Allison's Book Bag

Two More Wingfeather Saga Books by Andrew Peterson

Posted on: January 29, 2013

North or Be Eaten and The Monster in the Hollows are the next fabulous entries in Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. Peterson definitely has a way with titles, fantasy, and adventure. The titles inspired me to read his books; his writing compelled me to keep turning pages.

To, start let me briefly summarize the two sequels, each of which pick up where the previous book left off: In North or Be Eaten, the Igiby family try to flee to the Ice Prairies. On the way, they battle monstrous creatures like trolls and Fangs. Worse, Janner and his younger brother Kalmar become separated. Janner is enslaved at the Fork Factory, while Kalmar runs into the thieving Stranders. In The Monster in the Hollows, the Igiby family seeks refuge in Green Hollows. Alas, not everyone trusts the royal family because of the curse inflicted on Kalmar. Some of classmates plot his ruin. Worse, even his brother Janner isn’t sure that Kalmar is truly who he claims to be. Expect fantastical twists at the end of each book, which will send you scurrying for the next sequel.

In my review of the first book in this series, I noted that On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness had a shaky start, then proceeded to list a string of its other faults. One of these faults has ceased to exist in the sequels: Peterson has done away with introductions and prologues. Another of these faults continues in the sequels but, by the time I reached book two, I had not only grown used to the quirky names of Peterson’s characters, settings, and events, but had even come to expect them. After all, Peterson is building a whole new world for readers. As for his other faults, Peterson has turned them into assets. Now there’s  a perfect blend of small moments with dark and dangerous life-changing ones. For example, in one moment the Igiby siblings are eating breakfast in a tree house, listening to school lessons from their mom, or being told a tale by their uncle, and in the next the Igiby family are shooting arrows at a toothy cow, plotting an escape to the Ice Prairies, or running through the woods to escape the Fang soldiers. In addition, now that he has honed his chatty style, Peterson makes my heart pant with fear at some moments and leap with joy at others. For example, in one moment the Igiby siblings face bullying at school because of a curse on one of them that makes the local villagers afraid, and the next their mother is being courted by a town leader. With his wordiness trimmed, it also turns out that Peterson has a sense of humor, which provides the light touch needed to offset the sometimes awful events such as the enslaving of children.

Now that Peterson has improved his style, two other wonderful features of his saga shine through. First, the Igiby family is a positive role model. The parents love the Igiby children, to the point that Nia is willing to share in her younger son’s punishments to keep him alive after he is cursed. (Her sacrifice reminds me of Aslan’s sacrifice for Edmund in The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe.) Yet neither guardian is perfect–Podo even murdered creatures of the sea during his youthful pirate days–but these flaws make them feel like humans instead of saints and so endear the parents more to me. Both of these sides hold true of the children too. When the siblings learn of their royal heritage, in one breath they wish to overthrow the dictatorial Fangs while in another breath they’re endangering their family by sneaking off to explore forbidden worlds. I love how real as children the Igiby siblings are in their impulsive and sometimes self-centered actions, but also how deep at times they inwardly struggle with making the right choices for their family and as people. Second, although the religious element is limited to references to the Maker, the theme has a strong moral message which serves Christian and general audiences alike: “Remember who you are.” Especially when faced with capture, the Igiby children are tested in their true nature. One has failed in the past, one will fail in the present, and…. To know more, you need to read The Wingfeather Saga.

I’m not surprised that On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness was nominated for, or that North or Be Eaten went on to win the Christy award, thus recognizing Peterson as a Christian writer of literary excellence. My hope however is that the series will also find an audience in the general market, for the saga is a rip-roaring fantasy that I have thoroughly enjoyed taking two weeks to read. Incidentally, according to Peterson, at least two more sequels are planned.

My rating? Bag them: Carry them with you. Make them a top priority to read.

How would you rate these books?

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