The Quest Begins
The cover of The Quest Begins
|Cover artist||Wayne McLoughlin|
|27 May 2008|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||Great Bear Lake|
The Quest Begins is the first novel in the Seekers series. It was written by Erin Hunter, which is a pseudonym used by authors Cherith Baldry, Kate Cary, Tui Sutherland and editor Victoria Holmes. The novel follows the adventures of four bears, Toklo, Kallik, Lusa and Ujurak. Each bear is stranded by themselves in the wild and must learn to survive. The declining environment of the bears is the main theme conveyed throughout the novel. Like the Warriors series also written by Erin Hunter, Seekers began as a request from HarperCollins who requested another animal story. The company and Victoria Holmes agreed to write about bears after discarding dogs, horses and dolphins. The novel was released in the US on 27 May 2008 and has also been released in the UK, Canada and translated into Russian. Critical reception was positive with reviewers praising the realistic behaviour of the bears.
Development and publication
The Quest Begins began as a request from HarperCollins who wanted Victoria Holmes, editor and creator of the Warriors series which followed the adventures of feral cats, to write another series about animals. The company suggested dogs to Holmes, but the idea was rejected since dogs behave very similarly to the cats in the Warriors series. Both horses and dolphins were suggested, but rejected due to their tendency to run away rather than fight and the slowness of battles underwater. Out of ideas, HarperCollins consulted with Holmes on what she wanted to write about. After a bit of thinking Holmes replied, "BEARS! They live much more solitary lifestyles than cats, they are wild through and through with no history of domestication whatsoever (performing bears don’t count), and they are much bigger animals, with a whole lot more potential for fighting".
The Quest Begins was first featured on the HarperCollin's FirstLook Program in November 2007. Readers who signed up for the program had a chance to read an early edition of this book, an Advanced Reader's Copy, before it was published in stores. The Quest Begins was released in the US on 27 May 2008. The book was also released as a paperback on 10 February 2009 and an e-book on 6 October 2009.
The novel first follows Kallik who lives with her mother and brother. However, they are separated on ice when a group of killer whales attacks them and Kallik must survive by herself. On her own, Kallik decides to go to a gathering place for polar bears that her mom told her about. At the gathering, Kallik asks other polar bears if they have seen her brother, but no one has. Alone, Kallik meets a female bear Nanuk who helps Kallik around the area. However, Nanuk is killed by a helicopter crash shipping her and Kallik back to the wild. Before she dies, Nanuk tells Kallik about a place where the ice never melts. Hearing this, Kallik sets off to this place.
Somewhere is the Rocky Mountains in southern Canada, Toklo's mom is bringing Toklo and his sickly brother to a river to teach them how to catch salmon. However, in insanity, Toklo's mom abandons Toklo after a mental break because his brother died. Now Toklo must survive on his own, just like Kallik. Wandering randomly, Toklo gets chased by human hunters and then meets a bear who is also getting chased by hunters. The bear gets injured, but they make it to safety and requests that Toklo to retrieve certain herbs, which he does. The bear turns into a human and later introduces himself as Ujurak. It is revealed that Ujurak is a Shapeshifter, to Toklo's disbelief, before turning back into a bear. The two end up traveling together.
Lusa is a pampered black bear living in the Bear Bowl, a zoo in Canada. Despite knowing that the wilderness is harsh, Lusa has dreams about one day escaping and living outside. Her father, King, once lived in the wild and is strongly against Lusa's idea. One day, Toklo's mom is brought into the Bear Bowl. She talks with Lusa about how much she regretted abandoning her cubs, but that it was too late and that she couldn't find them. Hearing this, Lusa decides to bring a message to Toklo about how sorry his mother is. Although Lusa succeeds in escaping, she realizes the dangers of the wild. At the end of the story, Ujurak and Toklo meet up with Lusa.
Style and themes
The novel is written in a similar style to the Warriors series. Holly Koelling from Booklist notes that "Despite the change in species, much will be familiar to readers. Alternating narratives tell the tales of three young bear cubs, who will be brought together in future installments". Nancy Gilson from the Columbus Dispatch praised how easily the separate stories are handled and noticed how many chapters end on a cliffhanger.
The main theme addressed throughout the novel is decline of the environment and habitats of the bears. In the novel, Kallik watches her mother die by a pod of killer whales while Toklo is abandoned by his mother. Koelling realised how "Each tale touches on environmental issues". Publishers Weekly noted how the "bears' struggle to survive, along with Hunter's environmental theme". At the same time, older bears are "comforted by their belief in mythical bear spirits as they navigate the harsh realities of life in the wild". Jennifer-Lynn Draper from School Library Journal recognised that "The bears' declining habitat is evident, and often throughout their journey the animals have to dodge cars and humans with guns". Gilson noticed that every adventure "involves hunger, hardship and the loss of family that turns the young bears into solitary travelers". Gilson also noted the environmental theme writing "This one offers prominent themes about the dangers of global warming and diminished wild places".
The Quest Begins reached number 6 on Publishers Weekly's Children's Fiction Bestsellers during the week of 9 June 2008. The novel was also chosen as number 9 on Al Roker's Al's Book Club on The Today Show.
Reception to the novel was positive and many reviewers praised the realistic setting and behaviours of the main characters. Koelling noted how the novel has a balance of cute anthropomorphic characterisation and also gives a realistic view of how hard it is for the bears to survive on their own. Koelling also recommended the novel to Warriors fans. Kirkus Reviews praised how "Hunter creates a richly sensuous world filled with cruelty, beauty, tenderness, savagery and just enough underlying legendary background to add mystery", but felt that there is little advancement of the plot due to the time introducing and developing the characters. Still, the reviewer felt that the novel would appeal the animal fantasy lovers for the its extreme detail. Publishers Weekly found the novel written more loosely than the Warriors series, but still appealing to readers as they follow the bears survival. Draper praised the fast pace and how Erin Hunter "is apt at creating and sustaining the adrenaline-charged mood of these youngsters on their own". Matt Berman, writing for Half Moon Bay Review, praised the cliffhanger ending which would invite in more readers for the second novel, but felt that Warriors fans would be disappointed while "animal lovers will find this story’s mix of anthropomorphism and realism appealing, and Hunter may find an entirely new audience".
- "Erin Hunter chat No. 5 transcript – 16 August 2008". Wands And Worlds. Retrieved 16 August 2008.
- "FirstLook Edition of The Quest Begins". HarperCollin's First Look. Archived from the original on 21 November 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
- Hunter, Erin. "Seekers #1: The Quest Begins, By Erin Hunter: HarperCollins Children's Books". Harpercollinschildrens.com. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- "Seekers #1: The Quest Begins, By Erin Hunter: HarperCollins Children's Books". HarperCollins. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
- "Seekers #1: The Quest Begins, By Erin Hunter: HarperCollins Children's Books(Paperback)". HarperCollins. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
- "Seekers #1: The Quest Begins EPB, By Erin Hunter: HarperCollins Children's Books". HarperCollins. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
- "Seekers #1: The Quest Begins: Amazon.ca: Erin Hunter: Books". Amazon.ca. Amazon. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
- OZON.ru — Книги – Дымная гора – Эрин Хантер – Smoked Mountain – Странники – Купить книги: интернет-магазин / (in Russian). Ozon.ru. ISBN 978-5-373-03479-1. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
- Koelling, Holly (15 May 2008). Booklist (EBSCOhost) 104 (18): 60. ISSN 0006-7385.
- Gilson, Nancy (16 July 2008). "Bears' survival stories touch on popular themes". Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
- Publishers Weekly (EBSCOhost) 255 (19): 54. 12 May 2008. ISSN 0362-8930.
- Draper, Jennifer-Lynn (December 2008). School Library Journal (EBSCOhost) 54 (12): 126. ISSN 0362-8930.
- Roback, Diane (9 June 2008). Publishers Weekly (EBSCOhost) 255 (23): 18. ISSN 0000-0019.
- Kirkus Reviews (EBSCOhost) 76 (10): 184. 15 May 2008. ISSN 0042-6598.
- Berman, Matt (9 July 2008). "Children's story by 'Warriors' authors delivers '?" bearly". Half Moon Bay Review. Retrieved 30 January 2011.