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Forest of the Pygmies    by Isabel Allende order for
Forest of the Pygmies
by Isabel Allende
Order:  USA  Can
Rayo, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This completes the memoirs of Eagle and Jaguar that began in City of the Beasts and continued in Kingdom of the Golden Dragon. In their previous adventures, Alexander Cold and Nadia Santos developed a very special relationship, which they have maintained by constant emails. They also discovered that they're able to turn into their totemic animals, jaguar and eagle respectively. Now, in Forest of the Pygmies, they (and Nadia's monkey Boroba) are traveling with Alex's grandmother Kate Cold (who works for International Geographic magazine) in the heart of Africa.

In Nairobi, fortune teller Ma Bangesé sends them a vision in which they must fight a three-headed ogre, and warns the duo to 'Stay close to each other ... separated you will die'. They enjoy an elephant safari - at least Nadia does, using her linguistic talent to converse with her elephant, who becomes jealous of Alex as a result. Then they meet a Catholic missionary, Brother Fernando, who seeks help in discovering the fate of his fellows in the 'most inaccessible, the hottest, and least hospitable area of equatorial Africa.' The region is controlled by a psychopath (possibly a cannibal) named Maurice Mbembelé. Kate Cold is intrigued by the possibility of an article, and the group is flown to the area by colorful pilot Angie Ninderera, who fears nothing except her predicted end in the jaws of a crocodile.

There's a plane crash, perilous encounters with various large animals, a canoe trip with Bantus, and a grueling trek through jungle, guided by forest pygmies under the leadership of Beyé-Dokou. They reach the village of Ngoubé, but as prisoners of King Kosongo's men (the fearsome Mbembelé is his Commandant), and they also hear of a terrible sorceror named Sombe. They learn that the pygmies are forced to hunt elephants for this dreadful trio, since their wives and children are held hostage. Of course, Nadia and Alex decide to take action, and rally the pygmies to fight back. Along the way, they experience a magical encounter with spirits - 'one of the pivotal moments of their lives' - and transform into their totemic animals to fight the three-headed evil. They also resolve their relationship.

Though this is unquestionably better than the average young adult adventure, with exciting encounters in a fascinating, remote part of the world, I was disappointed in the characterizations, which were not well developed for a writer of Isabel Allende's enormous talent. However, I recommend Forest of the Pygmies as an engaging story, one best read after taking in Alex's and Nadia's previous escapades around the world.

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