As much as there is to praise the Warrior Cats series, there’s an even amount of criticism to be made. It’s the strange versatility of being a Warriors fanatic, and as someone writing about the series, I will be fair in showing the good and the bad. Today, the bad. The Warriors novellas Spottedleaf’s Heart and Redtail’s Debt are the worst of the 21 novella stories published.
Published in 2017, Spottedleaf’s Heart was included in the novella collection Legends of the Clans. Two years later, Redtail’s Debt was published in the novella collection Path of a Warrior. To put the critiques simply, Spottedleaf’s Heart takes a delicate situation and plot line and doesn’t execute it well. For Redtail’s Debt, the characterization of a beloved character is botched, and an extremely important canon event from the first series of Warriors is changed. To understand the scope, I’ll separate and discuss them both.
Before I go any further discussing Spottedleaf’s Heart, I want to give a quick warning. Her novella, and my discussion of it, will include a relationship between a warrior (essentially considered a full-grown cat, like an adult) and an apprentice (considered a child, think from middle school to high school ages).
The beloved medicine cat killed too soon, Spottedleaf continues to be a prominent character beyond The Prophecies Begin, considering she comes back time and time again as an ancestral guide to many point-of-view characters. It’s not a surprise that she received a novella since both her real-world and spirit-world times were cut short by death. However, her novella is possibly the worst Warriors story ever written. The story isn’t poorly written, it’s the same as any other book, but the content makes me and many others feel almost sick.
Warriors isn’t a series that balks at age gaps between character relationships; it’s common for cats with many months or years between them to become mates in the future. Yet, what’s uncommon is a full-grown warrior flirting with and trying to be in a relationship with a character who’s just left the nursery. Spottedleaf finds herself in this situation in her novella, except she starts as Spottedkit and spends most of her story as Spottedpaw. Early on, still as a kit, Thistleclaw, one of the series villains, seems to take a special interest in her. Their relationship amplifies quickly, as he spends extra time with Spottedpaw when she becomes an apprentice and always seeks her out. Thistleclaw has already had a mate (who passed) and has a kit of his own that’s an apprentice older than Spottedpaw.
Whenever I read the interactions between the two cats, I couldn’t help wanting to throw the book across the room. Thistleclaw is downright creepy and often seems to coerce Spottedpaw to go along with him. Frankly, I don’t understand why this is the plot line they went for. It would be one thing if the author from the Erin Hunter team decided to tackle the subject of predatory relationships in a way that was serious but age-appropriate for the series, that would make sense. Instead, Spottedpaw eventually wishes Thistleclaw well and breaks it off with him, not because of the obvious wrongness of the age and maturity gap, but because he’s blood-thirsty, and she chooses to become a medicine cat. There’s not even the slightest mention of how evil it is for Thistleclaw to be preying on a Clanmate her age.
The rest of the novella is inconsequential. It’s another story of a medicine cat who wanted to be a warrior first (see Yellowfang, Jayfeather, Alderheart, Hawkheart, Cinderpelt, etc.) and switched to the duty of the medicine den. The only good thing about Spottedleaf’s novella is the pacing, which wasn’t too slow or fast. But I still wouldn’t recommend the read, unless you’re curious yourself.
Want to read it? Buy the collection Warriors: Legends of the Clans. It also includes the novellas Pinestar’s Choice and Thunderstar’s Echo.
The infamous red-tailed cat, Redtail (a bit redundant, I know) is deputy only in passing, as he’s immediately killed off in the first Warriors book, Into the Wild. His death starts the plot for that arc and begins the journey of the first protagonist, Firestar (Rusty, Firepaw, Fireheart). Like Spottedleaf, he’s a character that we see almost nothing of, so it’s no wonder fans were curious to get a story from his perspective. While the problems aren’t as atrocious as Spottedleaf’s, Redtail’s novella has one major mistake that invalidates his whole story.
Mistakes happen; in fact, they happen so often in Warriors that the fan-made Warriors Wiki has an entire page on every mistake in each book (because each book has at least one mistake). Usually they’re mild mistakes, like incorrectly describing a character or using their warrior name before their ceremony. In Redtail’s Debt, however, a huge blunder is made. In the first arc, The Prophecies Begin, there’s an important plot point where one character, Oakheart, is said to have killed Redtail. Tigerclaw, the main antagonist of that arc, relays this story and says he killed Oakheart in revenge. The truth is that Oakheart gets killed by a natural rockfall during battle, and Tigerclaw kills Redtail because he wants to be the next deputy. Fireheart knows the truth and gathers evidence from RiverClan cats, confirming that Oakheart was never killed by another cat. With this, he nearly convinces Bluestar that Tigerclaw killed her precious deputy, or at least that he lied about how Redtail died. After all, she never fully believed that noble Redtail would kill in battle. It’s unchangeable canon, or it messes with an entire plot.
Somehow, in Redtail’s Debt, Redtail kills Oakheart, then is killed by Tigerclaw like in canon. It was baffling to read. How can something so integral to the series be messed up? Connected to this issue is the characterization of Ravenpaw. Always timid as a ThunderClan apprentice in The Prophecies Begin and Bluestar’s Prophecy, he’s incorrectly written as courageous and almost bloodthirsty in Redtail’s story. The initial point of Ravenpaw’s character is to be the witness to Tigerclaw murdering Redtail and have to flee to a nearby barn to escape Tigerclaw’s wrath. He’s supposed to be the opposite of Tigerclaw, yet he acts like his dutiful apprentice in Redtail’s story. Both the major mistake and characterization make it seem like whichever writer from the Erin Hunter team wrote his novella either didn’t read the first arc or skimmed it.
Lastly, this might be one very small complaint from me, but I also didn’t understand why Redtail was picked as deputy when Bluestar became leader. I was hopeful this novella would answer how he became deputy and the qualities he possessed to earn it. Instead, in the chapters before he’s appointed, readers barely see noble actions from him. Most of the other chapters are about his screw-ups or interactions with Tigerclaw. He pushes back against his “friend” many times, but it doesn’t feel strong enough, and it’s rarely shown how he helps ThunderClan become better or stronger. I find myself wondering, why some other character chosen over him. Frankly, this novella was quite boring because of this.
If you’re curious about Redtail regardless, buy the collection Warriors: Path of a Warrior. It also includes the novellas Tawnypelt’s Clan and Shadowstar’s Life.