30 pages 1 hour read

Kenneth Oppel


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1997

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Summary and Study Guide


Kenneth Oppel’s 1997 award-winning middle-grade novel Silverwing is a high-fantasy work that follows a young bat’s journey to find his colony. The novel has sold over a million copies and been adapted for television as an animated children’s series. This book is the first of four in The Silverwing Book Series.

Plot Summary

The novel is divided into three parts, and it shifts point of view between Shade, a runt newborn Silverwing bat, and Goth, a cannibalistic bat from the jungle. In Part 1, Shade defies the laws put in place by owls and stays up to see the sunrise. The owls demand Shade’s murder as payment for breaking this law, but Frieda, the colony’s elder, refuses to surrender him. The owls burn down the colony’s main roost, which forces the colony to leave for their hibernation roost early. Along the way, Shade gets separated from his colony and meets Marina, and Brightwing bat who was banished from her colony because humans placed a band on her.

In Part 2, Goth and Throbb, two large cannibalistic bats from the jungle, escape their human enclosure. They embark on a murderous rampage, eating any small animal or bird in sight. This sparks a war because the owls blame the bats in general for killing their allies. Pigeons, too, are against the bats, and Marina and Shade flee some pigeons and meet another bat at the top of a cathedral.

The bat who guards the gargoyles on the cathedral roof is an albino bat named Zephyr. He uses berries and plants to heal Shade’s wounds and reveals that he can see the future. He tells Shade that Shade’s long-thought-dead father, Cassiel, is actually alive, and he warns the pair to avoid bats with metal on their wings.

Goth and Throbb find Shade and Marina. Goth pretends to be nice to the smaller bats, but secretly he’s plotting to make Shade and his colony into slaves for food. Shade and Marina eventually learn his secret and escape.

Part 3 finds Shade and Marina flying fast through the winter to stay away from Goth and Throbb. As they flee, they encounter an abandoned house full of bats who have bands like Marina. The bats believe their bands will turn them human, and their leader demonstrates how he can split his skin to prove he is beginning this transformation. The bats invite Marina to stay, but she ultimately decides to continue on with Shade. After Shade and Marina’s departure, Goth and Throbb find the abandoned house and feast on all of the bats inside, donning their bands like trophies.

The pair escape into a grate, where a gang of rats captures them. An outcast rat, Romulus, who has wing-like growths on his back, sees similarities between himself and the bats and helps them escape.

Goth and Throbb catch up with Shade and Marina, but Shade pretends to befriend Goth and uses a berry concoction he learned about from Zephyr to drug Goth’s food, making him sleep. The pair escape, but Goth and Throbb again catch up to them during a thunderstorm. During an altercation, Marina’s band is torn free, and the pair see that Throbb and Goth have multiple bands that they took from the bodies of the bats in the abandoned house. Because of the bands, lightning strikes both Throbb and Goth, killing Throbb instantly and injuring Goth.

Goth returns to the jungle, swearing revenge on Shade. Shade and Marina arrive at Shade’s colony’s hibernating roost. Shade tells the colony everything, and he and a few others decide to embark on a new journey to find Shade’s father.