The Pretender is the twenty-third book in the Animorphs series, written by K.A. Applegate. It is narrated by Tobias.

This article is written from a Real World point of view.


Official Description

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...

Plot Summary


The inside cover

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 once, while eating a half-squashed raccoon he was seen by Rachel.

He stops by at Rachel's house. She tells him that a lawyer and a long-lost cousin, Aria, has 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 fings himself being followed by a Yeerk agent. Rather than meeting with the Animorphs at the barn, he flies to the Hork-Bajir colony.

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. 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, who thinks Tobias is Ket Halpak. The Visser assails Tobias with an acid attack, forcing him to release 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 Dracon cannon 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 cannon, 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 kills and eats the mother rabbit, morphs her, and brings the baby rabbits under his protection from the rival hawk.


Featured Characters:

Supporting Characters:


Contributions to the Series' Story Arc

  • Tobias discovers that Elfangor was his biological father.
  • Chapman is no longer suspicious of the lost boy who lives on the street.
  • Toby Hamee makes her first speaking appearance (excepting the last page of The Hork-Bajir Chronicles).


Morpher Morphs acquired Morphs used
Jake -- Peregrine FalconSiberian Tiger
Rachel -- Bald Eagle, African ElephantGrizzly Bear
Cassie -- Osprey, Wolf
Marco -- Osprey, Silverback Gorilla, Wolf Spider
Tobias Rabbit, Flea (acquired sometime before) Human (main), Hork-Bajir (Ket Halpak), Flea, Rabbit,
Ax -- Human (main), Northern Harrier
Visser Three -- 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 Book #13: The Change.
  • This book reveales to Ax and Tobias are related (they're uncle and nephew).
  • 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!
  • The reaction to Tobias being Elfangor's son is sadly also not openly discussed by the other Animorphs at any time in the series, but they are seemingly aware of it as it is briefly referred to from time to time. An example of this is in #33 when Ax proudly relishes the moment when Tobias practices morphing his Andalite form, by acknowledging that they are related. Also, in #33  again, Ax refers to an ancient legend, which he believes Elfangor used to pass along his memories to his DNA, which Tobias was able to see and feel by being his son.
  • To make the letter by Elfangor in this book work, an 'off-screen' scene was added into place in Elfangor's story from The Andalite Chronicles by K.A in this book (The alteration remained unchanged in the Andalite Chronicles). As Tobias receives a letter from Elfangor, explaining who he is, Elfangor also explains that he is being given the opportunity to communicate with Tobias by the same being (Ellimist) who erased his life on Earth.

This was told to avoid a KASU, as Elfangor (basing the story from The Andalite Chronicles) simply would not have had the time to write that letter in the first place, because he did not find out about Tobias until he was taken away and had his life erased by the Ellimist, nor could he have written it upon his return (the second time he came to Earth) as it ended with his immediate death at the hands of Visser Three, after giving the Animorphs their powers.

  • Goof: In the 13th book, Visser Three believes that Ket Halpak, a Hork-Bajir, is dead. In the 23rd book, he recognizes her and is not at all surprised to see someone who he watched get killed.

Gallery (US)

International Covers

Taken from

Main Series #1 The Invasion | #2 The Visitor | #3 The Encounter | #4 The Message | #5 The Predator | #6 The Capture | #7 The Stranger | #8 The Alien | #9 The Secret | #10 The Android | #11 The Forgotten | #12 The Reaction | #13 The Change | #14 The Unknown | #15 The Escape | #16 The Warning | #17 The Underground | #18 The Decision | #19 The Departure | #20 The Discovery | #21 The Threat | #22 The Solution | #23 The Pretender | #24 The Suspicion | #25 The Extreme | #26 The Attack | #27 The Exposed | #28 The Experiment | #29 The Sickness | #30 The Reunion | #31 The Conspiracy | #32 The Separation | #33 The Illusion | #34 The Prophecy | #35 The Proposal | #36 The Mutation | #37 The Weakness | #38 The Arrival | #39 The Hidden | #40 The Other | #41 The Familiar | #42 The Journey | #43 The Test | #44 The Unexpected | #45 The Revelation | #46 The Deception | #47 The Resistance | #48 The Return | #49 The Diversion | #50 The Ultimate | #51 The Absolute | #52 The Sacrifice | #53 The Answer | #54 The Beginning
Megamorphs The Andalite's Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs | Elfangor's Secret | Back to Before
Chronicles The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles | VISSER | The Ellimist Chronicles
Alternamorphs The First Journey | The Next Passage
TV Tie-Ins Meet the Stars of Animorphs

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