemo: Is from the coastal waters way down south. He is a fish eater. Has long, sharp claws to catch fish. He has been dead for 452 years.
- Java: A foxwing; even bigger than Goth, Java has a wingspan of five feet, though she is a runt like Shade. She is not hostile toward any living thing. She doesn't have the gift of echolocation, which Shade doesn't like, but has excellent eyesight. She became lost after setting out for the Tree, having forgotten the verbal instructions the Pilgrims gave her, when Yorick found her way off course and invited her to travel with him.
- King Boreal: The king of the owls. He appears only in Sunwing, when he goes to attack Bridge City, although he is persuaded otherwise by his son, Orestes. He is also persuaded to lift the flying ban on the bats, free the imprisoned bats at the various Hibernaculums and to also give the bats the freedom to fly in the daylight if they so choose.
- Brutus: An owl general; he led the burning of Tree Haven after Shade glimpsed the sun. He hates bats and fought in the war to retrieve the Sun, although he wanted his species to keep control of the daylight skies and the owls won.
- Orestes: A young owl prince; son of King Boreal. One of those who persuaded the owls to lift their ban on the presence of bats in daylight. He was saved by shade from humans. In the TV adaptation, he is Brutus's son.
- Romulus: King of the Northern rats. At first he is considered a freak because of winglike flaps of skin between his fore and hind legs, which for his part lead him to believe that bats and rats have a common ancestor. When his brother Prince Remus fled, he took command.
- Remus: Prince of the Northern rats. He is distrustful of everyone, to the point of paranoia. Eventually he scares himself into abdication from the throne, believing a plot to poison him was afoot.
- General Cortez: King of the southern rats. He appears in Sunwing where his youngest son is captured by vampyrum. He helps Shade stop Goth from resurrecting Zotz and helps him save his father, mother, Chinook, and Cortez's son. He also helps Marina save Shade. He is named after the conquistador Hernando Cortez who conquered the Aztec Empire.
- Tree Haven: A place where newborn bats are raised by their mothers during the spring and summer. The tree haven in Silverwing is burned to the ground by owls. Later on, a new tree is hollowed out, and becomes the new Tree Haven. This is where Griffin lives, and the creation of it can be read about at the end of Sunwing
- Stone Hold: A place where the male bats roost during the spring and summer.
- Spire: The tower of a cathedral, which is a landmark in some colonies sound maps for migrating. Shade's colony came to this Spire, also this is where Shade and Marina meet Zephyr the Keeper of the Spire.
- Hibernaculum: A place behind a waterfall where Shade's colony goes to hibernate during the winter.
- Human Building: A bat paradise with no predators, always summer, plenty of insects, and they can see the sun. But it is a place where humans take bats (northern and southern) and owls to attach explosives to them and send them south to bomb enemies.
- Jungle: A rain forest, most likely in Central America. Home to the Vampyrum Spectrum bats and the Pyramid. It also hosts creatures including large insects, southern owls and other exotic things that northern bats haven't seen.
- Statue Haven: A statue of Jesus Christ that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. The survivors of the explosions from the metal disks use this as a safe haven from the Vampyrum.
- The Pyramid: Home to the royal order of Vampyrum, Goth's home. It's filled with millions of Vampyrum. It was destroyed when Voxzaco dropped an explosive on it, killing all the Vampyrum. Shade's family and friends escaped, although many bats--including the Vampyrum--did not.
- Underworld: A place created by Cama Zotz for his Vampyrum Spectrum. It is beneath the earth and is mostly made up of pictures that occur in bats' minds as a result of conflicting sonal vibration, giving the appearance of images. All bats that die end up there. It is possible, but rare, for a living thing to enter the Underworld; where the denizens will notice a "glow" about them; this "glow" is the creature's life force, and it can be stolen from them. At the place where Zotz fought and killed his counterpart Nocturna, a great Tree made seemingly of fire grows. Entering it, the bats become as Nocturna has become; an observing intelligence in the natural world.
The great war between the birds and the beasts happened approximately 65 million years before the story (at the end of the dinosaurs). The bats, seeing themselves as being both, but neither, refrained from fighting. At the end of the war, the two warring factions banished the bats. They could not see the sun again because they refrained. The war is based upon a fable by Aesop called "The Birds, the Beasts and the Bat."
War to bring back the sun
A war between the owls and the bats fought 15 years before the Silverwing book. The bats lost. Later, Shade Silverwing and Owl Prince Orestes called for a truce, under which bats were given freedom to move under sunlight for as long as they caused no trouble. Shade is a young Silverwing bat, the runt of his colony, determined to prove himself on the long and dangerous winter migration to Hibernaculum, millions of wingbeats to the south. During a storm, Shade is swept out over the ocean—away from his family, his friends, and the only life he has ever known. Alone and frightened as winter fast approaches and temperatures plunge, Shade sets out on a remarkable journey to rejoin his colony to the south.