The Ellimist Chronicles

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:

Animorphs: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-19 | 20-22 | 23-27 | 28-32 | 33-37 | 38-41 | 42-45 | 46-49

Megamorphs: The Andalite’s Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs | Elfangor’s Secret | Back to Before

Animorphs Chronicles: The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles | Visser

Well, it’s been an age and for that I can only apologise, but I think it’s about time I pushed through the remaining Animorphs books and finished up this long-running series of retrospective reviews.

In case this the first of these that you’ve read one of these, this is my look back over my childhood favourite series – Animorphs by K.A. Applegate. The main series ran for fifty-four novels and focused on five teenagers who were given the power to become any animal they could touch in order to battle invading parasitic aliens. The series was also complimented by a number of specials and spin-off novels and it is the last of these that I am going to look at today. The Ellimist Chronicles was first published in 2000 and focuses on one of the series’ most mysterious characters. While the book can really be read at any point in the series after The Attack (book twenty-six), it is intended to fall after The Resistance, which is the forty-seventh instalment of the main series.

You should probably be aware that this review contains spoilers. You have been warned.

Before he was known as the Ellimist, he was Azure Level, Seven Spar, Extension Two, Down-Messenger, Forty-one. Or Toomin to his friends. Toomin was a Ketran – a peaceful species that lived in symbiosis with the floating crystals of his home world, but he was not a very accomplished one. While successful Ketrans became scientists or engineers, Toomin and his friends wasted time by playing immersive simulation games. However, he wasn’t even very good at that. Toomin was determined to win games through compassion but aggression almost always seems to be the winning strategy.

When Toomin is awarded a position on an experimental spacecraft, he is overjoyed. Perhaps it is finally time to stop playing games and make something of himself. Yet things quickly go wrong. A different tribe of Ketran have developed a way of sending communications beyond their planet and foolishly tested it by broadcasting a game without explanation. Thinking that the Ketrans pose a threat, a rival alien race arrives and wipes them out without warning. With no hope but to flee, Toomin and small group of others escape in their ship. They know that they are now the last of the Ketrans and – removed from their home crystal – they are shadow of their former selves.

This unthinkable tragedy sets in motion a string of events that causes a transformation in Toomin. He finds himself facing horrors that he could never have imagined but emerges from them changed – with knowledge and powers that far exceed anything else. He decides to put these to use by playing the ultimate game – one that helps him to preserve and advance other species. However, its not long before a rival player emerges and the Crayak’s motivations are far less altruistic than his own…

Much like the main series, I must admit that I’ve found the Animorphs Chronicles to be a bit hit and miss. They’ve ranged from the good (The Hork-Bajir Chronicles) to the really dull (Visser) and so I wasn’t really optimistic about this one at all. I don’t even really like the character of the Ellimist. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’m always really apprehensive about characters who can control reality as they are too often used as deus ex machinas. However, I must admit that this book wasn’t what I was expecting at all. It’s good. Very good. I might even go so far to say that it’s been one of my favourite instalments of the series to date.

However, I should also probably warn you that it’s also probably the most depressing of all the Animorphs books. This is really no mean feat as these can be almost unrelentingly bleak at times. One of the things that makes The Ellimist Chronicles so sad is that it is book-ended by chapters that reveal that one of the Animorphs will not survive the coming war with the Yeerks. In fact, the Ellimist doesn’t even know if they will be successful at all, which is a bit of a downer. It also really shows that Animorphs is clearly starting to enter its endgame. We’ve never had to deal with the death of a primary character before and so I’m now curious to read on to find out who it will be.

The main body of the story spends just shy of two-hundred pages explaining how the Ellimist came to be. While it does not answer all questions, it is an immersive science fiction story about how a young Ketran wastrel witnessed the destruction of his own species. Due to the way that it’s structured, it actually takes quite a while for the pieces to fall into place. It’s difficult to see how Toomin – a winged creature from a non-violent and non-advanced race – will wind up as the diminutive blue creature that the Animorphs have previously encountered.

However, the seeds of his character are present from the very beginning. Even as a child, he had a great love of games. His game of choice is called Alien Civilisations and is a Spore-esque simulation games where you determine a species’ survival by making small changes to their environment or culture. This is, on a smaller scale, exactly what the Ellimist’s role is in the main series. He chooses his champions and gives them small clues that will aid their survival when fighting the champions of the Crayak. He aids their survival from afar, as though they are the pawns and he is the player. Unfortunately for the Animorphs, The Ellimist Chronicles also sets the worrying trend that the Ellimist has a tendency to lose.

At its heart, The Ellimist Chronicles is a story about perseverance. Despite his many setbacks, some of which resulting in the extinction of planets, the Ellimist does not give up and slowly starts to refine his strategy into something that can beat more aggressive foes. He cannot defeat Father at first on an even field but learns that he can through his creativity. He can’t beat the Crayak at his own game, but he can aim to seed new life faster than his nemesis can snuff it out to counterbalance this genocide. In doing so, it’s interesting to see how the Ellimist actually had a hand in starting some of the races that are key to this series, including the Andalites and the Pemalites.

However, the book does not really have a definitive ending. It merely wraps up as the Ellimist and Crayak assume their most powerful forms yet and begin to face their final game – presumably the battle for Earth. This felt like a bit of a tease but at the same time really raises the stakes of the series. Over the course of The Ellimist Chronicles, we witness what terrible power the two players possess first hand, which really did make me worry about how things will play out as the war between the Animorphs and the Yeerks enters its final phase.

While it’s not necessary to read The Ellimist Chronicles to fully appreciate the main series, it does create a compelling protagonist in the form of Toomin. While he has always seemed godlike from the perspective of the Animorphs, it’s interesting to see a more vulnerable side to him. While he has evolved beyond even his own understanding, he is not omnipotent. He makes many mistakes (and learns from them) and even he does not always know how his meddling will impact the greater picture.

My only small disappointment with the story was that we don’t learn that much about the Crayak. While we do discover a little more about his nature and motivation, he does not appear until close to the end of The Ellimist Chronicles and we learn nothing about his origins. It would have been interesting to see how closely this mirrored that of the Ellimist, or what kind of creature he was before he transcended.

Anyhow, I think that’s about all that I have to say. The Ellimist Chronicles is a little less connected to the main series than the previous three Animorphs Chronicles, but it has also been my favourite by a long shot. You certainly don’t need to read this book to fully appreciate the main series, but it provided an interesting aside about one of the series most mysterious characters. It is certainly a story that would recommend.

The Ellimist Chronicles can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Animorphs 50-53 | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: Animorphs 54 | Arkham Reviews

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