It’s another Megamorphs, and more time travel! This time it’s not the Ellimist who sends them back but Crayak, of all entities, via the Drode, because a Yeerk got its hands on the Time Matrix, and ain’t nobody wants that. Of course, Crayak has a “price” to enlisting the Animorphs: one of them must die!
This book is dark in a way few of the previous Animorphs books have been. And its darkness is more meditative: this isn’t the slick and slimy evil of the Yeerks, or the awful supercilious negligence of the Andalites; it’s Applegate’s portrayal of the cold and cruel evils of humanity. As is often the case in this series, the Yeerk villain de jour merely gets the plot rolling, after which the story is more about what the Animorphs learn about themselves as they work madly to stop the Yeerk from winning.
The neverending struggle between good and evil is central to this series. At first, of course, it seems like the Animorphs represent good while the Yeerks are pure evil. As the books went on, however, Applegate reveals more complexity: there is evil within the hearts of our heroes; there are Yeerks who want to do good. Additionally, the series demonstrates why evil tends to have the upper hand: it does not have to pull its punches. Good, by definition, is more constrained in its approach. It’s almost a truism that in fighting against evil, good has to worry about losing itself to that evil by “lowering” to its level. We see that here in Elfangor’s Secret, as each of the Animorphs must act on their worst selves.
Reading this now, as an adult, there is little impressive about the plot. It’s a romp through history, like many other time travel stories, and not particularly well done at that. They go to Agincourt, Trafalgar, Princeton 1933, D-Day, etc. At each juncture, the Animorphs try to stop the former Visser Four from re-writing history to make humanity easier to conquer. Along the way they stumble into various historical figures and situations. I can imagine that for younger readers, however, this would be a pretty solid story.
As with most time travel stories (regardless of audience age), the ending relies on some paradoxical time travel trickery. I don’t think “clever” is the right word for it, but it’s appropriate, I guess? Probably the best thing about it is how Cassie is the one who takes it upon herself to find out where John Berryman’s parents met (I love how they assume he knows how/when his parents met, and that the Time Matrix can just wibbly-wobbly plop them down in the exact right spot at the right moment—it’s certainly no TARDIS!). Cassie, who is always about saving lives, working not just to end one but actually prevent one from ever being born.
And this is where I’m going to get nitpicky: would this solution even work?
I mean, so that particular host is never born. Visser Four would still be demoted. Visser Four would still be stuck on Earth in some human host. Presumably they would still find the Time Matrix and have this same idea, just in a different human body. (It’s not entirely clear whether Berryman was the Yeerk’s host when it was still Visser Four. So I suppose there is an argument that it’s Berryman’s particular disposition and memories that inspired the Yeerk in its time travelling gambit.)
I guess it’s a moot point. The time travel stuff itself is dumb, as is typical for a lot of Animorphs plots: what matters instead is the way the characters confront the moral questions in the story. And much like the previous Megamorphs outing, they don’t actually come off that great. Applegate affirms that in war, the good guys sometimes cannot avoid lowering themselves to the level of the “evil” that they fight. As usual, I appreciate the complexities that she brings to this audience and to the series itself.
Next time, Marco’s mom is in trouuuuuuuble.