SPIRIT ANIMALS, Book 2: Hunted,” by Maggie Stiefvater, Scholastic Press, $12.99, 192 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

The four young Greencloaks — Conor, Abeke, Meilin and Rollan — came of age in "Wild Born," the first book in the Spirit Animals series, and received their rightful Spirit Animals through customary rituals. With the bonding and support of the animals, their mission became a retrieval of a prophetic talisman before it could be used by a dark force intent on ravaging the world of Erdas.

In the second book, “Hunted,” the four children discover that the wicked conquerors have devised a plan to create animal heroes without the traditional honored rituals of the homeland. The conquerors plan on locating the talisman for their own selfish purposes.

Author Maggie Stiefvater follows Brandon Mull’s introduction of the multiauthor Spirit Animal series with the four young protagonists' quest to save Erdas. With hardly enough time to become accustomed to their own Spirit Animals, the children must band together and learn combative methods while tolerating individual idiosyncrasies. Meilin, a general’s daughter, is arrogant and impetuous while her Spirit Animal, a panda named Jhi, is passive and thoughtful. Conor, a poor shepherd’s son, is leery of Briggan, his Spirit Animal wolf.

Stiefvater provides subtle hints about the bonding of the characters and their Spirit Animals, whether in action scenes or through passive means such as tattoos on their arms.

The plot of “Hunted” unfolds as the four children, with a devoted scout, Finn, meet Hawkers (clans seeking skins of Spirit Animals), a sorcerer with healing powers, conquerors ready for battle and a sundry of Spirit Animals such as a wild cat, a horse, a snake, a weasel, a rabbit and a mythical black panther. Their negotiations with a wealthy landowner test their cleverness and initiative.

The Spirit Animals series has much potential, with complex themes and colorful characters — both human and animal — that will readily appeal to young readers clamoring for adventure. While conflicts exist between cultures, there is no gory violence or inappropriate language in the book.

“Wild Born” launched the series with clarity and action, but “Hunted” begins slowly and fails to tie the two stories together, lacking adequate backstory. It is recommended that both stories be read to develop the full impact of the four youngsters and their adventures.

Spirit Animals is a multiplatform fantasy that encourages readers, both young and old, to visit spiritanimals.scholastic.com to customize their favorite hero in the stories, choose their own Spirit Animal and interact with other readers through the monitored message board.

Additionally, the publisher provides a teaching guide with discussion questions and activities designed to meet the Common Core State Standards, including pre-reading questions and thematic curriculum connections in reading, social studies, science and the arts.

Books 3 through 7 of the Spirit Animals series, each written by a different author, are scheduled to be released with one every three months through April 2015.

Email: marilousorensen@ymail.com