No, the publisher wasn’t being homophobic when he said the two were just “good friends”, because that’s exactly the way it reads in Tallstar’s Revenge. The idea of TallstarxJake is one of the major reasons I picked up the book in the first place, and at best I can say they were good friends. At worst, I’d say they were just acquaintances and traveling companions with a out of nowhere, strongly implied romantic connection thrown in, last minute.
Now that I think back, there are very few characters in this franchise I can honestly ship, or even say the romance was written well for. There are characters like FirexSand who’s romance is well structured, and there are characters like GrayxSilver who have a couple of quippy scenes, but very rarely do the writers manage to make me feel for a relationship, especially in the more recent installments where all they seem to want to do is make more forbidden relationships. Forbidden love is all well and good, but when its been down as much as it already has, it looses a lot of its weight.
Let’s face it, Warriors’s strength is as an action-adventure series with lots of death scenes and natural hardships. Setting the scene and vicious battles are what the Erin’s are best at written. Ships are pretty much only there so that the cat population doesn’t die off. And that’s fine, if its only happening to the side characters. When a main character is given a love interest more focus is needed.
But like I said shipping isn’t what the series is about. So even when Fireheart is saving Sandpaw from falling to her death, they’re relationship doesn’t seem to develop much further than one of respect and friendship. And let’s not forget the fact that even hours before his death, Firestar still can’t seem to get over Spottedleaf. *sigh*
Now before anyone tries to stab me, let me say, there’s at least one relationship in Warriors I do enjoy, and that is RavenxBarley. So why does this ship work for me and not others? I think it is mostly because any time we see them, it is during a moment of calm in the books. The barn is safe, warm and quiet, and the reader has just come from the Moonstone where a new prophecy has been revealed or maybe they’re escaping a rat attack.
The book takes its time with a slow scene with two cats who simply enjoy each other’s company. And when something does happen with them, it’s always very slice-of-life and simple like hunting, talking and visiting Barley’s sister, Violet. Whenever Ravenpaw makes a move, he typically takes Barley’s feelings into account, and if he doesn’t we always see a reaction.
Even though Talltail and Jake do have a handful of slow moments, it is almost always overshadowed by the fact that Talltail’s mind is constantly elsewhere. Whether he is thinking about his clan or killing Sparrow, only what is says, and not what he does ever reveals any deep connection between the two characters.
But let’s not put all the blame on Talltail’s end. He does end up opening up to Jake about Sparrow and Sandgorse, but Jake adds almost nothing to the table. Sure, he’s interested in the forest, but he doesn’t do much outside of listening to Talltail’s ramblings. When he and Talltail started to journey together, we saw a little of his personality while he was helping Jay, but for the amount of time he was in the novel, he could have gotten a lot more fleshing out.