Megamorphs #3: “Elfangor’s Secret”
Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, May 1999
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: The Animorphs are given the power to pursue eighteen-year-old Henry– a human Controller who has discovered Elfangor’s Time Matrix–through time, but one Animorph must pay for this power with his life.
Plot: What I remembered from this book:
- Tobias/Rachel kiss
The story starts out in the barn with our favorite team. But wait, is it our favorite team? Rachel’s not there, and instead Melissa is a member of the team. Jake is a burgeoning sociopath who is a hair’s breath away from turning in Cassie for being sympathetic towards her…slaves? And Ax’s opinion’s don’t matter. He’s just some dirty alien, anyways. The entire unpleasant scene is suddenly interrupted by the Drode. Everyone is back to themselves, and Rachel is once again there (turns out that in the other timeline she had been sent to some type of reform camp for being too aggressive for a woman). The Drode informs them that what they just experienced was the result of a Controller, specifically Visser Four, getting his hands on the Time Matrix that was discovered at the old construction site where they all met Elfangor. Crayak and Elfangor have once again struck a sort of deal with the Animorphs at the heart of it. They will be given a special connection to the Time Matrix that will allow them to time jump with Visser Four to try and re-capture it from him and undo his changes to history. But there’s a price: the life of one of the Animorphs.
Cassie and Marco know who the most likely casualty will be: Jake, with whom Crayak has a particular beef. But, at the same time, letting the future they so briefly experienced go forward is unacceptable. They vow to protect Jake, and the team agrees to the mission and terms. And so the time jumping commences!
Agincourt: The team find themselves in what seems like the middle ages, between two armies (French and English) that are about to go at it with horses, spears, and bows and arrows. Rachel and Cassie almost get taken out by an errant knight before they all manage to reconvene. From there, they begin looking for Visser Four. They realize that the best way to spot him will be to look for someone who is NOT covered in fleas and has terrible teeth. They finally do, just as the two armies collide. He’s in a tree aiming an arrow at the English king. Tobias manages to snag it out of the air. Rachel, Marco, and Cassie almost gets trampled in the fighting, but horse!Jake and HorkBajir!Tobias rescue them in the nick of time. Ax almost catches Visser Four and the Time Matrix in a local bell tower, but he manages to jump at the last minute.
Delaware River: It’s night, it’s cold, and it’s raining. And George Washington and co. are about to cross the Delaware. In human form, Marco and Jake end up on a boat alongside him when it all goes wrong. Visser Four had already warned the Hessians on the other side that they were coming, and a volley of bullets sprays across the boats. Jake falls, a bullet hole in his head. The team panics. Marco tries to hold onto Jake, but he falls into the river. Dolphin!Cassie tries to collect his body. Rachel insists that Ax attack the Hessians for killing Jake. In the chaos, they all jump again.
Battle of Trafalgar: The team is on a ship. They’re all still reeling from the loss of Jake and trying to find their way. Dolphin!Cassie gives up hope and heads out to sea. Marco and Ax fight their way up from the brig. Up above, Tobias and Rachel spot Visser Four. Chimp!Rachel follows him up onto the crow’s next, but just then canons begin firing. Rachel falls, blown in half by a canon ball. Back below decks, Marco and Ax almost nab the Time Matrix again, but just miss as Visser Four sets an explosion that blows up the ship. Another jump.
Princeton: Cassie and Tobias find themselves on what appears to be the campus of Princeton. But the American flag is not flying. Washington was killed crossing the Delaware, and America doesn’t exist. Cassie is done with all the death, morphs polar bear, and lays the smack down on a passing college student when he expresses some racist opinions. Suddenly, Marco and Rachel (!) show up. The team realize that the rules of this mission were that one, and only one, of the Animorphs would die. Are they all now invulnerable? They wring more news out of the terrified student and realize that Visser Four was likely here to kill Einstein. But history has already changed so much that he miscalculated. Einstein isn’t even here. The team realizes that their plans need to change. History has already been too damaged by Visser Four. They need to get back the Time Matrix for themselves, change history back, maybe even get back Jake. Time jump!
D-Day: Several of the Animorphs experience the unique horror of charging the beaches and seeing hundreds of soldiers gunned down. Ax is particularly horrified by the violence. In small morphs, they are able to escape the rain of bullets. As birds from above, they see a line of tanks making their way towards the beaches. They realize that the French are on the side of the Germans, yet more proof that the timeline has been changed in crazy ways. In an attempt to get at Visser Four, HorkBajir!Tobias gets shot in the chest, but miraculously just stands right back up, confirming their theory that they can’t die. Eagle!Rachel takes out a tank with a hand grenade, but afterwards, realizing that so much is different, has a panic attack after realizing that it is no longer clear who the bad guys are. In this timeline, Hitler is just an old man driving a truck. They manage to finally nab Visser Four and the Time Matrix, but the host body is too injured to survive for long. The Yeerk makes a break for it, but Marco manages to grab it. None of them want to be the one to kill it, so Marco takes one for the team and throws the Yeerk into the fire that was the tank. With the Time Matrix now in their hands, they debate what to do. Cassie is the one to come up with the solution: she asks the man whom Visser Four had Controlled where his parents met.
The 60s: They then time travel to that point to break up the meeting, figuring that if his parents never met, then he would never exist and Visser Four would never Control him and discover the Time Matrix. While they are waiting, they discuss the horrors that they saw and that at every point in history they visited, people were senselessly killing each other. They debate whether or not they could do more to change the world, making it a more peaceful place. While they are talking, several hippies wander by and are impressed by the Time Matrix itself. Suddenly, they are back in the barn.
They realize that one of the hippies admiring the Time Matrix had been the would-be mother and that her distraction had resulted in her missing meeting the would-be father. What’s more, Jake is back, alive and well, not remembering anything after their attempted crossing of the Delaware. The world may not be better, but it seems that at least things are back to the way they were.
Our Fearless Leader: Jake gets the short straw as he is out of the story fairly early on and misses much of the action. We have some good leadership moments from him, particularly during their first time jump when Cassie, Rachel, and Marco are in the middle of the battlefield about to be trampled at any moment. Tobias is going crazy with worry about Rachel, not wanting to focus on Visser Four at all, and just go in after her. Jake reminds him that Cassie is down there too, but that just wildly going after them will not get them anywhere. His calm, even in the midst of crisis, is really highlighted.
While I like the tie-in to Jake and Crayak’s particular beef when it comes to the likelihood that Jake will be the one to die, it also lowers the stakes quite a bit. There are a few of the Animorphs who, theoretically, we might have bought as actually being killed off in this book. Rachel or Tobias are probably the most likely candidates. But with Jake, there’s never any question that he’ll be back somehow.
Xena, Warrior Princess: Rachel is at her reckless/brave best (worst?) in this book. In their very first jump, she and Cassie end up in a tight spot with a few knights when Rachel’s go-to response of morphing elephant doesn’t turn out so well. Though I did, as always, love the Cassie/Rachel scene!
<See, Ax? Told you it was Rachel. Any time you hear a bunch of screaming and see people running, you’re going to find our girl Rachel somewhere close by.> [Tobias]“Very funny,” Rachel said. ” They started it. Cassie: Tell them who started it!”
Later, she has a really cool scene taking out the tank with the hand grenade, though it is questionable later whether this was necessary. Mostly, she was just gungho to take out Nazis. But once she realizes that the French were teamed up with Germany in this timeline, she begins to understand that she doesn’t know whether they were the enemy or not in this scenario. It’s a really small scene, but it does highlight Rachel’s own knowledge and fear of her recklessness. She’s scared by herself in this way.
But, as I’ve pointed out in the past, she’s also, again, the first one to go into danger to try to save one of the others. This time, she’s the first to try to save Marco when he gets stuck in the middle of the battlefield in the first jump.
A Hawk’s Life: This whole book is a perfect example of why Tobias should use his Hork Bajir morph more often. He uses it to great success multiple times within this book. It doesn’t hurt that the clearly alien morph is sure to freak out any nearby people, thus clearly the way quite effectively without having to even do anything.
He also has another impressive hawk moment when he catches the arrow that Visser Four is shooting straight out of midair.
Tobias is also particularly vehement about taking out Hitler in the D-Day jump. Cassie tries to talk him down, pointing out that they don’t know who he has become in this new version of reality, but through a series of events, HorkBajir!Tobias does end up killing him, rather accidentally. As everything gets undone, it doesn’t matter one way or the other, but now Tobias can brag that he did in fact kill Hitler at one point.
Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie gets a lot of chapters in this book. As I discuss in Marco’s section, she and Marco have a unspoken plan to protect Jake. When they don’t succeed, Cassie succumbs to a moment of weakness and tries to flee out into the ocean in dolphin morph. Obviously this doesn’t work out, and she finds herself tugged along in the next jump anyways. It’s also nice to see her get mad and take things into her own hands when it comes to dealing with the racist guy in the Princeton jump.
She’s also the one to come up with the plan for out to set things right in the end. She’s not outright “killing” anyone, but her plan does result in the end, or more like, lack of existence, of a man’s life.
The Comic Relief: This is one of the first books where we’ve really seen a strong connection between Cassie and Marco. In the very beginning, when the Drode is laying out the situation, Marco is resistant to agreeing. It doesn’t take long for Cassie to realize why and for the two of them to come to an unspoken agreement about not letting Crayak take Jake. It’s nice seeing them both recognize the special relationship they each have with Jake. Rachel, too, has a close connection with him, but, as we’ve seen, she and Jake have a bit more of a fraught relationship than the BFF relationship that Marco has or the quasi-dating relationship of Cassie.
It’s also worth highlighting that Marco is the one to ultimately kill Visser Four. He tries to pass it off as a casual thing, but this is only marginally successful. But it does show that he is also willing to shoulder the burden when it is clear no one else is capable of it. Given their ultimate plan, though, I don’t know why this was so much of a concern. They change the timeline for the man he was Controlling, but it seems as if the Yeerk Visser Four would be alive and well back in their new timeline, so his “death” here is rather meaningless.
E.T./Ax Phone Home: After the Hessians shoot Jake, Rachel orders Ax to take them out. He tries to argue that they are innocent (at least of meaning to take out Jake specifically), but in the end, he goes for it. Throughout the rest of the story, we see this decision continue to haunt him.
On the beaches on D-day, he has a similar moment to Cassie’s where he thinks to just flee. He is horrified by the violence all around him, and struggles again to understand the duplicity of humanity, that people like his friends can exist yet throughout history humans just seem to kill each other. He is even more horrified when he learns the reasons for this particular war and what happened to the Jews.
Best (?) Body Horror Moment: There’s so much actual action taking place in this one, that we get a lot fewer descriptions of disgusting morphs. That said, this has to be one of the most violent books we’ve seen, made worse that it is drawing from history. Rachel’s death is probably the most gruesome. Her chimp body is literally blown in two and as she falls, she sees the remaining half of her own body still hanging from the ship’s masts. Then we switch perspectives to Tobias and get to have even more lovely descriptions of her blown apart body.
Couples Watch!: As I said, one of my big memories of this one was the Tobias/Rachel kiss. Once again they are blowing Cassie/Jake out of the water as far as relationship goals go. Tobias thought she was dead for like fifteen minutes, but the minute he sees her, he runs to her and kisses her. Cassie thinks Jake is dead for quite a long time, but when he shows back up in the barn, everyone’s kind of like “Oh, hey there!’ and Cassie casually kisses him on the cheek while talking about the philosophy of time and humanity. Romantic it is not. Seriously, what is with these two??
“Whoa, Cassie! That is so Rachel,” Marco said. [Cassie in polar bear morph threatening the Princeton guy]. I recognized the voice immediately. He’d come up behind us.
“Really,” Rachel said. “What are you doing? Stealing my act?”
“Rachel!” Tobias yelped. And a millisecond later he had spun around, grabbed her, and kissed her. Then he held her back at arm’s length.”You’re dead!”
If Only Visser Three had Mustache to Twirl: Visser Four is obviously the big bad in this. But we never really get to know much about him. Throughout the book he’s seen more as a distant figure that they are chasing, and the few interactions they have with him are pretty typical Yeerk boasting.
“So. The Andalites pursue me still,” he sneered. “I was careless. I did not expect to be pursued. But I’ll be careful now. Yes. And you know what? It’s better this way. I have the power now! I have the POWER!”
More telling, when John Barryman is finally freed from the Yeerk, he is astonished and amazed that they are all just kids. He mentions how much the Animorphs are driving the Yeerks, and especially Visser Three, absolutely crazy trying to catch them. He tells them they’re heroes. Probably something they needed to hear about now.
Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: Ax’s complete bewilderment and horror at the violence throughout human history really struck home. There’s a particularly heart-wrenching scene on the beaches when he witness a man get shot, and then sees a army doctor run up to try and help him and the doctor is shot too. All while trying to help a solder whose injuries were to dire to begin with.
Jake’s death, while not really worrying as something that will stick, is made more poignant because of Cassie and Marco’s silent agreement to protect him and how suddenly and completely they failed. In many of the other books, we see them get horrific injuries and then slowly start dying but have the time still to morph out to save themselves. Here, Jake is shot in the head. He’s dies in a second and there was absolutely nothing Cassie or Marco could have done about it. It really hits home how dangerous the war with the Yeerks is. This same thing could happen at any moment in their ongoing war, and the others would be equally helpless to stop it, and wouldn’t have a convenient time loop hole to get them out of it.
What a Terrible Plan, Guys!: Really, the fact that they were even for a second discussing messing around with the Time Matrix more than just trying to set things right. They’ve already seen how even the smallest changes have had huge repercussions on the world. How could they ever think they could figure out this impossible puzzle in a way that wouldn’t be disastrous somehow? And it’s not like this is even their first experience with time travel! In the last megamorphs book with the dinosaurs, they saw how fragile the balance was for things to need to happen in a very specific way to get to the world they knew. Plus, you have to assume that any further messing around with time would have been put to a quick stop by either (or both!) Crayak or the Ellimist.
There’s quite a bit of dark stuff and deep, timey-wimey musings, but, as always, Marco quips win the day:
“Oh, man, the colors, man!” A “hippie” had come up to admire the Time Matrix’s shimmering globe.
“Right, the colors, whoa! Cool! Go away. We’re trying to figure out the space-time continuum here,” Marco snapped.
Scorecard: Yeerks 6, Animorphs 12
I’m not going to change the score for this one. Like the other megamorphs books, this one kind of exists on the sidelines of the main plot, so there aren’t any long-lasting repercussions from their success here.
Rating: I still really enjoyed this one. I forgot about Marco and Cassie’s mini alliance, and all the details of the historical time periods they visited. I had completely forgotten how this book started out, just dropping readers into the other timeline. I was pretty confused at first since I know the last megamorphs deals with an alternate reality and I started questioning whether I had somehow gotten the order mixed up and that was this one. And, of course, I’m going to love any book with good Tobias/Rachel moments!
Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!