The same goes for Gray Wing and Turtle Tail, in my opinion. They have the excuse of being childhood best friends, but still, their progression as a couple was too quick for my comfort. Come to think of it, is there a single well paced shipping in DOTC, or for that matter, any recent Warriors book? Anyone?And this is what I disagree with. Very strongly, tbh. Gray Wing and Turtle Tail wasn't rushed in the least. Knowing each other since they were young isn't "too quick", and it's heavily implied that Turtle Tail had a crush on him long before The Sun Trail even started. Considering they weren't mates right off the bat, it's not like they met in one chapter and became mates in another; this isn't like Clear Sky and Star Flower, Gray Wing and Slate, or Thunder and Violet Dawn. They had the books themselves, and before the books to establish their relationship. (I mean friendship relationship, not romantic)
There are a few well-paced pairings in Warriors. Tawnypet and Rowanstar, Bramblestar and Squirrelflight, Brackenfur and Sorreltail, Firestar and Sandstorm, Cloudtail and Brightheart, Whitewing and Birchfall, ect. Hell, even if I dislike Bumblestripe and Dovewing, it wasn't just pulled out of a hat- Dovewing and Bumblestripe's relationship was already partially established. It might not go how you want it, but it doesn't make them any less established and paced.
Hmmm... I suppose Gray Wing and Turtle Tail aren't really badly paced, sometimes my reluctance of the romance genre can confuse me. Even as I type this, I quarrel with myself about how sad Turtle Tail's death was and how they both deserved more time with each other, but then calling myself out for thinking them too fast paced beforehand. But now I see what bad romantic writing really is, with Thunder and Violet.
Also, I agree with all the shippings you listed except Dovewing and Bumblestripe, they were all well paced and built up perfectly. Dovewing and Bumblestripe though... they're hinted to be romantically interested in each other, they have a tiny moment in SOTM, the former completely forgets the latter in the next chapter and never mentions him again for the rest of the book, then in TFW, they just pick up where they left off like Dovewing hadn't forgotten about his existence. That comes across as extremely sloppy to me.
I'm not sure what exactly you mean by "necessary". No death is ever truly necessary (Whitestorm, Dustpelt, and Longtail come to mind). Hardship is just a part of life for them, and that means cats will die, with or without good reaso
I mean necessary, as serving a purpose to the narrative itself.
Whitestorm was killed to give Firestar someone to avenge when he went up against Scourge, as well as extra motivation. Whitestorm is very popular in the series, so with him dead, a lot more readers would be on the edge of their seats in the final confrontation, supporting Firestar in their mutual interest with the character to see their old friend and comrade avenged and put to rest. It also taught Firestar that being a leader includes making tough decisions, and losing cats in your command in the process, regardless of whenever you made the right choice. That's a good moral that both kids and adults should learn.
That same moral also applies to Dustpelt's death. If he hadn't died, Bramblestar would have came out of the badger fight thinking, "LOLZ! I KNEW HELPING ROWANSTAR WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO! I SAVED SOO MANY CATS IN MY DECISION, YAY!" And like you said, that's not the reality Warriors takes place in. Dustpelt's death assured that there would always be a note of doubt in the back of Bramblestar's mind; "Should I have helped Rowanstar? If I hadn't, Dustpelt would still be alive. Then again, how many more cats would have been killed if I left ShadowClan to fend for themselves?"
That kind of insoluble, nagging uncertainty going through the main character's heads after every major event is part of what makes Warriors so great; it challenges the readers way of thinking and shows them that they're may not always be one right answer, but you just have to go with what you believe in, and hope for the best. Without Dustpelt's death, the story of Bramblestar's Storm would have been so much weaker.
And Longtail's death is probably the most simple, the one where both of our opinions are probably correct. (I am NOT saying that my opinion is more right in other situations than yours, or ANYTHING like that! It was just a way to segway into my next point! Don't be offended where no offense was intended!)
World-building. Think about it. What was one of the major complaints fans had with TPOT? The lack of deaths. Other than a lot of fans insatiable need for violence, (LOL) it really wrecks the atmosphere when were constantly being reminded that there are threats around every corner, and almost every book there is a new natural phenomenon (floods, droughts, lack of prey, etc) that the characters have to deal with on top of the current plot, but then there are only three deaths over the course of a little over a year, one not actually being a death, and another confirmed to be accidental. (In The Ultimate Guide, it's confirmed Ashfur's death was an accident.) That kind of disrespect to realism really kind of shatters the suspension of disbelief, doesn't it?
So, OOTS comes along, and by book two, there's already more deaths than in the entirety of TPOT. Suddenly, the immersion is brought back to a healthy level, especially since a blind cat who can't see a quick and drastic change to his environment, such as, a tree being dropped on his head, is killed in the ensuing event. We know animals who are weaker or handicapped for whatever reason don't survive as long as other animals, even with an entire clan to protect them, because sooner or later, nature pulls something unpredictable that they can't defend them from. With Longtail dying, this reinforces the tough, unforgiving environment that this story takes place in, to a greater effect than if a full sighted warrior was killed. It also gives Mousefur a little character development that side character's don't normally get, teaching her that maybe
acting like a grumpy, nonsensical granny isn't such a good idea in life or death situations.
Wow, that was a lot longer than I intended it to be! But you see my point, right? Every death, scene, character action and reaction should serve to bring something back to the narrative, to give it a lesson, a purpose, attach something timeless and worthwhile to it. Even the most random deaths in Warriors serve to boost the immersion of the Warriors world, to remind the reader just how harsh their reality is, strengthening the story in the process.
And with that, I think I just got my answer.
Gray Wing's death was just that, to remind us that a cat that can't run across the moor without having to stop and literally gasp for air after awhile just won't live as long as a healthy cat. If something doesn't eventually kill him, the weather will make sure to worsen his condition to the point of death, just like it did. But not only was it for world building, but it was also to give a strong, final note to the ending, one that actually satisfies a reader and doesn't make them wait for the upcoming super edition for a complete experience. Gray Wing's life is literally wrapped up, as he reflects on everything he did and says goodbye to his family and friends, intentionally bringing us along his trail of memories as we were there beside him the entire way. For every step of his journey, we were not far behind, and now, we have to say goodbye to our dear friend as he joins his lost family in the sky, while we must stay with the loved ones he left behind for the sequel.
If you excuse me, I am going to go cry into a corner for three hours.
But now, I finally feel at peace. I know why this happened, and it wasn't for some cheap tearjerker to make the audience think this story was deeper and more thought provoking than it was. Because it wasn't. This was easily one of the best Warrior novels of the entire franchise, it didn't need to use some awful, under handed trick to increase it's score.
Save that kind of behavior for the people behind The Walking Dead, Season 2 video game. Burn!