|This article is written from a Real World point of view.|
- "Someone has come around asking about you."
"What do you mean, someone is asking about me?"
"Some lawyer. He says he was your father's lawyer. And he's also representing some woman. She says her name is Aria. She says she's your cousin." [...]
"My father's lawyer. And some woman named Aria who is supposedly my cousin. It's a trap. Someone has figured out who I am."
- ―Rachel and Tobias
The Pretender, published in October 1998 and written by K.A. Applegate, is the twenty-third book in the Animorphs series. It is the sixth book narrated by Tobias and the third book with Tobias as the sole narrator.
Someone's looking for Tobias. Someone who says she's his long-lost cousin. Tobias isn't sure the person is telling the truth. But she's really nice, and knows a lot about him. And what she tells Tobias definitely gets his attention.
It seems a lawyer has discovered Tobias's father's last will and testament. So, Tobias needs to attend the reading. His "cousin" even offers to go along. But something just doesn't feel quite right. That's when Tobias, the other Animorphs, and Ax decide to do a little checking on this "cousin." And what they discover will change the rest of Tobias's life...
This section needs a rewrite
Tobias has been having bad luck on his hunts; every time he'd dive on the rabbit litter to pick off a hapless youngster, he'd suddenly envision himself as the prey with the shadow of death swooping at him. To make his situation worse, another red-tailed hawk is aggressively moving in on his territory. He doesn't have the will to deal with the threat once and for all. So he resorts to picking dead carcasses off the road. While eating a raccoon that had been squashed by a car, Rachel spots him. Instead of answering her when she calls out to him, he pretends to be another, normal hawk, too embarrassed and ashamed to admit that he's eating road-kill.
Two days later, he stops by Rachel's house at Jake's insistence. She tells him that a lawyer and a long-lost cousin, Aria, have been searching for him. Chapman, too, is interested in his whereabouts. Tobias suspects a trap. Tobias meets his father's lawyer, DeGroot. The lawyer tells him the father he knew may not have been his real father, and his real father's will is meant to be read on his next birthday. Tobias is puzzled. He also tells him that Aria wants to meet him at the Hyatt hotel. Tobias leaves the law practice, and finds himself being followed by a Controller. He manages to ditch his pursuer, but rather than meeting with the Animorphs at the barn, he flies to the Hork-Bajir Valley.
There, Toby Hamee, Jara Hamee and Ket Halpak's seer daughter, tells Tobias that a child Hork-Bajir, Bek, is missing. It is then that a disbelieving Tobias discovers that the Hork-Bajir regularly leave the valley (led by Toby) to free more of their kind. Tobias quickly realizes that the Hork-Bajir are preparing themselves to fight humans when the war is over. They know that they won't be allowed to live in peace when the Yeerks leave if humans ever find out they exist.
Back at the barn, Tobias must deal with his friends' thinly-veiled pity for him, and the group splits up to both try to find Bek and investigate Aria. While Rachel and Tobias are watching her hotel, Aria leaves in a cab, and stops over at Frank's Safari Land and Putt-Putt Golf, a dodgy roadside zoo-slash-amusement park. It's there that they find Bek, locked in a miserable cage alongside a bunch of very depressed animals. They find Aria talking to the owner, Frank, who wants to make money off his "alien freak".
Tobias and the others storm the place and try to take Bek, tearing down the place in the process. But the Controllers were ready for them, and Tobias encounters Visser Three in a hideous kaftid morph. Visser Three thinks Tobias is Ket Halpak, because he is using her morph. The Visser assails Tobias with an acid attack, forcing him to run away from Bek in pain. The rescue fails, and the Animorphs and the Yeerks withdraw, with Bek in Yeerk custody now.
Tobias constantly wonders if he could ever live life as a human with Aria. He wonders if she's a Controller. He and Ax return to the Hyatt, and witness her saving a little girl. Tobias assumes this means she's not a Controller, but Ax is doubtful. Tobias swings by Rachel's house that night, and they engage in a hot debate about Tobias's humanity, with Rachel expressing sadness about the fact that she and Tobias can never be close due to his hawk body. The next day, the Animorphs and the Hork-Bajir plan their attack on the new Yeerk facility out of town.
The Animorphs and the free Hork-Bajir allow themselves to be captured. Tobias, in flea morph, jumps out of the cage, demorphs, morphs a Hork-Bajir, and opens the cage. A quick fight between the Hork-Bajir-Controllers and the freedom fighters results in the latter's victory. As they climb up to the Yeerk Dracon beam, Tobias spots Aria in a helicopter. Only then does he make the connection that Aria is actually Visser Three in a morph. Enraged, horrified, and hating himself, he falls to the ground, unable to will himself to join the fight. He is later rescued by Toby after a terrible fight ensues. The facility is destroyed, and Bek is saved.
Aware now that he is walking into a trap, Tobias must engage Aria on his own. He goes to the testament-reading, and discovers that his father was in fact Elfangor, the Andalite prince. Tobias gives nothing away, instead jeering that he was left no money and accusing Aria of merely seeking his inheritance. Only after he returns to his hiding spot does he break down, and decides that he can't give up his morphing powers because he must continue to fight for his people, just like his father did. Later that night, he flies to Rachel's where she lights him a candle on a birthday cake.
The next day, Tobias acquires the mother rabbit, and then kills and eats her. He then morphs her, and brings the baby rabbits under his protection from the rival hawk.
- Toby Hamee
- Jara Hamee
- Ket Halpak
- Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul (Mentioned Only)
- The Ellimist (Mentioned Only)
- Fal Tagut
- Hedrick Chapman (Mentioned Only)
- Melissa Chapman (Mentioned Only)
- Loren (Mentioned Only)
- Alloran-Semitur-Corrass (Mentioned Only)
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic
- Hork-Bajir Valley
- Abandoned Construction Site (Mentioned Only)
- Hork-Bajir homeworld (Mentioned Only)
- Chapman has begun looking for Tobias, whom he has realized has missed school for several months and is not living with either of his legal guardians. Rachel catches wind of the search at school, and discovers that it is because Tobias's father's lawyer, a man named DeGroot, wishes to read Tobias a legal document. To complicate the matter, a woman named Aria, a supposed nature photographer from Africa, has arrived, claiming to be Tobias' cousin and looking to give him a home.
- Tobias is notified by Toby Hamee that Bek, a young baby Hork-Bajir, has wandered away from the Hork-Bajir Valley. She reveals that she has conducted raids on a Yeerk base in a town outside the Animorphs' city, where she kidnaps and frees Hork-Bajir, hence why the valley is populated by several Hork-Bajir now.
- Suspicious that some supposed family member is now interested in him, Tobias follows Aria with Rachel, and the pursuit leads them to Bek. The Animorphs launch an attack to free Bek, but Visser Three shows up. Tobias, in Ket Halpak morph, is tasked with securing Bek, but the sheer pain of being attacked by the Visser in morph prompts Tobias to run away, allowing the Yeerks to capture the young Hork-Bajir.
- Tobias finds himself starving, as he is unable to hunt anymore due to panic attacks that cause him to freeze before killing prey; to complicate the situation, a wild red-tailed hawk is moving into his meadow, intent on pushing the complacent Tobias out. Tobias then leaves the meadow to follow Aria once more, this time accompanied by Ax, and believes that she could not be a Controller when she jumps in front of a bus to save a child. Tobias then decides to trap himself in his human form and live with Aria, but resigns to do so after one last battle, in which he would make up for his previous actions by helping rescue Bek, who is being kept at the out-of-town Yeerk base.
- While at the base, Tobias spots Aria, who happens to be Visser Three in morph. Tobias, enraged that he believed that someone would want him or try to care for him, crashes into the ground. He then resolves to deal with the Aria matter alone, with the other Animorphs launching an attack on the base once more so that the 'Andalite bandits' are nowhere near Tobias, since the Visser most likely suspects Tobias of something if he is going out of his way to pretend to be his cousin. Tobias then goes to his legal appointment with DeGroot, with Aria in attendance.
- Tobias speaks to Visser Three for the first time.
- Tobias discovers that his father is none other than Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul, which was first revealed in The Andalite Chronicles. Through the letter Elfangor left him, Tobias finds out that he was forced to abandon him and his mother due to the Ellimist returning him to the Andalite homeworld.
- Visser Three, in Aria morph, observes Tobias, desperate to see whether Tobias reveals any visible reaction to his parental revelation. Due to the fact that Tobias is out of touch being human, as hawks do not have facial emotions, his lack of a reaction convinces Visser Three and DeGroot that Tobias is unaware of Elfangor and Andalites. Tobias feigns that his father was crazy and that the will is useless if he doesn't get any money from his supposed father, further convincing both Controllers of his ignorance. "Aria" then fabricates an excuse for no longer being able to adopt Tobias. As Tobias leaves, he overhears DeGroot suggesting that they should infest Tobias anyway, only for the Visser to reply that he is ashamed that Elfangor's son is a street punk instead of a warrior, and that Tobias would be a waste of a host body.
- As of this book, the current year is now 1998. Previous books indicated that the series took place in mid-late 1997 at the very least, but this is the first instance in which evidence is shown that it is now 1998 in the Animorphs timeline.
- Rachel compares her and Tobias to Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic, which was released on December 19, 1997 in the United States. Tobias also states that the current month is his birth month, and that the twenty-fifth is his birthday, but it is obviously not December 25th as the Animorphs would not spend Christmas attacking a Yeerk base, nor would Tobias have a legal appointment set for that date, meaning that the earliest this book is set is in January 1998.
- This is the first book where Tobias and Rachel discuss their relationship explicitly. Tobias privately remarks that Rachel is so beautiful that she makes his heart ache. Some time later, Rachel discloses that she worries for Tobias and she wants him to be safe no matter what. When attempting to convince Tobias to be human forever, in which Tobias replies that being human would cause him to lose his morphing powers and subsequently the Animorphs, she replies that he would never lose her. After a brief silence, she then admits that she finds their relationship stalled at times since she wishes to hold hands with him and go on dates but cannot since he is a bird. She compares their relationship to Jake and Cassie, as well as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's characters Jack and Rose from Titanic, citing they aren't in an interracial relationship or in different social classes, which she states only idiots would have problems with, but that their pairing should not as problematic.
- There is also an instance where Tobias is mesmerized watching Rachel morph into a bald eagle, describing it as her soul coming out and her body transforming into the form he believes she truly embodies, although he quickly remarks that he doesn't find the eagle form more attractive than her human form and that, on top of hawks and eagles being unable to mate, Rachel's eagle morph is male.
- Marco and Rachel's relationship is also slightly touched on; when Rachel remarks that in the old days, Marco would find a girl to bother, Marco puts his arm around Rachel's shoulders and states that he now has only one girl to bother. Rachel then laughs and shrugs Marco off playfully, inciting a pang of jealousy in Tobias.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||--||Peregrine Falcon, Wolf, Siberian Tiger, Housefly (possibly), Cockroach (possibly)|
|Rachel||--||Bald Eagle, African Elephant, Grizzly Bear, Housefly (possibly), Cockroach (possibly)|
|Tobias||Rabbit||Human (himself), Hork-Bajir (Ket Halpak), Flea, Rabbit|
|Cassie||--||Osprey, Wolf, Housefly (possibly), Cockroach (possibly)|
|Marco||--||Osprey, Silverback Gorilla (Big Jim), Wolf Spider|
|Ax||--||Human (Main), Northern Harrier, Mosquito|
|Visser Three||Human (Aria)||Human (Aria), Kaftid|
- The cover quote is, "Tobias is about to discover the secrets of his past...."
- The inside cover quote is, "Predator and prey...."
- This book was published at the time as The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, however, with the introduction of Toby Hamee in that book, this book is set after it.
- Starting with this book, all of Tobias's covers include his human-self transparent in the background, while his original hawk-self morphs into another creature. This is done to represent the re-gifting of his morphing ability, which he given back to him by the Ellimist in The Change.
- While this is the first book to receive a ghostwritten credit, it is not actually the first ghostwritten book, as it was primarily written by Michael Grant, who co-wrote the series with wife Katherine Applegate under the name "K.A. Applegate".
- ANIBASE: Above the usual dedication in this book reads a message thanking Michael Mates for his help. So who's Michael Mates? He's the very same Michael that all the books are dedicated to! Michael is actually Katherine Applegate's husband Michael Grant and the uncredited co-writer for all of her books. They decided that, as an inside joke, they'd give him a special credit for #23. Now you know!
- In The Answer, Jake states that the Animorphs were thirteen when they got their morphing powers, meaning that Tobias turned fourteen in this book. Additionally, this book is set in 1998, revealing that Tobias was born in 1984.
- Chapman is referred to as the "vice principal" of the Animorphs' school. This is the second time he is referred to as a vice principal, following The Android, with every other instance thus far referring to him as an "assistant principal." Chapman is referred to as the vice principal from this book to The Reunion, where he is once more referred to as an assistant principal.
- A Hork-Bajir named Fal Tagut tells Tobias that the latter attacked him during a battle at the Yeerk pool. At this point, the Animorphs have only been to the Yeerk pool three times: The Invasion, The Stranger and The Underground. Tobias did not fight anyone in the last two visits, meaning that Tobias fought Fal Tagut during his first trip to the pool. Based on this and the fact that Fal Tagut has a scar on his face, it is most likely that Fal Tagut was the Hork-Bajir who held Cassie at the infestation pier, whom Tobias attacked.
- Cassie is stated to be in harrier morph, when her actual bird-of-prey morph is an osprey. It is Ax that has the northern harrier morph.
- Tobias mentions that Rachel's bald eagle morph is male, but in The Visitor, he referred to it as a female.
- Bek uses thought-speak; Hork-Bajir are not telepathic.
- In The Change, Visser Three believed that Ket Halpak died. In this book, he recognizes her (though he is not aware that it is Tobias in a morph) and is not at all surprised to see someone who thinks is dead actually alive.
- Marco is described as putting his arm around Rachel, and leaning his head against her shoulder, despite the fact that, with their vast height differences, this should be impossible. Later, Tobias describes Rachel as a "normal-sized girl", despite the many instances in the series where she is described as being incredibly tall for her age.
- In this book, Tobias states that his mother left him and that his father died when he was young, although in The Encounter, he remarked that both his parents died while in The Change, he states that his mother and father both abandoned him. This leaves a little confusion as to what exactly happened, although in The Andalite Chronicles, Tobias tells Elfangor that his mother did abandon him and that he has no family, but that he prefers to think that she died rather than believe that she did not want him. Additionally, Tobias mentions in Back to Before 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 about what happened to them, claiming that the real truth had become lost a long time ago.
- Many fans wondered how Elfangor was able to write a letter for Tobias since he got whisked back to Andalite society shortly after discovering Tobias' existence. However, Elfangor's letter is signed "Prince", a rank which Elfangor was given after ramming the Blade ship and saving the StarSword. That would mean that at some point during his tenure as a Prince, Elfangor got into contact with the Ellimist and was allowed to write a letter that Tobias could read on a particular birthday.
- Tobias states that he is angry with the Ellimist for having tricked him by restoring his morphing ability as opposed to rendering him human again. However, at the end of The Change, Tobias had told the Ellimist that the powerful being had kept his end of the promise and that he was happy. In that book, Tobias had come to the realization that he preferred being a hawk to being a human, as his human life was not that great, and that he only wanted to be able human occasionally, with Tobias having the option to become human permanently should he desire it.