Not too long ago I found myself lost in a sea of unread books, most of them being from series I had dropped months before. One of them being Warrior Cats (my bad). I was reminded of the release of Mapleshade’s Vengeance, and not living close enough to a bookstore to be able to go to one on my own free will (back at its release I could not yet drive myself), I purchased it (with consent from my parental figures) on a kindle—not the cool kind, no. An old kindle touch, mind you. Of course, being myself and not delving more deeply into the comments made by fans I failed to realize that it was a novella and not a super edition, and let me tell you I was sorely disappointed by the abrupt end to the story.
But enough about me and my opinions let’s get to the story. Spoilers ahead!
Alright, so the entire concept of Mapleshade’s sudden turn to COMPLETELY EVIL kind of sent me off the path of understanding and adoration for the complexity of the character to becoming suddenly confused as to why it happened in the first place.
I, being a teenager with nothing better to do, had already written short “fanfictions” that were almost headcanons or predictions of the whole “how Mapleshade turned evil” thing, and since we already knew she had given birth to three kits that then drowned and died tragically, I imagined her growing hatred for her ex-mate to be more deeply expressed. Instead, in the canon story we have a crazy sister-in-law who isn’t actually a sister-in-law, an obsessive somewhat possessive not-actually-father-in-law, a medicine cat bent on destroying everything for some mystical medicine cat reason, and…that random apprentice that suddenly beats the most evil of evil cats at that time one-on-one even though it seemed as if no-one else could? I mean don’t get me wrong, interesting cast of characters, but most of the story fell flat with me. I for one, wanted to hear more about Mapleshade’s past, not just an elaborated storyline of something we already knew about. Let’s just start out with something basic.
How about Frecklewish?
Since the name had already been used before, I found myself very confused as to who she was in terms of other stories…and why she existed. It seemed she was only there to yell at Mapleshade and hate her. I get it, her brother died, but I never found myself able to like her. She seemed very hateful and angry, and didn’t seem to do much else throughout the story…I didn’t exactly enjoy her character.
Then there was Ravenwing, who calmly and composedly destroyed the rest of Mapleshade’s life because heaven forbid she let her kittens learn to swim! Thank you, Ravenwing, for everything you’ve done. Hats off to you, sir.
Don’t even get me started on Oakstar. His purpose was really only to be very stupid and forget what his son looked like (because no those kits did not look like Birchface)…and then to get mad at Mapleshade and exile her. I didn’t think it was very necessary…
But honestly, if I continue to do these short little character criticisms, this will get boring very fast, so let’s skip to the main idea; Mapleshade becoming evil.
If I recall correctly, the book literally described it as “a seed of evil being planted within her.” The first thing I remember thinking was….wait really? That’s it? Basically it takes Mapleshade’s character—in my eyes at least—and downgrades it by at least 50%. She’s no longer this complex villain character, but just another jealous she-cat. Like a more murderous, female Ashfur. The whole “I thought I would be your mate before so-and-so came along and you took everything I love so I’m going to do the same to you” storyline seems to have become steadily overused throughout the survival of this series. The book felt very step-by-step…Mapleshade has kits, kits die, mate turns out to not actually love her, she kills everyone. Only it’s even worse than it sounds to me because we know nothing about her.
Who were Mapleshade’s parents? Did she ever have littermates? How did she meet Appledusk? Why did she fall in love with him? What was Mapleshade’s relationship to Birchface? Did she ever really love him? What was Mapleshade’s relationship to her mentor?
All questions left unanswered as she seems to have vanished from the books after the release of her novella.
In my opinion, it would have made more sense to further explain this mysterious, dark character instead of take her story and squash it in between an inch of a book cover.
But that’s just me talking.
So, was Mapleshade actually reasonably “evil” per se, or was it lack of character development that made her the way she is now?