Enter The Ellimist, an all-powerful SPOILERS or is he END SPOILERS being who can bend space and time to his will, and who has taken an interest in the planet Earth. Andalites tell their children fairy stories about his kind; humans have never heard of him. He’s up to something.
Gosh, Rachel books are just the best. I alllmost upped this one to five stars, but I’m saving it. But allllmosst, because in The Stranger, I really feel like this series kicks into gear, and is now aligning itself with my memory of it being totally awesome. As a child it just felt like time travel and aliens and saving the world, but as an adult, oh man, Rachel’s POV is intense.
The kids are headed into the Yeerk Pool again (the new entrance is in the mall: enter through The Gap, exit through the movie theater). All the Animorphs except Ax, who wasn’t around the last time, are leery of going into that place again. This time, though, they’re going in with much more manageable goals and idea of what they’re up against. This time, they’re going to try and find out where the Kandrona is, so they can strike a crippling blow to the Yeerks, one which they can recover from, but will do them great damage before that happens. Things go wrong pretty much right away, but instead of fighting their way out blind from inside the body of the Taxxon who has just eaten them, time stops. Everything around them freezes, and in comes The Ellimist.
SPOILERS The Ellimist introduces himself and tells the Animorphs (and a very frightened Ax) that though he cannot save all of humanity — who he says are doomed to lose to the Yeerks, and shouldn’t he know because hello, master of space and time? — he can save a select few humans on a sanctuary planet, and because they are the only free humans aware of what is going on, it is their choice to make: Keep fighting, or save their friends and family and a select group of humans, and start over?
Everything about this installment just works so well together. Rachel is the perfect choice for narrator because the others see her as this brave warrior; Marco regularly calls her Xena, Warrior Princess. But Rachel doesn’t feel any more brave than the others, and she’s starting to crumble under the pressure of her two lives. Her dad just told her that he’s moving out of state to accept a job, and he invites her to come with him. So not only does she have to choose between running and staying in her personal life, but now The Ellimist has essentially given her the same choice on a global scale. As she tells the others, the more choices appear, the more scared she gets. It’s easy for her to be “brave” when there is only one option before them, to fight or die, but when the option to fight becomes a choice, things are much, much different.
Here we really start to see the toll being a guerrilla fighter is beginning to take on these kids, and of course it hits Rachel first, because she’s the most fierce and the most willing to put herself out there, a trait that makes the other Animorphs take her a little for granted. All the Animorphs have had trouble adjusting, but Rachel actually begins to spiral, and shut down, to use morphing as an escape. She breaks down in front of the others. It’s very similar to what happened to Tobias in The Encounter, although that was more of an identity crisis than a response to trauma END SPOILERS.
So that’s the emotional stuff, but this book is also notable for what The Ellimist brings to the table. I love the way his existence opens up the worldbuilding of the series, letting us know there is sooooo much more out there that we’re not yet seeing because we’re stuck on Earth with the kids. It also showcases Applegate’s ability to weave a tricky, surprising plot. Time travel is hard to pull off and make fresh, but I think she manages it quite well.
Up next, the first Megamorphs, because Scholastic wanted to make more money, and kids wanted more Animorphs, so win-win.