Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:
Megamorphs: The Andalite’s Gift
The Andalite Chronicles was written by K.A. Applegate and first published in 1997. It is the first of four Animorphs Chronicles books that further expand the universe in which the main series is set. Although it does not form part of the main Animorphs chronology, The Andalite Chronicles is technically a prequel to the series and focuses on Elfangor’s youth as a cadet in the Andalite military.
Before Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul was a war-prince, he was a lowly aristh – a cadet – eager to see battle and prove himself as a great warrior. Assigned to the dome ship StarSword, he begins an unremarkable career with his friend and rival Arbron. His first taste of a real mission is a simple excursion to investigate a Skrit Na freighter but what he discovers there changes his life forever.
The Skrit Na have abducted two humans – Loren and Chapman – and Elfangor and Arbron are placed under the command of a disgraced war-prince called Alloran in order to transport them home. Yet their plans are derailed when they make a discovery. The Skrit Na have also scavenged a legendary Ellimist artefact known as the Time Matrix and are on their way to deliver it into the hands of the Yeerks.
Elfangor and his party pursue the Skrit Na to the Taxxon home world in the hope of retrieving the device, however in doing so they find themselves in a deadly struggle against the Yeerks. During the course of the fight, Elfangor makes a critical error and in doing so condemns Alloran to a fate worse than death – a horrible existence as the host of the Yeerk that will one day become Visser Three…
Before I begin, a brief note on the structure of the series. As it is a prequel, The Andalite Chronicles does stand alone to a degree but I’d strongly advise reading the first twelve books of the Animorphs series before hand if you want to fully understand what’s going on. While a lot of the important concepts are explained within this book, you’ll have a greater appreciation for it if you understand just how it ties in the greater scheme of things.
Most importantly, you’ll be painfully aware that Elfangor’s story isn’t going to be a very happy one. Elfangor’s sacrifice at the beginning of The Invasion is one of the most shocking moments of the series. The Andalite Chronicles takes the form of his hirac delest – a recording of an Andalite’s memories at the moment of his death – that details dark secrets that he has never previously shared with his loved ones. Most importantly, it explains why Elfangor was so quick to break his vows. The fact that Elfangor shared forbidden technology with an inferior species was a shocking discovery for Ax within the main series. Through The Andalite Chronicles, we see Elfangor’s first encounter with a human teenager whom he comes to respect and love. This goes a long way to explain why he was prepared to share the morphing technology, even though his race live in constant fear of recreating the Seerow’s Kindness incident. He knew just how brave and resourceful human children can be.
In focusing on Elfangor as a youth, we see him in a way that he has never been presented as before. We’ve seen Elfangor as the warrior that Yeerks fear and the brother that Ax aspires to be. For the first time, we see him as a teenager. Young Elfangor isn’t far different from Ax. He’s an ambitious aristh who is desperate to prove himself as worthy of becoming a great pilot. It’s really a coming of age story and it shares many similarities with the main series, particularly Ax’s story as seen in The Alien. Its primary focus is about war and the way that it affects people, which is a running theme throughout all of the Animorphs stories. Elfangor begins by believing that war is glamorous and idolises Andalites who have had glorious victories. However, he quickly discovers the truth when he is forced to travel to the Taxxon home world.
Towards the end of the story, an Andalite captain tells Elfangor that “war does terrible things to people. Some it raises to greatness. Others it destroys”, which is a nice summary of everything that Elfangor discovers. While we know from The Invasion that Elfangor’s destiny is to be remembered as a hero, Arbron and Alloran are not as fortunate. In Arbron, Elfangor sees someone who’s dreams have all been shattered. He’s as young and hopeful as Elfangor yet his first mission destroys all of his hopes for the future in a matter of hours. Alloran has been destroyed in a different way. He’s the kind of person who believes that victory must be gained at any cost, sacrificing his morality and committing unforgivable crimes for the perceived good of his people. These experiences cause Elfangor to take a hard look at himself and re-evaluate what’s most important to him.
While the story is engrossing and very moving, it does have a few weak points. As with a number of the other Animorphs books that I’ve reviewed, it does ultimately revolve around time travel and the Ellimist. I personally enjoyed the first half of the story a lot more. Once Elfangor got his hands on the Time Matrix, things became very surreal and went a little downhill. The ending also didn’t entirely make sense. The Ellimist “undoes” much of Elfangor’s meddling with time but leaves one key thing intact (an impossibility as the events leading up to this never occurred). I know that the Ellimist is almost all-powerful yet this just felt weak to me. The Ellimist is supposed to abide by strict rules yet this would certainly qualify as meddling with time.
I also had a couple of problems with characterisation. The Andalite characters were pretty well rounded. Elfangor had great development, I felt suitably sorry for Arbron and Alloran neatly toed the line between being tragic and horrifying. Yet the human characters felt a little off. Loren was an awesomely strong female lead but the romance between her and Elfangor was far too fast. They fell for each other almost immediately despite belonging to two very different races (and only spending a week together).
Chapman also felt out of character. I know that he was probably twenty years younger than he is in the main series but the Chapman we see in The Visitor is a bit of an unsung hero. He’s a man who voluntarily gave up his freedom to the Yeerks to ensure his daughter’s safety. The Chapman in The Andalite Chronicles is just a douchebag. At one point, he tries to save his own neck by trading the entire human race over the Yeerks. For a while, I wondered if he was supposed to be an entirely different Chapman but I’m pretty sure that they’re one and the same.
Anyway, this is probably a good time to wrap things up. The Andalite Chronicles aren’t a necessary read but it’s a pretty gripping story and adds a lot of depth to the characters of Elfangor and Visser Three. If you’re a fan of the main Animorphs series, I would certainly recommend taking a look.
The Andalite Chronicles is currently out of print. If you’d like to read it, try Amazon Marketplace or your local library.