|This article is written from a Real World point of view.|
When Tobias, Jake, Rachel, Marco and Cassie were given the ability to morph, they were also given one very important warning: Never stay in a morph for more than two hours. But Tobias stayed in his morph for too long. Now he's a hawk -- with a boy's mind -- forever.
And he's starting to forget what he looked like. He's losing control, and wants to give in to the hawk brain inside him. Tobias knows he can't give up, but he's spotted a rat down below. He turns in midair and plummets down to the earth. He's focused. He's determined. He strikes...
Tobias is out flying one afternoon where he divebombs down so he can liberate a female red-tailed hawk that was kept in a cage, where it's being used as a mascot called "Price-Cut Polly" in advertisements for a used car dealership. The dealer was starting a commercial when Tobias comes and grabs the cage and uses his beak to turn the combination, but people, including a mechanic with a wrench try to shoo Tobias away. Fortunately, Rachel had come to help, she was in her elephant morph and started stomping and crushing cars. Tobias finally unlocks the cage and frees the hawk just as they hear police sirens. They head for the woods behind the dealership so Rachel can demorph.
Later that evening, Tobias is flying and sees a shimmering in the air, which perplexes him. He decides to check it out again the next day at the same time, and this time, he notices a flock of geese seemingly run into an invisible wall in the air. Tobias suspects the anomaly to be a Yeerk ship using a cloaking device to hide itself and tells the others about it. The group morphs into wolves to follow the last known direction of the ship into the mountains. They arrive at a lake that's heavily guarded by human and Hork-Bajir-Controllers. The ship decloaks over the lake, revealing itself to be a massive manta-ray shaped ship that collects water and air for the Yeerk Pool ship in orbit. Tobias also sees the hawk that he and Rachel freed, and has an urge to be with her.
As the Animorphs head back, they're confronted by a real pack of wolves, and they were about to get into a battle over territory and a dead rabbit. Tobias divebombs and takes the rabbit away while the Animorphs run for it. As Tobias gains altitude for a time reading, he panics to see that the morph time for the others was up and he yells to them to demorph right away. Jake, Rachel, and Marco are stuck midway through morph, but Cassie gets them out of morph. They laugh with relief, though Tobias is happy, he doesn't want to be there and he flies off. Later that night, Tobias flies to Rachel's room, where he talks with, telling her that he's starting to forget himself, but she tells him that he is still the same on the inside, not the outside.
The next day, they make plans to return to the mountains and morph into fish in the lake so that they get sucked up by the truck ship that they call, and disable it from the inside and even show it to the world. Tobias heads up to the lake again to scope out potential hiding places, but his hawk instincts overpower him on the way and he kills and eats a rat. Greatly disturbed by the experience, he flies to Rachel's gymnastics exhibition at the mall, with the intention of committing suicide. He flies around the mall in a panicked state, attempting to slam into walls and the glass skylight, until Marco smashes open the skylight for him to escape. Tobias then regresses into his hawk instincts for several days, living in the woods and hunting rodents. His human side only re-emerges when he sees an old man running from a Hork-Bajir near the mountain lake, and helps him escape. He returns to Rachel to talk about what happened, and he decides that he needs to keep fighting the Yeerks to remain human.The Animorphs revisit the lake and hide in an old bear cave until the Yeerks arrive. They spend a lot of time fishing in order to acquire and morph into trout. Once they are finished, Tobias carries them one-by-one to the lake to avoid notice by the Yeerks, who have the area locked down. The others are successfully sucked up into the ship, but they discover that the water tank is sealed off inside; they are trapped.
They communicate this information to Tobias and ask him to bring the ship down if possible. Meanwhile, Tobias is spotted by Visser Three and is identified as an "Andalite bandit." To avoid attacks from the Blade ship the Bug fighters and helicopters, he lands on the truck ship, the one place he can be sure the Yeerks won't risk firing. A Taxxon emerges out onto the deck to kill him, but Tobias kills it and takes its Dracon beam. He struggles up to the front, where he fires the beam at the ship's bridge, and causes it to fly out of control and crash into a Bug fighter. A large gash is torn in the side of the ship, and the other Animorphs come pouring out with the water that had been collected. They quickly morph into their bird of prey morphs and try to escape, but the Blade ship follows them. Tobias again sees the female hawk, but the Yeerks, mistaking her for him, fire a Dracon beam, disintegrating one of her wings and causing her to plummet back towards the ground, no longer able to fly. They escape and having destroyed the truck ship, but the Yeerks are able to cover it up.
Tobias feels distressed over the death of the female hawk, reminding Rachel that a raccoon, wolf or another hawk would have eaten her body, as she lay defenseless, but realizes that this emotion is what makes him human, because a true hawk would not have cared if another hawk had died. Tobias discusses this with Rachel, and begins to accept his newly found balance between being a hawk and a being a human.
- Price-Cut Polly (First Appearance) (Only Appearance) (Death)
- Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul (Mentioned Only)
- Michelle (Mentioned Only)
- Walter (Mentioned Only)
- Jean (Mentioned Only)
- Homer (Mentioned Only)
- Peter (Mentioned Only)
- Eva (Mentioned Only)
- Naomi (Mentioned Only)
- Sara (Mentioned Only)
- Jordan (Mentioned Only)
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic
- Abandoned Construction Site (Mentioned Only)
- The Gardens (Mentioned Only)
- Truck ship (First Appearance)
- Dracon beam
- Elfangor's fighter (Mentioned Only)
- Pool ship (Mentioned Only)
- Tobias is revealed to be living in Jake's attic, with Jake feeding him leftovers left in Rubbermaid containers. Jake, on Tobias' behalf, has sent messages to his aunt and uncle, who live on both sides on the coast, to convince them that he is living with the other permanently. A few weeks since he has been trapped in morph, Tobias attempts to maintain his humanity and repress the hawk mind, which includes feeling mating instincts for Price-Cut Polly. However, after giving in to the hawk's hunger, causing him to kill and eat a rat, Tobias attempts to commit suicide by flying into a mall, trying to slam into glass doors, store walls, and eventually, the mall's glass skylight, although Marco manages to shatter it with a baseball to save him.
- As Tobias flies through the shattered skylight, he surrenders himself to the hawk mind, living the next few days in a meadow, creating a nest, feasting on prey and nearly forgetting his human memories, although the sight of Hork-Bajir and a human being chased by the Yeerks brings him back to his senses.
- The Animorphs, save for Tobias, morph into wolves and go slightly over the two-hour time limit. They manage to demorph, although not without considerable difficulty, and Tobias realizes that the limit is not exactly 120 minutes.
- Tobias and Rachel's relationship is explored a bit further. While Rachel did show signs of affection towards him in The Invasion, it is revealed that Rachel build a birdhouse outside her window for Tobias to land on, as she often invites Tobias to fly into her room late at night. She also reveals that she has a photo of Tobias as a human in her drawer, telling Tobias that he looked much better in real life than the picture depicted. She also hugs Tobias and caresses his crest, a sensation Tobias describes as "pleasurable".
- When Rachel believes and that she and the other Animorphs are going to die, she asks Tobias if he can make their end swift. Tobias attempts to tell Rachel that he feels something for her, only for Rachel to respond that she was already well aware of his feelings.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||Wolf, Trout||Wolf, Trout, Peregrine Falcon|
|Rachel||Wolf, Trout||African Elephant, Wolf, Trout, Bald Eagle|
|Cassie||Wolf, Trout||Wolf, Trout, Osprey|
|Marco||Wolf, Trout||Wolf, Trout, Osprey|
- The front cover quote is "Now you see them. Now you don't...".
- The inside front cover quote is, "It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Tobias....". which is an obvious direct reference to Superman's famous tagline.
- The summary on the back cover is different from the Official Description (which was found on the Scholastic Animorphs web site). This difference is found for a few of the earlier books.
- This book takes place a few weeks after the first book, although Tobias mentions that it has not been a month yet.
- This marks the first time one of the Animorphs use thought-speak to communicate with someone outside of their group, in this instance, Tobias using it to guide an innocent bystander out of the Yeerks' path.
- The Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic is referred to as the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in this book. The series would go on to use both terms interchangeably.
- K.A. Applegate dedicated this book to the Raptor Center of the University of Minnesota, where she learned about how hawks live and act. This dedication takes place on an entirely separate page, right after the page dedicated "To Michael".
- The very first printing of the book had the credit "©MATTINGLY 1995" on the lower right of the front cover. By the second printing and subsequent printings, this credit was removed. In subsequent books, David Mattingly is credited on the copyright page as "Cover illustration by David B. Mattingly" instead of on the cover.
- This is the first book in which the cover art does not depict a morph acquired in the book, as Tobias had already acquired and morphed into his iconic red-tailed hawk form back in The Invasion.
- Rachel states that one of Marco's favorite words is "insane", which would go on to become his go-to word in the series, often used right before a mission or any other dangerous situation. Ironically, Rachel uses "insane" prior to a mission in this book while Marco is the one who says "Let's do it!", the latter of which would go on to become Rachel's catchphrase and something she would almost always utter prior to a mission.
- ANIBASE: One of the most common questions asked by fans when this book came out was, "Is that Jake on the cover?" Nope, it sure isn't. When the model was hired to portray Tobias, he had blond hair, just as the character was described in the books. But then the model showed up at the photo shoot with brown hair! Since he was already under contract, he had to be used, and K.A. started writing that Tobias had dirty blond hair to compensate.
- ANIBASE: K.A. on why she chose a red-tailed hawk morph for Tobias to be trapped in:
- "Tobias' form was chosen because red-tails are among the most common hawks in the US. I liked thinking that kids driving with their folks across Kansas or wherever would daydream that they were seeing Tobias. Probably should have made him a turkey buzzard, they're so ubiquitous. I knew right from the start I would trap Tobias in morph, by the way, never a doubt. Had to be. I knew it would drive some readers crazy, but I also knew they'd want to know more."
- The Animorphs spend a lot of time fishing in order to acquire a fish; however, Cassie and Marco have osprey morphs while Rachel has a bald eagle; all three birds-of-prey are designed to hunt fish.
- The Animorphs come tumbling out of the hole in the truck ship while in human form. Despite the damage being observed by Visser Three and his minions, the falling humans morphing into raptors through the gushing waterfall is somehow not seen by the Yeerks.
- Tobias mentions that Marco had acquired and morph a bald eagle alongside Rachel; however, Marco's raptor morph is that of an osprey. This is fixed in the 2011 reprint.
- According to Tobias, both of his parents died when he was a child. However, in The Change, he mentions that both his parents abandoned him, while in The Pretender he remarks that his mother disappeared while his father died. This inconsistency is lampshaded in Back to Before, where Tobias reveals that he was told his father left prior to his birth and that his mother abandoned him some time after, but that he had made up stories before about what happened to them, citing that the real truth had become lost a long time ago.
2011 Relaunch Differences
- The aforementioned bald eagle error is fixed in the reprint, this time correctly citing that Marco morphed an osprey and not a bald eagle.
- The original edition refers to Tobias and Price-Cut Polly as "red-tail hawks", while later books would use the term "red-tailed hawk". Since the latter is the correct wording, the reprint replaced the original "red-tail" with "red-tailed".
- In the original edition, Marco and Tobias mention the video game "Doom". In the reprint, Marco merely mentions "video games" while Tobias refers to it as "first-person shooters."
- In the original 1996 edition, one of the stores Tobias passes in the mall is B. Dalton, a retail bookstore chain that was defunct by 2011. The reprint changes this to another well-known and currently active bookstore chain, Barnes & Noble, in an effort by the publisher and the editors to remove outdated references.
- The spelling of "Salad Shooter" is changed to "SaladShooter".