The First Fowler

“Jo Shanks,” Helmer said, “you have somehow given me an idea.”

“What is that, sir?” Jo asked, believing he might finally be really receiving the compliment he had longed for from the gruff old buck.

“That you,” Helmer began, “need significant extra training. I might allow you to join our training sessions once we get to Halfwind. What do you say to that, Picket?”

“I say welcome, Shanks,” Picket said, “and get ready to experience lunacy on an entirely new scale.”

Helmer smiled.

Picket grimaced.

Jo winced. 

Heyward trotted over. “What’s happening over here?”

“The beginning,” Helmer said, “of something audacious.”

At the end of The Green Ember, Picket flew, and changed how rabbits fought forever. At the end of The First Fowler, with Heyward’s help, Jo not only flew, but used his bow to send killing shots at raptors which found their mark. Together with the old war veteran, Helmer, these young bucks and their elite squad of fighting friends would give rabbit-kind the desperate hope that was needed that this war could in fact be won. 

I so love these Jo Shanks books! This installment is set between The Green Ember and Ember Falls. When Ember Falls opens, our friends are at Halfwind Citadel making preparations for the war that is starting. This little story tells the harrowing journey that Heather, Picket, Smalls, Emma, Jo, Helmer, and crew made through wolf and raptor-occupied territory to get from Cloud Mountain to Halfwind. Short and sweet but full of excitement, this book entertains while also filling in some gaps in the bigger story. 

Families with young readers will appreciate this book because it is lighter than the later books, and it takes place before the sad events of Ember Falls. While Sam advocates for reading in publication order (click here to learn more), and I fully agree, if you have eager fans who are not ready for the hardness of the future books, this is one that can be enjoyed sooner rather than later. For readers who are reading this way, I would recommend that you read in this order: 

The Green Ember

The Black Star of Kingston

The Last Archer

The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner (review coming soon)

The First Fowler 

“Jo is one of our finest archers,” Helmer said, “as you saw.”

“He’s a fowler,” the prince said, walking up.

“A fowler, Your Highness?” Picket asked,

“Yes, one who hunts the fowl,” (the prince) said, “a fowler.”

“A fowler,” Helmer repeated. “I like this word.”

Rightly so, The Green Ember puts special focus on Heather, Picket, Helmer, and Smalls. These are the central characters for the series overall. We also get to know Emma well, but she is still more of a secondary character in that book. While it was necessary for us to get to know these characters first, there is plenty of room in our hearts and imaginations for other fantastic characters. As the series progresses, Emma and Jo become as important as Heather and Picket. Because the action is moving so fast in those other books, however, we have less of a chance to study these delightful characters. The Archer books give us an opportunity to understand why we find them so compelling. And, as I said in my spoiler-free review of The Last Archer, Jo is very funny. And everyone around Jo is funny. And Jo and Emma together are extremely funny. These little books are exciting, full of laughs, and bursting with high-intensity adventure. These are not to be missed, but rather to be treasured. 

You can learn more about S. D. Smith and find more of our reviews of his books here. You can purchase this book directly from Sam’s store, Story Warren, here or from Amazon, here. You can learn more about the book at Biblioguides, here. Sara has done some Green Ember bookclubs, you can find more here.