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Darkwing first edition cover.
|Cover artist||Christian Alzmann|
|August 16, 2007|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||322 pp (first edition)|
Darkwing (known as Dusk in the United Kingdom) is a young adult fantasy novel by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel. It is the prequel and fourth addition to the Silverwing series, and takes place 65 million years before the events of the first book, Silverwing. It describes the origins of the war between the birds and the beasts.
Set 65 million years ago, at the very beginning of the Paleocene epoch, a huge natural disaster has wiped out most of the dinosaurs (referred to as "Saurians" within the context of the story). A few managed to survive in the aftermath, albeit weakened by climate change, a shortage of food, and a flesh-rotting virus. The mammals, who were once at the Saurians' mercy, decided to form The Pact: unable to wage battle against them on their own terms, they decided to band together to exterminate the remaining Saurians by destroying their eggs.
Dusk, a young Chiropter, is being taught by his father to glide. Dusk is different from the other Chiropters, however; whereas his brethren have simple sails, Dusk has wings, and an urge to fly that he has difficulty suppressing. He is regarded as a freak by the other Chiropters, though he finds acceptance with his parents and his sister, Sylph. Dusk learns to fly, but keeps his secret to himself out of fear of being shunned.
Carnassial, the Felid (a type of proto-cat) also has a hidden desire. Born with shearing teeth and an insatiable appetite for flesh, he seemingly fulfils the pact when he destroys the last known batch of Saurian eggs. He leads a pack consisting of other flesh-craving Felids to form a new world order. The rogue pack of Felids find their way to Dusk's island and devour many of his colony, among them Dusk's mother.
With their island invaded by the deadly new predators, it is up to Dusk and his unique powers of flight and echolocation to find the Chiropters a new home. Carnassial strikes an alliance with the powerful (but unintelligent) Hyaenodons, who claim that the Saurians do still exist, and enlist the Felids to find and destroy their eggs. Carnassial comes to realise that in order for the Felids to rule, it will have to be through cunning rather than through power.
Along the way, Dusk and his colony seek refuge with a seemingly peaceful colony of "Tree Runners", only to find out that they plan on sacrificing them to a giant, meat-eating bird; the Diatryma. After escaping, Dusk finds a new home for his fellow Chiropters, but it is on the other side of a savannah, which is home to many predators. While Dusk is scouting for a good place, he meets another creature that looks similar to himself; it calls itself a bat and tells Dusk that there are many others like them. The Soricids overwhelm and devour a Hyaenodon, and nearly kill Dusk, but he is rescued by Sylph. He and Sylph are attacked by Carnassial and his Hyaenodons once again, and take refuge in the skeleton of a large dinosaur. Through it, they find their way into an eerie, underground cave, where Dusk and Sylph discover a nest of an unidentified meat-eating Saurian, along with a clutch of mostly unhatched eggs and the rotting carcasses of the parents.
Eventually, Dusk leads the Chiropters to their new home, and the book ends with him leaving the colony and promising his sister to come back if he dislikes life with bats.
- Dusk - Dusk is a young Chiropter who is considered a freak among his colony because of his ability to fly and his strange appearance. Dusk is clever and resourceful and tries his hardest to fit in with the colony. He looks up to his father, Icaron.
- Sylph - Sylph is Dusk's extremely reckless twin sister, older by three seconds. She is loud, amazingly loyal and generally unaware of any possible repercussions of her actions. She does not always understand the reasoning behind her father's actions, leading to frequent arguments.
- Jib - Jib is a young newborn Chiropter. He likes to show off and dislikes Dusk because of his appearance and his ability to fly. He bullies Dusk by saying that if he wasn't the leader's son, he would have been taken down to the Death Branch and abandoned there after his birth.
- Aeolus - [Deceased] Aeolus is Jib's cousin, and is usually in the company of both Jib and Sylph. He was attacked and killed by birds who believed that he was Dusk, and was left to the elements on the Death Branch.
- Icaron - [Deceased] Icaron is the leader of the colony and the elder of his family. His mate is Mistral and they have had many offspring, including Auster, their oldest, and Dusk and Sylph, their youngest. Icaron is kind and strong, reacting calmly in situations of panic. Icaron is accepting and is one of the only Chiropters in the colony to accept Dusk for who he is. His decisions are frequently challenged by Nova. Carnassial attacked him and gave him the wounds that brought him to his death.
- Mistral - [Deceased] Mistral is the mate of Icaron and the mother of Auster, Dusk, Sylph, and many others. A skillful hunter, it appears that Dusk inherited her echovision-like abilities from her, which Icaron had been aware of but had cautioned Mistral not to reveal so she would not be shunned by the colony.
- Auster - Auster is the eldest son of Icaron and Mistral and is one of the few to accept Dusk's unusual appearance. He has a family of his own and therefore does not interact with Dusk and Sylph's lives often until the Felids invade their island; nonetheless he still shows concern for them when their mother died during their escape. When their father died, Auster did not hesitate to raise them into his family. Near the end of the book, he becomes the leader of the Chiropters.
- Nova - Nova is the elder of her family. She is reckless and stubborn, and often challenges Icaron's decisions and capability to lead the colony. She took advantage of when Dusk was away finding a new home to take more than half the colony back along the coast to find a home with other chiropters.
- Sol - [Deceased] Sol is the elder of his family. He was very loyal to his leader, Icaron. While trying to protect his family, the poisonous Soricids (a prehistoric mammal similar to a shrew) paralyzed him, leading to his being killed and eaten by the little predators.
- Barat - Barat is the elder of his family. He is generally level-headed, but sometimes is a little rash in his decisions. He follows Nova when she decides to abandon Dusk.
- Gyrokus - Leader of a different chiropter group. He helps Icaron and his group after they escape from their island, but then banishes them from his group because of former acts of Icaron.
- Chimera - A female Chiropter with an appearance similar to Dusk's. Dusk meets her while searching for a new home for his colony and is astonished to find another Chiropter who is unlike the rest. She calls herself a bat, after the leader of her colony and supposedly the first Chiropter to evolve to have flight capabilities, Bat-ra. Chimera appears to be interested in Dusk and persuades him to join her colony, and at the end of the book he leaves Sylph and his own colony, promising to return in the future.
- Carnassial - Carnassial is a felid and a ferocious hunter. He destroyed what was believed to have been the last of the Saurians, but his taste for meat encouraged him to eat the flesh of other species. This eventually led to his expulsion from his tribe ("prowl"). Near the end he is seen trying to rescue his mate from the jaws of a young Saurian.
- Panthera - [deceased] Panthera is Carnassial's hunting partner and mate. After she discovers a kill made by Carnassial she keeps his secret, although he is found out anyway. Eventually she also discovers a taste for meat, and she joins Carnassial. She reveals to him in the Saurian cave that she is pregnant with his kittens. She is attacked by a proto-owl soon after departing from the main prowl but is saved by Carnassial. At the end she is pried from Carnassial by a young Saurian.
- Patriofelis - [deceased] Patriofelis is the felid leader and very old. He banishes Carnassial from his prowl and is later carried off by a proto-owl while confronting Carnassial's rogue prowl.
- Teryx - A bird that Dusk meets on the island. They develop an uneasy relationship founded mostly from curiosity toward one another. He warns Dusk of Carnassial's barbaric prowl in spite of how the other birds hate Dusk for his ability to fly.
- Danian - Leader of a hyaenodons. He is a strong leader and cares for his pact. He forms an alliance with Carnassial's prowl to team up against the saurians.
- Adapis - Leader of a clan of tree runners. He is a clever tree runner, but also very selfish and underhanded. He has an unsteady alliance with a diatryma that is wounded on one of its legs so it cannot successfully chase down prey. She must have Adapis bring her food or she will starve, in return she protects Adapis's clan from any danger. Adapis tries feeding Icaron's group to the diatryma but fails because of Dusk's brave actions that save many of the Chiropters. The enraged diatryma still demands a feast, and it is implied that tree runners - possibly including Adapis himself - would be offered in compensation.
In Darkwing, animal species are often referred by their taxonomic clade name rather than their own, which makes it difficult to know exactly what species each creature is. Where the species name is not known, they are listed under the name that they had in the book. The creatures are listed in the order of their appearance. The chiropters are fictional; a hypothetical species intended to represent a primitive bat.
- Prehistoric Birds
- Quetzalcoatlus (referred to as "Quetzals")
- Miacis (referred to as "Felids")
- Prehistoric Owls
- Prehistoric Primates (referred to as "Tree-runners")
- Gastornis (referred to as "Diatryma")
- Crocodiles (referred to as "Swamp Saurians")
- Phenacodus (referred to as "Equids")
- Bisonalveus browni (referred to as "Soricid")
- Giant Spiders
- Theropod dinosaur (referred to as "Saurian")
Darkwing was first released in Canada and the United States in August 2007. It was shortly followed with its release in the United Kingdom in May 2008. Below is the release details for the first edition hardback and paperback copies in these three publication regions.
- 2007, CAN, HarperCollins ISBN 978-0-00-200744-3, Pub date August 16, 2007, Hardback
- 2007, US, Eos ISBN 978-0-06-085054-8, Pub date August 21, 2007, Hardback
- 2008, UK, Faber Children's Books ISBN 978-0-571-23832-3, Pub date May 1, 2008, Paperback
- 2008, US, Eos ISBN 978-0-06-085056-2, Pub date August 26, 2008, Paperback
- 2008, CAN, HarperCollins ISBN 978-1-55468-015-3, Pub date October 17, 2008, Paperback