Already optioned by Disney, this British bestseller by first-time author (and ex-grocer) Woodall describes an avian civil war, with the crows and magpies trying to exterminate every other species.
Although the comparisons to Watership Down are inevitable, this is a highly original animal fantasy that, options notwithstanding, sounds much less like a Disney cartoon than one might expect. Set amid the fens and woodlands of the winged realm of Birddom, it envisions a dystopian world where the loathsome magpies (carrion birds who have overpopulated and grown fat from their rich diet of highway roadkill) have made common cause with the equally parasitical crows to kill off all rival bird-life and set themselves up as the unchallenged dictators of the sky. Their leader is the cruel and perverted Slyekin, who (with his bloodthirsty lieutenant Traska) strikes terror into even the blackest hearts of his fellow magpies. Ruthlessly killing all smaller species they encounter, the magpies initially make good headway on their genocidal dreams, even to the point of killing Kirrick, the last robin known in Birddom. Or so they think. For the noble Kirrick has actually eluded Slyekin’s assassins and has made his way to the Great Owl Tomar, a survivor of the once-mighty Council of Owls. Old, weary and wise, Tomar encourages Kirrick to reconvene the long-since scattered Council as a means of fighting off the assault of the magpies, and Kirrick sets out secretly to rouse birds to fight for their survival. Along the way, he is helped by Portia, another robin who has managed to save herself from the magpies, and the two scheme their way through the talons of the magpies with all the wile of Ulysses.
Despite the New Age idioms, Woodall keeps his story light and its pace quick, suggesting parallels between animal warfare and the human world but never overwhelming us with message.