Darkwing first edition cover.
Author(s) Kenneth Oppel Illustrator Keith Thompson Cover artist Christian Alzmann Country Canada Language English Series Silverwing series Genre(s) Fantasy novel Publisher HarperCollins Publication date August 16, 2007 Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) Pages 322 pp (first edition) ISBN 9780002007443 OCLC Number 123127375 Preceded by Firewing
Darkwing (known as Dusk in the United Kingdom) is a novel by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel. It is the prequel and fourth addition to the Silverwing series, and takes place 65 million years before the events of the first book, Silverwing. It describes the origins of the war between the birds and the beasts.
The story takes place 65 million years ago, at the very beginning of the Cenozoic era. A huge natural disaster has wiped out most of the dinosaurs (referred to as "Saurians" within the context of the story), though a few have managed to survive in the aftermath, albeit weakened by climate change, a shortage of food, and a flesh-rotting virus. The mammals, who were once at the Saurians' mercy, decided to form The Pact: unable to wage battle against them on their own terms, they decided to band together to exterminate the remaining Saurians by destroying their eggs, so that the Saurian threat will be extinguished forever.
The story revolves around a colony of proto-bats called Chiropters, which live in safety in a giant sequoia on an uninhabited island, having deserted the other mammals due to refusal to participate in The Pact, a union between all beasts to destroy all Saurian eggs to drive their disease ridden species to extinction. Dusk, a young Chiropter, is being taught by his father how to glide. Dusk is different from the other Chiropters, however; whereas his brethren have simple sails, Dusk has wings, and an urge to fly that he has difficulty suppressing. He is regarded as a freak by the other Chiropters, though he finds acceptance with his parents and his sister, Sylph. Dusk learns to fly, but keeps his secret to himself out of fear of being shunned.
Carnassial, the Felid (a type of proto-cat) also has a hidden desire. Born with shearing teeth and an insatiable appetite for flesh, he seemingly fulfills the pact when he destroys the last known batch of Saurian eggs. The world is changing, and now that most of the Saurians are extinct, he leads a pack consisting of other flesh-craving Felids to form a new world order, with his kind as its undisputed rulers. The rogue pack of Felids find their way to Dusk's island and devour many of his colony, among them Dusk's mother.
With their island invaded by these deadly new predators, it is up to Dusk and his unique powers of flight and echolocation to find the Chiropters a new home where they can live in peace. Carnassial strikes an alliance with the powerful (but unintelligent) Hyaenodons, who claim that the Saurians do still exist, and enlist the Felids to find and destroy their eggs. Carnassial comes to realise that in order for the Felids to rule, it will have to be through cunning rather than through power.
Along the way, Dusk and his colony seek refuge with a seemingly peaceful colony of "Tree Runners", only to find out that they plan on sacrificing them to a giant, meat-eating bird; the Diatryma. After escaping, Dusk finds a new home for his fellow Chiropters, but it is on the other side of a savannah, which is home to many predators. While Dusk is scouting for a good place, he meets another creature that looks similar to himself; it calls itself a bat and tells Dusk that there are many others like them.
While trying to cross the savannah, the colony encounters Carnassial and the Hyaenodons. They seek refuge inside a hollow tree, only to be attacked by horrible venomous shrew-like creatures called "Soricids". The Soricids overwhelm and devour a Hyaenodon, and nearly kill Dusk, but he is rescued by Sylph. While trying to cross the Savannah, Dusk gets caught in the web of a giant spider, which cuts him loose from its web. He and Sylph are attacked by Carnassial and his Hyaenodons once again, and take refuge in the skeleton of a large dinosaur. Through it, they find their way into an eerie, underground cave, where Dusk and Sylph discover a nest of an unidentified meat-eating Saurian, along with a clutch of mostly unhatched eggs and the rotting carcasses of the parents.
Carnassial, meanwhile, discovers the cave but needs the Hyaenodons to find a larger entrance for him. He schemes with his mate, Panthera; they will destroy all but two eggs, and allow them to hatch. This way, he will be able to manipulate the Hyaenodons by using fear of the Saurians to keep them under his control.
Sylph and Dusk debate over whether to destroy the eggs. However, before Sylph can destroy any of them Carnassial and Panthera arrive and attack. However, before the Felids can kill them, a young Saurian (having hatched weeks earlier) appears and attacks Panthera. Dusk and Sylph escape when Carnassial fights against the Saurian in desperation to help his mate. The Saurian follows Dusk and Sylph out of the cave, where it encounters the Hyaenodons outside and attacks them.
Eventually, Dusk leads the Chiropters to their new home, and the book ends with him leaving the colony and promising his sister to come back if he doesn't like life with bats.
- Dusk - Dusk is a young Chiropter who is considered a freak among his colony because of his ability to fly and his strange appearance. Dusk is clever and resourceful and tries his hardest to fit in with the colony. He looks up to his father, Icaron.
- Sylph - Sylph is Dusk's extremely reckless twin sister, older by three seconds. She is loud, amazingly loyal and generally unaware of any possible repercussions of her actions. She does not always understand the reasoning behind her father's actions, leading to frequent arguments.
- Jib - Jib is a young newborn Chiropter. He likes to show off and dislikes Dusk because of his appearance and his ability to fly. He bullies Dusk by saying that if he wasn't the leaders' son, he would have been taken down to the Death Branch and abandoned there after his birth.
- Aeolus - [Deceased] Aeolus is Jib's cousin, and is usually in the company of both Jib and Sylph. He was attacked and killed by birds who believed that he was Dusk, and was left to the elements on the Death Branch.
- Icaron - [Deceased] Icaron is the leader of the colony and the elder of his family. His mate is Mistral and they have had many offspring, including Auster, their oldest, and Dusk and Sylph, their youngest. Icaron is kind and strong, reacting calmly in situations of panic. Icaron is accepting and is one of the only Chiropters in the colony to accept Dusk for who he is. His decisions are frequently challenged by Nova. Carnassial attacked him and gave him the wounds that brought him to his death.
- Mistral - [Deceased] Mistral is Icaron's mate and mother to Dusk and Sylph, among many others. She is a source of comfort to Dusk, helping him when he is banned from flying. Like Dusk, she is able to use echovision. She is killed and eaten by Carnassial whilst defending Icaron.
- Auster - Auster is the eldest son of Icaron and Mistral and is one of the few to accept Dusk's unusual appearance. He has a family of his own and therefore does not interact with Dusk and Sylph's lives often until the Felids invade their island, nonetheless he still shows concern for them when their mother died during their escape. When their father died, Auster did not hesitate to raise them into his family. Near the end of the book, he became the leader of the Chiropters.
- Nova - Nova is the elder of her family. She is reckless and stubborn, and often challenges Icaron's decisions and capability to lead the colony. She took advantage of when Dusk was away finding a new home to take more than half the colony back along the coast to find a home with other chiropters.
- Sol - [Deceased] Sol is the elder of his family. He was very loyal to his leader, Icaron. While trying to protect his family, the poisonous Soricids (a prehistoric mammal similar to a shrew) paralyzed him. They killed and ate him.
- Barat - Barat is the elder of his family. He is generally level-headed, but sometimes is a little rash in his decisions. He follows Nova when she abandons Dusk.
- Chimera - A female Chiropter with an appearance similar to Dusk's. Dusk meets her while searching for a new home for his colony, astonished to find another Chiropter who is unlike the rest. She calls herself a bat, after the leader of her colony and supposedly the first Chiropter to evolve flight, Bat-ra. Chimera appears to be interested in Dusk and persuades him to join her colony, and at the end of the book he leaves Sylph and his own colony, promising to return in the future.
- Carnassial - [deceased?] Carnassial is a felid and a ferocious hunter. He destroyed what was believed to have been the last of the Saurians, but his taste for meat encouraged him to eat the flesh of other species. This eventually led to his expulsion from his tribe ("prowl"). Near the end he is seen trying to rescue his mate from the jaws of a young Saurian.
- Panthera - [deceased] Panthera is Carnassial's hunting partner and mate. After she discovers a kill made by Carnassial she keeps his secret, although he is found out anyway. Eventually she also discovers a taste for meat, and she joins Carnassial. She reveals to him in the Saurian cave that she is pregnant with his kittens. She is killed by a Saurian in the climax of the book.
- Patriofelis - [deceased] Patriofelis is the felid leader and very old. He banishes Carnassial from his prowl and is later carried off by a proto-owl while confronting Carnassial's rogue prowl.
- Teryx - A bird that Dusk meets on the island. He warns Dusk of Carnassials barbaric prowl.
- Gyrokus - Leader of a different chiropter group. He helps Icaron and his group after they refuge out of their island but then banishes them from his group because of former acts of Icaron.
- Danian - Leader of a hyaenodons. He is a strong leader and cares for his pact. He forms an alliance with Carnassial's prowl to team up against the saurians.
- Adapis - Leader of a clan of tree runners. He is a clever tree runner but is a very selfish one. He has an unsteady alliance with a diatryma that is scarred on one of its legs so it cannot prey on any live animal, for when it tries it must limp to catch it but the animal then escapes. She must have Adapis bring her food or she will starve, but in return she protects Adapis's clan from any danger. Adapis tries feeding Icaron's group to the diatryma but fails because of Dusk's brave actions that save the whole group of Chiropters.
In Darkwing, animal species are often referred by their taxonomic clade name rather than their own, which makes it difficult to know exactly what species each creature is. Where the species name is not known, they are listed under the name that they had in the book. The creatures are listed in the order of their appearance. The chiropters are fictional; a hypothetical species intended to represent a primitive bat.
- Prehistoric Birds
- Quetzalcoatlus (referred to as "Quetzals")
- Miacis (referred to as "Felids")
- Prehistoric Owls
- Prehistoric Primates (referred to as "Tree-runners")
- Gastornis (referred to as "Diatryma")
- Crocodiles (referred to as "Swamp Saurians")
- Phenacodus (referred to as "Equids")
- Bisonalveus browni (referred to as "Soricid")
- Giant Spiders
- Theropod dinosaur (referred to as "Saurian")
Darkwing was first released in Canada and the United States in August 2007. It was shortly followed with its release in the United Kingdom in May 2008. Below is the release details for the first edition hardback and paperback copies in these three publication regions.
- 2007, CAN, HarperCollins ISBN 9780002007443, Pub date August 16, 2007, Hardback
- 2007, US, Eos ISBN 9780060850548, Pub date August 21, 2007, Hardback
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