Wild Blood is the final book in Kate Thompson‘s Switchers trilogy and deals with the inevitable choice that her young heroine Tess has to face: at the age of fifteen her Switcher powers come to an end, and she can choose either to remain human or to become any one of the animals that she can transform into permanently. To make things worse, her parents are going on holiday without her, and have sent her to stay with her Uncle Maurice, Aunt Dierdre and three cousins.
Life on the farm isn’t too bad considering Tess now has a huge environment to explore, but she misses her fellow-Switcher Kevin who she needs to help her make a final decision. Furthermore, there are strange things happening at the farmhouse: odd-looking animals, shadowy figures in the woods and suspicious activity from her bad-tempered uncle and three secretive cousins. There is a mystery concerning the disappearance of Uncle Declan, and no one in the family is eager to talk about it.
And there is even more at risk — Uncle Maurice seems set to sell of the beautiful forest land to developers, and threatens to call up exterminators to rid the house of all the rats. Since Tess is on familiar terms with these rats, and since Kevin has finally gotten hold of her, she comes up with an ingenious way to save the rats, but a plan that has terrible consequences.
In the previous books — Switchers and Midnight’s Choice — I was always rather confused at the emphasis that Thompson places on the rats, but now with a wonderful reworking of The Pied Piper of Hamelin , it all makes sense. Thompson uses a wonderful blend of old folklore and fairy myth in order to create an interesting story that is superior to Midnight’s Choice, though not quite up to par with Switchers. Although the final conflict and choice between opposing factions of the story are brought to quite an easy solution (even an abrupt one), readers who have followed Tess’s story will get their questions answered.
For the first time I felt that I could relate better to Tess: she was rather distant in the previous books, but now finally she and Kevin come across as understandable, three-dimensional characters. Likewise, Uncle Maurice and the cousins Brian, Orla and Colm are interesting enough, but if you were a fan of Lizzie you’ll be disappointed: she appears in the first couple of pages, imparts some more cryptic advice and then is gone. But she does better than Martin, who doesn’t appear at all, and though Thompson does give us an update on his condition I was hoping for more character development on his behalf.
There are some components of the book that just don’t work, namely the Star Wars references to the droids C3-PO and R2D2. Within the book there are Switching characters that turn into these droids, and visualising this borders on the ridiculous. How can one appreciate the mood of the Tuatha Da Dannan when there are science fiction characters from an entirely different story running around? All the instances in which they appear is extremely jarring, and often just plain silly: like when C3-PO tries to subdue a bear. I hope George Lucas doesn’t sue.
Likewise, toward the end of the book the origins of the Switching powers are revealed, and as you may have guessed, it derives from the “wild blood” that is passed down from the Tuatha Da Dannan to their descendants. This is all very good and well, but in the first book Switchers, Thompson establishes the fact that all children are born with Switching powers, though only a few discover and retain them. So what are we meant to believe? Are all children descended from the Tuatha? I highly doubt it, and therefore Thompson has contradicted the fundamental component of her trilogy.
Of all the Switchers books, I recommend the first installment — the next two never measure up to it, and may in fact leave readers disappointed and/or confused. It’s up to you.
Switchers — (1997-1999) Young adult. Publisher: Tess is a switcher — she can take on the form of any animal she chooses. But she must be alone, as is true of all Switchers. Soon she realizes that Kevin is also a Switcher who has been summoned to save the Northern Hemisphere from being destroyed. And Kevin needs Tess’s help to do it.